Fast and Cheap Snack Ideas for the Mediterranean Diet

 Mediterranean diet snacks | Meal planning on a budget | Mediterranean snack recipes

I’m a huge fan of snacking. I know that some people prefer “three square meals” and nothing more, but I rarely make it through a day without a snack at some point. According to Mintel, 94% of Americans snack at least once a day, so apparently I’m in good company. ;)

Today I’m sharing my top go-to snacks that A) taste good (very important!), B) are aligned with the Mediterranean diet, and C) are inexpensive.

I hope you grab a snack, sit down, and enjoy the post! :)

 

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1. Fruit (especially with dip)

Fruit is a huge player in the Mediterranean diet. Depending on the source, you’ll find that the Mediterranean diet emphasizes having at least three servings of fruit per day. Three servings a day can seem like a lot, but it’s pretty manageable for me when I have a serving each with breakfast and lunch and as a snack. In fact, I try to think of snacks as one way to optimize my fruit intake.

Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

Fruit is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient snack options on the Mediterranean diet - depending on what kind you get. Whole fruit in particular is incredibly convenient because it comes pre-packaged and ready to go (an apple, cuties, banana, etc.). All you have to do is wash it off and you’re ready to go!

I don’t buy organic fruit or vegetables simply because it’s so expensive. I don’t feel that research on organic versus conventional produce has reached a solid conclusion, but I do have a hunch that organic is probably healthier. At this point, however, I don’t feel that the added health benefit from buying organic is worth paying sometimes double the price.

What I try to do instead is wash my fruit and vegetables as thoroughly as possible. I found an interesting research article that showed that rinsing apples in the equivalent of a couple of tablespoons of baking soda in a kitchen sink-full of water for 15 minutes is superior to either plain water or water with bleach (yikes!) for removing pesticides. In the study, the baking soda bath removed around 80% of pesticide residues. At this point, that’s good enough for me!

If enough research comes out to convince me that organic produce is twice as healthy as conventional produce OR the price of organic produce comes down dramatically, I will probably start buying organic. I’ll keep you posted. :)

Back to snacks.

I’m a huge fan of the taste of fruit on its own, but I also like to “accessorize” it with dips to make it even more delicious.

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Two of my go-to dips are peanut butter and full-fat vanilla yogurt. Peanut butter goes with mostly just apples (or celery), but vanilla yogurt goes with so many different fruits! A few of my favorites to dip in vanilla yogurt are strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and apples. They really make fruit into a fun snack.

Today, I learned that peanut butter and yogurt mixed together are another great option!

Another plus of using peanut butter or yogurt as a dip is that it will be more filling. The protein and fat from the dip (if you use full-fat yogurt, which I use) are very satiating and will combine with the complex carbohydrates in the fruit to give you sustained energy until your next meal.

2. Nuts

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Nuts are another major feature of the Mediterranean diet. They’re actually one of the food categories that sets the Mediterranean diet apart from other well-known healthy eating patterns (along with olive oil, fatty fish, and red wine). Along with fruit, nuts are in my top 2 go-to snacks.

The biggest key to making sure nuts are a snack instead of an entire meal for me (Been there, done that. Oops!) is measuring them out every single time. I leave the ¼ cup measuring cup in or next to the nut container so I remember to use it.

Then whenever I want nuts, I scoop out my portion into a small container and move on with my day. No snacking handful by handful with the the big container of nuts right next to me, because I will literally eat half of the container and not even realize it!!

Clients often ask me, “Which is the healthiest type of nut to eat?” I tell them that you really can’t go wrong - as long as they’re not coated in sugar or an excessive amount of salt.

Just as I believe that there isn’t a single best fruit or vegetable to eat, I also believe that there isn’t a single best type of nut.

All types of nuts contain healthy fats (their #1 beneficial component) as well as minerals, some vitamins, and fiber in varying amounts. They also contain antioxidants, which help prevent and repair cellular damage that naturally occurs in our bodies.

 

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I often rotate between different types of nuts. Currently, I’m on a peanut kick, which are technically in the legume family, but have a nutritional makeup much more similar to nuts. Before that, it was cashews (my favorite nut), and before that, it was deluxe mixed nuts from Aldi. I keep it simple and just buy the lightly salted variety of whatever kind I want.

I steer clear of the chocolate-covered and honey-roasted nuts for snacks and think of these more as desserts.

3. Hummus or Greek yogurt ranch dip with vegetables

I love vegetable dips! Personally, I think they’ve been in the nutritional “dog house” for way too long.

