10 of the best things to eat for lunch on the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasises fresh produce. Shutterstock

US News and World Report has named the Mediterranean diet the best diet for the fourth year in a row.

The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the traditional cuisine of countries such as Greece and Italy and emphasises fresh vegetables, beans, whole grains, and healthy fats.

The diet limits red meat and dairy and encourages moderate consumption of lean sources of animal protein like fish, poultry, and eggs.

Insider spoke to certified nutritionists and dietitians for their take on the best things to eat for lunch on the Mediterranean diet.

Make a Mediterranean chicken wrap for protein and fibre.

Vegetables can upgrade a boring wrap. Shutterstock

Registered dietitian and nutritionist Jill Weisenberger was a member of the US News & World Report panel that selected the Mediterranean diet as the best diet of 2021.

She told Insider that one of her favourite Mediterranean-diet lunches is a simple chicken wrap.

“Mix diced chicken with chopped walnuts, apples, and celery,” said Weisenberger. “Hold everything together with Greek yogurt and add some greens before wrapping it up.”

Add a squeeze of lemon or lime for extra flavour and vitamin C.

Lentil salad can be a filling lunch.

Lentil salads are easy to customise. Shutterstock

Lentils are legumes that are packed with protein and vitamins.

“Lentil salad is a filling dish full of delicious Mediterranean ingredients that are sure to keep you full with a ton of fibre and great texture,” said Weisenberger.

To make a simple lentil salad, mix prepared lentils with chopped scallion and torn spinach or arugula. Add a few jarred artichoke hearts and dress with lemon and olive oil.

Make a bowl with farro, eggplant, and white beans.

Roasted eggplant can be the star of your bowl. Shutterstock

Stephanie Nelson, registered dietitian and lead nutritionist for MyFitnessPal, told Insider that a bowl with white beans and farro, a nutty grain common in Italian cooking, is a quick and satisfying lunch option.

“This recipe packs in the protein,” said Nelson. “The Mediterranean diet should be primarily plant-based, so a farro and bean salad fits the mould exactly.”

To make this dish, chop and sauté an eggplant with garlic in olive oil, then add cooked farro, white beans, a small amount of tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of thyme and oregano. Top with feta cheese, if desired.

For a sweet and light lunch, try almond-stuffed dates.

You can fill dates with a range of nuts. Shutterstock

Registered dietitian Marisa Moore told Insider that one of her favourite sweet treats to enjoy while following the Mediterranean diet is a serving of almond-stuffed dates.

“The crunchy almonds deliver a dose of good fats and plant protein, and there’s plenty of fibre in the dates to keep you energised and full,” said Moore.

If you don’t like almonds, you can swap out chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios. Pair the stuffed dates with Greek yogurt or a small lentil salad for a bigger meal.

Whip up a satisfying tuna sandwich with a twist.

Fresh produce can add a nice crunch to your tuna salad. Shutterstock

For an easy Mediterranean-inspired lunch, opt for a tuna sandwich made with Greek yogurt instead of mayo.

Nelson told Insider that this trick results in a lighter version of a classic and incorporates an additional serving of fish into your diet.

To make this sandwich, mix canned or fresh tuna with Greek yogurt, chopped celery, and a sprinkle of salt. Serve on whole-grain bread and add tomato, arugula, or spinach for extra flavour and vitamins.

Make a homemade chicken pita with fresh herbs.

You can pack your pita with veggies and herbs. Shutterstock

For a filling and portable lunch, Nelson recommended chicken breast seasoned with garlic and rosemary in a whole-wheat pita with vegetables.

“Packed with vegetables and whole grains, an herbed chicken pita is also high in the types of protein encouraged by the Mediterranean diet,” said Nelson.

For the vegetables, try adding carrots, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato. You can also include a dollop of Greek yogurt mixed with dill.

Apples and almond butter are a light plant-based lunch.

Almond butter can add protein to your meal. Shutterstock

Moore suggested a simple plate of apples and nut butter for days when a heavy lunch doesn’t appeal.

“Pair fresh apple slices with a spoonful of nutrient-rich almond butter for a dose of good fats, protein, and fibre,” said Moore.

Consider stashing preportioned servings of chopped apples and almond butter in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack.

Assemble a snack board for a lunch with lots of variety.

The snack board can include hummus, olives, and crackers. Shutterstock

Snack boards are a fun way to keep lunchtime interesting by incorporating many different flavours and nutrients into one meal.

“Create a Mediterranean-inspired snack board with hummus, olives, fresh-cut vegetables, dried fruit, and a handful of spiced almonds,” said Moore, who added that the protein and monounsaturated fats in this spread will help keep hunger at bay for longer.

Try a salmon Niçoise salad for a serving of vegetables and protein.

Niçoise salad typically contains egg. Shutterstock

Niçoise salad is a French dish traditionally made with boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives, and tuna or anchovies.

“I recommend a Niçoise salad made with salmon for a tasty twist on a classic,” said Weisenberger. “You can also include extras like boiled potatoes, steamed green beans, or other vegetables.”

All of the ingredients in this salad are usually served cold, though the salmon may be eaten hot.

Make roasted chickpeas for a crunchy, savoury meal.

Chickpeas can be seasoned with just about any spices you’d like. hadasit/Shutterstock

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a staple in the Mediterranean diet.

“I love transforming chickpeas into an easy lunch by tossing them with olive oil and spices and roasting for a crunchy, savoury meal,” said Moore.

Serve the roasted chickpeas over fresh spinach or kale with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of tahini. You can also add a small serving of roasted chicken for extra protein or roasted eggplant for more fibre.

Read More:

I followed the Mediterranean diet for a week, and I get why it’s so popular

7 of the best things to eat for breakfast on the Mediterranean diet

6 pros – and 3 cons – of following the Mediterranean diet