How to Have a Mediterranean Diet Christmas

Mediterranean diet Christmas

If you’ve recently embraced a healthier lifestyle and want to keep it on track for the holidays, it can be a bit of challenge. Fortunately, healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all of your seasonal favorites. You can have a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet Christmas and holiday season. But you may need to make some adjustments.

Thankfully, traditional Christmas dinners naturally feature Mediterranean-friendly options, and with a few slight tweaks, you can have a familiar holiday dinner that allows for both tradition and healthy meal.

What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a term used to encompass the various foods that people in Mediterranean countries typically ate in the in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Researchers recognized that people in this region—although they ate different local foods—were much healthier than Americans and had a much lower risk for many lifestyle-related illnesses.

A number of studies indicate that following a Mediterranean-style diet can help lead to weight loss, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, a reduced risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and a longer, healthier life.

Because the Mediterranean is rather vast and diverse region, there is no singular way to follow a Mediterranean diet, which is why it’s often referred to as Mediterranean-style.

For the most part, it is built around the following principles:

  1. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, beans, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra-virgin olive oil.
  2. Eat poultry (like turkey), eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation.
  3. Only consume red meat on rare occasions.
  4. Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, added sugars, processed meats, refined grains, refined oils and all highly-processed foods.
  5. Focus on eating whole foods.

Foods to Eat for a Mediterranean Diet-Friendly Christmas

When it comes to creating a Mediterranean diet Christmas dinner, you’ve got a lot more options than you might think, especially if your goal is to keep it traditional.

Some of the things you’ll need to avoid include sugar-rich cranberry sauce, butter-soaked veggies, and stuffing made with white bread. But you can actually swap traditional preparation methods with some easy alternatives.


You can definitely eat turkey on Christmas Day, but because it is only suggested for moderate consumption on a Mediterranean diet, try to avoid chicken, or other meats, in the days leading up to Christmas dinner. Depending on your allegiance to the diet, you might want to avoid the skin!

Also, when stuffing and your turkey and applying fat to the outside for crispiness and basting, use extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) instead of butter—it’s also important to be aware that EVOO has a smoke point around 374 degrees F, so roast your turkey at a lower temperature. Alternatively, you could use turkey breast fillets as opposed to roasting a whole turkey, if desired.

Roast Beef

If roast beef is traditionally a part of your Christmas spread you might want to rethink it—that is, of course, if you haven’t been banking a red meat day. Limiting yourself to a slice, however, is about as far as you’ll want to go if you absolutely have to! Instead of roast beef, think of preparing a seafood option, like salmon or scallops.

Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and cheese is another staple that may have been on your Christmas table in the past. Conceivably, it could be part of your Christmas spread if you elect whole-grain noodles, but it’ll still be a little heavy on the dairy. It’s probably best to avoid the mac and cheese altogether and consider a bean salad.

Alcohol and Desserts

Alcohol and dessert can also present challenges to your dietary plans. A glass or two of red wine can fit into the Mediterranean diet, but some spirits, like rum and eggnog, definitely do not.

Desserts require a little creativity and won’t necessarily be fully “healthy,” but you can use baking techniques that make them more Mediterranean-style. We’ll take a look at some recipes shortly, but you’ll want to avoid the typical butter and sugar-laden stuff like store-bought chocolates, ice cream, and cakes.


Vegetables like Brussels sprouts, salads, and potato can all help to make your spread more Mediterranean diet-friendly, just avoid store-bought sugary dressings and sauces.

Now, let’s take a look at some Mediterranean diet Christmas recipes.

Mediterranean Diet Christmas Entrees

If you want to keep your main dish Mediterranean-style this Christmas, here are some ways to do it!

