It’s hard to believe that it’s already September and almost the beginning of fall! Fall is always a time of transitions and new beginnings, but this year is one for the history books. To get your fall off to a delicious start, we’ve got a roundup of easy recipes to boost your brain health and comfort your taste buds.
If you’ve been following us for very long, you’ll know that we like to think of the Mediterranean diet as an eating pattern and not a list of restrictions like the word “diet” may suggest. This extensively researched eating pattern is considered one of the BEST for brain health and overall health.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on high vegetable and fruit intake, low-glycemic eating, and adequate consumption of healthy fats. It’s packed with antioxidants and nutrients that help protect us against disease.
Our LEAP! Plate Model below shows a plate made up mostly of vegetables. Yes—we highly encourage aiming to fill half your plate with veggies! To keep your meal low-glycemic, choose non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
For a list of more non-starchy veggies, click here
One quarter of your Med Diet plate should consist of a starch or fruit. Starchy foods such as beans, potatoes, and whole grain rice are sources of quality carbohydrates that provide fiber and sustained energy.
For more information on starch and sources of it, click here.
If you choose to put fruit on your plate, aim for fresh or frozen. (Although you’ll want to check the label for no added ingredients on frozen fruit!)
The next component on the LEAP! Plate Model is protein, which also makes up a quarter of the plate. Protein helps keep us full for longer and is key for muscle maintenance.
The highlight source of protein in the Mediterranean diet is fish. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines provide lean protein and omega-3 fats.
You can also make red meat a part of your Mediterranean plate! Choose lean cuts and try to limit your portions to no more than four servings per week.
This brings us to the last component of our LEAP! Plate Model: healthy fat.
Healthy fats from whole foods are essential for nutrient absorption and regulating inflammation. Not to mention, healthy fats also help make up a filling meal!
Avocado, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are excellent sources of healthy fat. EVOO, specifically, is one of the biggest staples to the Mediterranean eating pattern. Learn how to select the best EVOO here.
Not pictured in our plate model, but also unique to the Mediterranean diet, wine! Dry, red wine has the highest level of antioxidants—mainly polyphenols, which help reduce oxidative stress.
Although it is not recommended you start drinking alcohol if you don’t already, moderate intake may be beneficial to health. Guidelines are no more than 2 drinks per day for men, and no more than one drink per day for women.
Now that we’ve reviewed the Mediterranean diet, let’s look at some recipes!
Banana Oat Pancakes
These yummy pancakes from food blog Detoxinista are made with oats and ripe bananas. What’s more, they even contain your 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil! We suggest topping with fresh fruit or frozen berries and adding a protein like eggs for balance.
Egg Salmon Sandwich
Enjoy a savory breakfast with egg whites and smoked salmon on an English muffin! This dish also makes for the perfect brunch. Click here to get the recipe from Eating Well.
Fruit and Nut Oatmeal
Start your day off right with this fruit and nut oats recipe from Eating Well. Adding Greek yogurt and nuts adds protein, while fruit gives it the right amount of sweetness. This combo calls for apples (which are now in season!) but feel free to make it your own.
Southwest Quinoa Salad
Have you cooked with quinoa? It’s a grain similar to rice, with a nuttier, earthy flavor. Quinoa is high in protein and fiber—and it’s easy to cook, too!
Try this Southwest quinoa salad from food blog Fit Mitten Kitchen. It’s topped with cilantro lime dressing, is loaded with veggies, and has avocado for your dose of healthy fats!
For tips on cooking quinoa, click here.
Salmon Avocado Salad
This salmon avocado salad from SkinnyTaste, is the perfect, filling lunch! The olive oil dressing is made with apple cider vinegar and spices, kicking the taste up a notch.
Creamy Lentil Soup
This recipe from Cooking Light calls for the slow cooker—which means less work for you! Lentils are full of fiber and relatively cheap and accessible. Get some of your veggies in with the onion, carrots, and kale in this warm, satisfying soup.
Mediterranean Roasted Mackerel
The tomato, herbs, olive oil, and lemon in this dish will make your kitchen smell like the Mediterranean—and it’s ready in less than 30 minutes! Packed with protein and antioxidants, the recipe for this delicious Mediterranean Roasted Mackerel can be found at Root + Revel.
Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad
We love this walnut pesto pasta salad from Eating Well! It’s full of veggies, made with whole-grain pasta, and served cold—for those afternoons that still feel like summer.
Pair it with a side salad to get your greens.
Nothing beats a bowl of warm chilli on a cool evening. For those lower-temperature days, try this vegetarian chili from food blog Cookie and Kate. Add some avocado slices to get your healthy fat fix.
Hummus goes perfect with some fresh veggies, whole-grain pita bread, or on a salad. You can buy a number of varieties at your local grocery store, but it’s simple and fun to make at home!
All you need is a food processor and chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. We love this recipe from food blog Cookie and Kate. She gives you tips on how to make your hummus the best, and also gives you more recipes for different flavors!
Granola bars are popular snacks because of their convenience for on-the-go, but many store-bought bars can be high in sugar and added ingredients.
Luckily, bars can also be made at home! Check out this no-bake recipe from Eat Well 101 for a granola bar that’s high in nuts and not in added sugar.
Almond Flour Muffins
This almond flour muffin recipe from Elana’s Pantry food blog only contains five ingredients! What’s better, you can bake these in under a half hour.
You can find almond flour at your local grocery store—it’s better for your blood sugar, contains antioxidants, and it’s gluten-free!
You read that right, these brownies from food blog Fit Foodie Finds are made with pureed beets! They’re also gluten free—calling for almond and coconut flour instead of regular. These brownies are fudgy enough, you won’t even know they’re made with veggies.
Banana Ice Cream
We agree that ice cream is good at any time of year, regardless of the weather. Satisfy your sweet tooth with this “nice” cream recipe from Detoxinista. Try other varieties, such as strawberry banana or chocolate peanut butter banana!