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Easy, healthy ways to enjoy Mediterranean cuisine

Zoës Kitchen inspires us to reconnect with the beloved lupini bean ... and celebrate International Mediterranean Diet Month, every month! Get simple, healthy ideas for salmon kabobs, farro-veggie salad and more.

Long before the Med diet was a “thing” in the lexicon of healthy eating in the U.S., I had wholeheartedly embraced its vibrant flavors and unique ingredients. While most kids would ransack the cupboard in search of chips or cookies, I’d happily nosh on little Mediterranean seeds known as lupini beans (which I’d later find out are excellent sources of fiber and protein). Popping the pickled yellow “bean” out of its shell was among my most beloved snacking rituals, and the beginning of what would be many years of Mediterranean food devotion.

Once I began living on my own, fatty fish (I love a simple filet of salmon with a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of sea salt) and fruits and veggies became my go-to staples. I’d later learn to appreciate the grassy nuances of fine olive oil and my most guiltless guilty indulgence: red wine. While my “bean” of choice had become somewhat elusive, research supporting the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet was suddenly ubiquitous—with studies showing it has benefits ranging from heart and brain health to sleep support and weight management.

More good reasons to go Med

Fast forward some years and I’m relishing in the opening celebration for Zoës Kitchen—a fast casual restaurant now with locations across the country that offer a healthy, no-fuss dining option. Sipping on my favorite Med beverage I saw them. A mirage, sitting right in front of me … a plate of silky lupini beans glistening like gold coins.

The impeccable meal to follow was a reminder of the simple vibrancy that makes the Med diet so enduring—and why I dislike calling it a "diet." Really, it’s a healthy and absolutely delicious way of eating that, as Zoës shows us, can be easy and accessible. “Our menu is inspired by flavors from around the 21 countries of the Mediterranean,” says Chef Antonio Locchi. “We believe our guests should enjoy the benefits of food that is packed with nutrients and flavor. Ultimately, it’s about eating what you love and loving how you feel when you dine at Zoës.”

Now you're speaking my language! I don't think healthy eating should ever be about restriction. It’s about introducing fresh, whole, delicious ingredients prepared simply and beautifully. Healthy fats in nuts and olive oil, fruits and veggies packed with antioxidants and fiber from whole grains ... Med style. 

I’m always looking for simple ways to bring more Mediterranean into my life. You probably have some favorite Med meals already—please share! And there's no better time than May—International Mediterranean Diet Month—to get going with some inspiration from Zoës for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “At Zoës, not only do we believe in the Mediterranean diet, but more importantly we believe in Living Mediterranean with a well-rounded lifestyle that balances connecting with friends and family, staying active, cooking, eating well and occasionally indulging in a glass of wine or piece of Yaya’s chocolate cake!” says Chef Antonio.

(Oh, and be sure to try some lupini beans while you’re at it.)

Breakfast: Mediterranean Yogurt Parfait

It doesn’t get much easier than this! Top low-fat, protein-packed Greek yogurt with a handful of antioxidant-rich berries, raw nuts and rolled oats for that hit of healthy fats and good-fuel fiber. Drizzle with honey for a hint of sweetness.

Lunch: Live Med Salad

A Zoës kitchen vegetarian specialty, you can re-create this robust salad at home, too. First, make a “Pesto Farro” by boiling farro until al dente; then combine with chopped roasted tomatoes, basil pesto, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

For the base salad, toss together spinach, zucchini, squash, red onions, tomatoes, basil and vinaigrette in a mixing bowl. Transfer onto serving plate and sprinkle evenly with parmesan. Add a scoop of pesto farro to the center, and spread lupini beans evenly around the outside of the salad for some added protein.  

Dinner: Salmon Kabobs

Cut salmon into 1” cubes, drizzle with olive oil and seasoning, and skewer. You can also add a vegetable in between cubes (zucchini, bell peppers). Grill for 5-7 minutes on two sides, until cooked medium or to desired doneness.

Serve on top of a bed of greens and vegetables, and garnish with a lemon wedge. Optional: Add a small side of brown rice or potatoes.

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