Festive Salmon with Pomegranate and Orange

Prep Time: 10 minutes          Total Time: 25 minutes         Serves: 4


  • 2 lb salmon (skin on if desired for additional omega-3)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 navel orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, minced


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil.
  2. Spread onions on foil in a single layer. Place salmon on top and sprinkle with salt. Lay out orange slices over the fish and top with pomegranate seeds. Then drizzle with oil. Place a second piece of foil on top. Fold up all sides of the foil together and crimp to seal, forming a large packet.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Open packet carefully and transfer salmon to a serving platter.
  4. Sprinkle with dill before serving.

Holiday Halibut Steaks

Prep Time: 15 minutes          Total Time: 30 minutes         Serves: 4


  • 4 (6 oz) halibut steaks
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Prepare a large, non-stick baking dish.
  2. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add in garlic, onion, and zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat and pour in tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Spread out halibut steaks in a single layer in the baking dish. Top each steak with equal portions of the zucchini mixture. Sprinkle feta cheese on top.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Christmas Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

Prep Time: 30 minutes (or 2 hours 30 minutes)       Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes  (or 3 hours 15 minutes)        Serves: 4


For turkey:

  • 2 1/2 lb bone-in turkey breast (or 1/2 of a whole turkey breast)
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
  • Large handful parsley, freshly chopped (about 2 ounces)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 shallots (small), peeled and halved
  • 7 celery sticks, cut into big pieces

For grapes:

  • 1 lb (450 g) seedless red grapes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt


  1. After patting dry, season the turkey with salt on both sides, including lifting up the skin to reach any hidden crevices. Let sit at room temperature for half an hour. (Depending on the amount of time you have, you can also place the salted turkey in the fridge uncovered for at least two hours or overnight.)
  2. Remove the turkey from the fridge and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 F. Place grapes in a baking dish. Pour extra-virgin olive oil over the fruit and season with salt. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and remove from heat. Set the grapes aside in a plate and leave the oven on.
  4. Add the spices to a small bowl, and blend together well. Rub the spice mixture all over turkey, being sure to reach underneath the skin.
  5. Combine garlic, parsley, and a 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Place turkey in the bowl and coat with the garlic and parsley mixture.
  6. Using the baking dish for the grapes, add shallots and celery to make a pallet for the turkey. Salt the vegetables and pour a little extra-virgin olive oil over them. Place turkey breast on top.
  7. In the heated oven, position oven rack to the bottom third. Put the turkey breast in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350 F. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 165 F and juices run clear. If the notice turkey skin begins to overcook, cover with foil and continue roasting.
  8. During the last five minutes of roasting, return the grapes to the pan to reheat through.
  9. Loosely cover with foil and let turkey sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Mediterranean Christmas Sides

Bean Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes          Total Time: 20 minutes         Serves: 6-8


For salad:

  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 green bell pepper (or color of your choice), seeded and diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
  • Handful mint, freshly chopped
  • Handful parsley, freshly chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crushed red pepper for extra spice
  • Optional spices: sumac, za’atar, or oregano


  1. Add the chickpeas, white beans, olives, roasted red peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, feta cheese, mint, parsley, and green onions to a large bowl. Mix together.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic in a large Mason jar or salad dressing container. Season with salt and pepper to taste and one teaspoon of spice (sumac, za’atar, oregano). Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat with the dressing.

Festive Pomegranate Brussels Sprouts

Prep Time: 10 minutes          Total Time: 30 minutes         Serves: 8


  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • pomegranate molasses, to drizzle (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Put the sprouts in the pan, cut-side down, and leave them to fry for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. If they’re just lightly brown, carry on cooking for a further five minutes until blistered.
  2. Scatter over the pistachios and stir-fry until toasted. Remove from the heat and stir through the pomegranate seeds. Season with salt and tip into a serving dish. Drizzle with a little pomegranate molasses, if you like.