One of the things I hear fairly often from clients is that if they have dip with their vegetables, they think it “cancels out” the nutritional benefit of eating vegetables. This is simply not the case, because nutrition doesn’t work this way. There is no “cancelling out” when it comes to food.

Everything you put into your body affects it.
This includes vegetables with or without dip.
Different foods do not cancel out each other’s benefits.

I’m all about balanced eating. If I want ice cream, I have it, enjoy it, and move on with my day. Knowing that I’ve had something processed and higher in animal fat, I mindfully include more fruit and vegetables in my diet earlier or later in the day (or the next day).

Please understand, it’s definitely not a form of penance for eating ice cream. It’s simply about balancing my diet to make sure I get the nutrients my body needs to feel its best.

If I get in more fruits and vegetables later, great! If I don’t, I don’t stress about it, because I strongly believe that one day of eating is not going to affect my health much one way or the other.

What does matter is my overall eating pattern.

In order to make anything a regular part of my eating pattern (for more than a few days), it needs to taste good! This is why I like vegetable dips.

Hummus is one of my favorites. It goes with just about anything crunchy and is an excellent way to make vegetables fun for me! It also has a bonus: it’s made from beans! This means that hummus itself is a vegetable! How cool is that?

Homemade hummus is amazing and so easy to make in a food processor. I make a recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, but I’ve been eyeing some of the hummus recipes on Budget Bytes lately, too.

Ranch dip is my absolute favorite vegetable dip! I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid. My family serves it as an appetizer on a lot of holidays, and my mom also used to make it on a whim every now and then.

Ranch dip is even easier than hummus to make (unless you want to make it from scratch). I use a ranch packet from Aldi and mix it with Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. This gives the dip a little protein (which is filling) and potentially more probiotics. The directions for how much to use are usually on the back of the packet, and I use the same amount of Greek yogurt as the amount of sour cream called for.

I prefer full-fat yogurt over low- or non-fat, because it’s creamier. Fat can actually help us absorb some of the nutrients in many vegetables, including vitamins A and K.

I’ve also been reading more lately about how dairy fat (particularly if it’s in fermented dairy) may not be all that bad for us. So I’ve made the switch to full-fat and I'm not looking back. :)

Here are some ideas for raw vegetables to dip in either ranch or hummus:

Broccoli
Cauliflower
Celery
Cucumbers
Zucchini
Carrots
Mini sweet peppers
Sliced bell peppers
Radishes
Jicama
Grape tomatoes

4. Bonus ideas

I’ve combined my final three Mediterranean snack ideas into one, simply because they take a little more time to make, so I don’t make them very often. I do make them occasionally, though, if I’m craving them or just getting a little tired of my usual snacks above.

Kale chips

These are a crispy, salty snack I make that satisfies my chip craving decently well (though I don’t really crave potato chips anymore because I just don’t buy them). This is the kale chip recipe I make and it turns out well.

My only tip is to check the kale chips often and take them out of the oven one at a time, if necessary, right after they get crispy. They go from soggy to burned pretty quickly, and not all of the pieces of kale will crisp up at the same time.

Roasted/Crispy chickpeas

I really like these little snacks because they’re another way to get in more beans (more fiber, yay!) and because they’re versatile and crunchy. This is the crispy chickpea recipe I make ( but I use regular salt and a little less of it - I don't even know what "smoked sea salt" is), and I add different flavors to spice them up and make them unique.

My favorite flavors are a little ranch seasoning from the same packets I use to make dip (Can you tell I like Ranch?) or parmesan cheese. I even tried a cinnamon and honey variation once and it turned out well! Here’s an article with some great flavor ideas to try.

Like kale chips, chickpeas can be a little finicky in the oven. Keep a close eye on them as they bake and move them around in the pan a time or two during the cooking process. This will help them get more evenly crispy.

Hard-boiled eggs

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These are a quick and easy grab-and-go snack...but only if you’ve boiled and peeled them ahead of time. :(

Quite honestly, I absolutely love hard-boiled eggs, but I don’t have the patience for the boiling, cooling, and peeling process on a regular basis. I’m also too cheap to buy them pre-boiled and pre-peeled at the store, but it’s an option to consider if you’re willing to pay for the convenience.

Snacking is King

There you have it! I eat one or more of these snacks almost daily. It doesn’t take much to elevate an ordinary food like carrot sticks into a truly satisfying and delicious snack. As you can tell, most of my go-to snacks are very simple to make and easy to eat in the middle of a busy day. This is probably what makes them my favorites. ;)

What are some of your favorite snacks that align with the Mediterranean diet? Share them in the comments below! :)

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