Fresh vegetables and olive oil Fresh vegetables and olive oil The Mediterranean diet celebrates fresh vegetables and healthy fats for a tasty, sustainable lifestyle. (Photo: thieury / Shutterstock)

How a Mediterranean diet can help you keep your New Year's resolutions

Looking for healthy recipes? We've got you covered.

As we all sit around ashamed of the holiday feasting that has taken place over the past couple of months, let's take some time to reevaluate our habits and commit to a healthier lifestyle. Enter your New Year's resolution. 

With myriad fad diets and nutrition programs, where to start? How about the Mediterranean diet? Low in all the "bad stuff" and high in nutrients and good fats, the Mediterranean diet is not just effective at lowering cholesterol – it's so easy and delicious that the healthy habits are built to last. So no more February let-downs, the Mediterranean diet is simple to follow.

First, the basics: the diet in general is not cut-and-dried. It emphasizes vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains the most; fish and seafood secondarily; poultry, eggs and dairy in moderation; and meats and sweets sparingly. Mediterranean dishes feature lean proteins and fatty fish for dinners that are heart-healthy as well as filling. Fresh vegetables flavored with herbs and spices add a variety of tastes and essential nutrients. Grains, seeds, beans and legumes are a welcome accompaniment. Red meat isn't banned but rather limited to once every couple of weeks or so.

The first step: toss the butter. Buy olive oil – it contains much healthier fats, and it's just as delicious on a slice of quinoa bread or sautéed in a pan with your favorite seasonal ingredients.

To get you started, here's a little help with meal planning.
Israeli breakfast spreadA traditional Israeli breakfast spread. (Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock)

Breakfast

For breakfast, the Israeli spread is a clear winner. Fill your table with fresh fruits and vegetables, juice, baba ghanoush and hummus. Keep it simple or add whole grain bread to the mix. 

If you're partial to brunch, we highly recommend shakshouka. In summertime, make it with fresh tomatoes. Otherwise, it works just fine with a jar of leftover spaghetti sauce. The tomatoes and eggs complement each other (and a sprinkle of cheese is OK in moderation).

Lunch

With a whole-wheat pita, anything is possible. We have a few suggestions on what to stuff in it, and it doesn't always have to be falafel. Be sure to add a salad or other veggie-heavy side dish.

If you like more of an all-in-one approach to lunch, try one of these delicious couscous recipes. Couscous is wonderful because you can add whatever vegetables you want to the batch, and it lasts throughout the week.

Dinner

When planning dinner, put vegetables at the forefront. Meatless Mondays can extend to the rest of the week. Butternut squash stuffed with quinoa is one of our favorite go-to recipes from Israeli Kitchen. And don't be afraid of seemingly bland vegetables like cauliflower – give it a chance with our whole roasted cauliflower recipe.

Mediterranean fish stewA Mediterranean fish stew is an easy-to-improvise dish. (Photo: Yulia Davidovich/Shutterstock)

In the winter, soups and stews are the way to go. You can improvise your own based on whatever ingredients you have on hand. Just throw the veggies in a pan with some olive oil and herbs to give them flavor and add stock or water. The rest is up to you!

We also recommend trying the easy, low-carb Ratatouille recipe from Israeli Kitchen.

Snacks

One of the easiest snacks to make ahead of time is hummus. If you don't care for chickpeas, never fear – we have a list of out-of-the-ordinary hummus recipes to browse through.

Dessert 

Believe it or not, a tasty dessert is still possible with a healthier approach. Recent research shows that dates are actually a great sugar substitute, helping to regulate blood sugar with a low glycemic index.

We've gotten you started – but be sure to check back for new recipes in the Israeli Kitchen! In the meantime, be sure to follow us on Pinterest for tons of great cooking ideas:

Follow From the Grapevine's board Mediterranean Food on Pinterest.

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Related Topics: Healthy eating