Quinoa Holiday Stuffing

Prep Time: 15 Minutes          Total Time: 40 minutes         Serves:8


  • 8 oz quinoa
  • Water
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium red apples, cored and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 cup parsley leaves, washed, dried, stems removed


  1. Submerge quinoa in water for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain. Set aside.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large wok, but not to smoking. Add apples, chopped celery and red onions, and garlic. Sauté for about three to four minutes on medium heat, tossing regularly.
  3. Add drained quinoa and salt and pepper to taste. Pour in spices and mix to combine.
  4. Pour in broth and increase temperature. Bring to boiling and continue to cook on medium-high until broth reduces, for about three minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for seven minutes or so.
  5. Add in cranberries. Recover and cook for another seven to 10 minutes, or until water is fully absorbed.
  6. Remove from heat, and add scallions and fresh parsley.
  7. Place on a serving platter and garnish with toasted walnuts.

Mediterranean Christmas Desserts

Unless you want straight nuts or fruit for dessert, it’s going to be tough to go full Mediterranean-style on this one. But there are some recipes that are very low in added sugars. And if you stick to a single serving, it’s unlikely to derail your diet or add to any of the health problems you’re looking to avoid.

Holiday Essence Baked Pears

Prep Time: 5 minutes            Total Time: 30 minutes         Serves: 4


  • 4 Anjou pears
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Optional toppings: maple pecan granola, Greek yogurt


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut pears in half and cut a small sliver off the underside so they sit flat when placed upright on the baking sheet. Using a large or medium cookie scoop or melon baller (or even a teaspoon), core out the seeds. Arrange pears, facing up, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon.
  3. Whisk the maple syrup and vanilla extract together in a small bowl. Drizzle most of it all over the pears, reserving about two tablespoons for when the pears have finished baking.
  4. Bake pears for about 25 minutes, until soft and lightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle with remaining maple syrup mixture.

Christmas Cranberry Olive Oil Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes          Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes          Serves: 10-12


  • 2 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 12-oz bag cranberries (frozen is fine)
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the orange zest with the sugar and use your fingers to rub the two together. This will help release the fragrant oils from the zest and will give the sugar a nice, light orange hue.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs together with the sugar and zest. Beat for a few minutes and then slowly pour in the olive oil and then the orange juice.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture, leaving behind about one quarter cup.Add the cranberries to remaining one-quarter cup of flour and toss to coat. Once the flour in the mixing bowl has been well-incorporated with the wet ingredients, add in the flour-coated cranberries.  Mix only until incorporated; do not over mix (doing so might crush your cranberries.) Alternatively, you can add and mix in the cranberries by hand using a rubber spatula.
  6. Grease a Bundt pan with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Pour in the batter and then use a knife to swirl the batter a bit, in order to help distribute the cranberries evenly.
  7. Bake on the middle rack of your oven for approximately 60 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool almost completely before removing it from the Bundt pan.

Mediterranean Diet Appetizers

Artichoke Dip

Prep Time:10 minutes          Total Time: 10 minutes         Serves: 4-6


  • 1 can (15 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 6 oz marinated artichoke hearts, plus 2 tsp artichoke marinade (optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-7 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne red pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced (plus lemon zest for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For garnish:

  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parsley
  • Lemon zest
  • Extra cayenne pepper


  1. Place the white beans, garlic, artichokes and marinade in the food processor and blend for one minute. Slowly add the 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil as you run the motor and blend for another one minute, or until the dip begins to become smooth and creamy. Add the basil leaves, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice and continue to blend until well combined and creamy. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Put the dip into a serving bowl and garnish with fresh basil, parsley, and lemon zest. Serve with pita chips and vegetables.

Christmas Cucumber Hummus Bites

Prep Time: 15 minutes          Total Time: 15 minutes         Serves: 30+ pieces


  • 1 English cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tub (10 oz) roasted red pepper hummus
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • Freshly chopped parsley


  1. Slice the cucumber into thin rounds and arrange in a single layer on serving platters. Using a small teaspoon, spoon a small amount of the roasted red pepper hummus onto each cucumber slice.
  2. Top with the cherry tomato half, crumbled feta cheese, and the freshly chopped parsley.
  3. Serve chilled or store in an airtight container before serving.

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