Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian shares 7 of his best tips for following the Mediterranean diet

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Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian shares 7 of his best tips for following the Mediterranean diet
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Geoffrey Zakarian Mediterranean diet tips
Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian is a fan of the Mediterranean diet. Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images; Marie Sonmez Photography/Shuttershock
  • Partnering with Genova Premium Tuna, Geoffrey Zakarian shared tips for following the popular diet.

  • Stocking your pantry full of staples and keeping fresh produce on hand can make mealtimes easy.

  • Make sure to opt for high-quality ingredients, like extra-virgin olive oil.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Known for his roles on "The Kitchen," "Chopped," and "Iron Chef," celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian has been a proponent of the Mediterranean diet long before it was trendy.

Tuna packed in oil was a childhood staple of Zakarian's, and his meals still often revolve around fish, in-season fruits and vegetables, and wholesome pantry staples.

His preferred way of eating has led to his partnership with Genova Premium Tuna, which is celebrating Mediterranean Diet Month by offering a complimentary meal kit that features a recipe by the celebrity chef.

This flexible diet relies on fish, healthy fats, whole grains, and fresh produce, and Zakarian shared some of his top tips for incorporating the popular way of eating into your lifestyle.

Fill your pantry with Mediterranean staples

Zakarian suggested completely revamping your pantry before diving into the Mediterranean style of eating.

"If you don't have the ingredients on hand, you're going to mess up," he told Insider. "Every three or four months, you want to take stock of what you have in your pantry and make sure that when you open your pantry up, you go in there, everything surrounding you is going to be good for you, right? Or 90% of it, at least."

You can start by stocking up on canned fish, beans, and legumes as well as ready-to-make whole grains.

Focus on high-quality ingredients

olive oil
It's important to get real, high-quality olive oil. Matthew Eisman/Stringer/Getty Images

Whether you're shopping to restock your pantry or fill the fridge with fresh produce, high-quality ingredients, like real extra-virgin olive oil, are key.

"Spend the extra money, buy the best stuff, because it's gonna have the most nutrition," Zakarian said. "It's going to be the least preservative-laden."

Zakarian added that you need to properly store your ingredients to make the most of every penny spent.

"Make sure that you keep your olive oil in small quantities and keep it cool," he told Insider. "A big mistake people make is they put it outside near the oven or near the stove, and it just goes rancid very quickly."

Limit red meat by relying on fish, beans, and legumes

Although red meat is a welcome part of the Mediterranean diet in moderation, you can also shift your meals to focus on other protein sources.

"If you want red meat, you just add that once or twice a week, so you can eat it, but that is not the staple," Zakarian said.

Zakarian suggested opting for protein sources like nuts, legumes, eggs, some poultry, and fresh and canned fish, like Genova Premium Tuna.

He said Genova Premium Tuna is a good choice because it only has three ingredients.

"It's albacore, or it's a Yellowfin tuna, olive oil and salt, that's it," he explained. "That's why it's so pure. There's no preservatives. There's nothing else in there."

Incorporate plenty of fresh produce into your meals

fruit
Dried or fresh fruit works as a great topping for yogurt bowls. Shutterstock

The favorable climate of the Mediterranean yields plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables, so you should incorporate these foods into your diet to embrace this way of eating.

Once your pantry is fully stocked with nuts, beans, legumes, canned fish, and whole grains, you can focus your weekly grocery hauls on fresh fruits and vegetables to build filling and nutritious meals without much thought.

"We just add protein and fresh vegetables, and we've got great food every day of the week," Zakarian told Insider.

Go all out for breakfast

Breakfast is a common afterthought since many people don't have the time to make an elaborate dish before work, but Zakarian said the morning meal is important for reaping all of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

"Breakfast is where you bring in all those gorgeous vegetables," Zakarian told Insider. "... We can do a beautiful yogurt bowl with gorgeous dried fruit and all the fresh fruit that the Mediterranean yields."

He also suggested using feta cheese and tomatoes in your breakfast dishes to make eggs in purgatory, a popular dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.

The chef also suggested adding dried papaya, dried figs, dried dates, and granola to yogurt bowls for a "supercharged" and "vitamin-centric" breakfast that "won't leave you hungry."

"We can do a beautiful yogurt bowl with gorgeous dried fruit and all the fresh fruit that the Mediterranean yields," he told Insider.

Don't skimp on dips and sauces

tzatziki
Dips like tzatziki can easily upgrade your meals and snacks. Nomadneshot/Shuttershock

The Mediterranean diet includes lots of flavorful dips and sauces that can help to keep your taste buds from getting bored.

Zakarian suggested using Mediterranean staples like nuts, canned or fresh chickpeas, vegetables, and yogurt to make spreads like pesto, hummus, and baba ghanoush (an eggplant-based dip).

"And it's endless, endless just what you can do with tzatziki and yogurt and hummus and beet hummus and all kinds of great charred-vegetable dips," he said.

Keep it simple and let natural flavors shine

The Mediterranean diet sports naturally flavorful foods like olives, fish, eggplants, grapes, and tomatoes, so the secret to making delicious meals is to let these ingredients shine.

Plus, these go-to foods pack your meals with flavor and nuance while offering needed nutrition.

"People have always asked me what's the last thing on Earth you'd have to eat if it was only one cuisine," Zakarian said. "I'd say the Mediterranean cuisine because that cuisine provides everything on the planet that's good for you."

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