How to start the Mediterranean diet — meal by meal

A Mediterranean meze spread is typically served as an appetizer but works well as brunch for a crowd.

(CNN)Considered one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Mediterranean way of eating cuts processed foods and red meats, focusing instead on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy whole grains and extra-virgin olive oil.

Eating this way has been shown to reduce the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, dementia, memory loss, depression and breast cancer and has been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart and longer life. Oh, and don't forget weight loss!
The simplest way to start the Mediterranean style of eating is to replace one meal a day with a plant- or grain-based choice, experts say. We've made that easy for you by asking CNN contributor Rahaf Al Bochi, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Olive Tree Nutrition, to create these Mediterranean-inspired recipes for each meal of the day, along with snacks and dessert.
    We've even added a recipe sure to entice your kids to eat the healthy Mediterranean way, a brunch suggestion, and tips on how to prep in advance and cook and freeze. Enjoy!


      Breakfast is an easy way to start the Mediterranean style of eating. You can enjoy a warm and filling ancient grain, topped with yogurt, fruit and honey. Alternatively, pare down and simply go with Greek yogurt, which has double the protein and half the sugar for the same calories as regular yogurt, topped with fresh fruit, berries and a sprinkle of nuts.
      To take your yogurt breakfast to another level, try this version. It's a unique combination of whipped Greek yogurt with cardamom, vanilla, medjool dates and pistachios.


        Lunch is another great meal to replace with a Mediterranean option. Eating a grain- or legume-based salad, for example, helps raise blood sugar slowly, giving your brain the energy it needs to make it through the day. It also reduces overeating at night.
        This gorgeous farro salad is chock-full of veggies, sprinkled with Greek feta and drizzled with vinaigrette.