4 Anti-Inflammatory, Mediterranean Diet Style Side Dishes For Your Next Cook-Out

by Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Last Updated: July 20, 2021

The best part about the Mediterranean Diet is that it’s not a diet at all! Rather, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes lifestyle habits and foods to include more often to reap evidenced-based health benefits. It has been ranked the Best Overall Diet for 4 years straight and was “ranked #1 Best Plant-Based Diet, Best Heart-Healthy Diet, Best Diabetes Diet, Best Diet for Healthy Eating, and the Easiest Diet to Follow, according to U.S. News & World Report” from a panel of health experts.

Mediterranean food and anti-inflammatory eating have been all the buzz lately, but many of our patients are confused about getting started. With fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats at the center of this eating pattern, we’ve featured 4 unique summer side dishes that bring on the Mediterranean flair. Each pair well with barbeque and potluck foods to entice guests and of course, add a healthy dose of nutrients, fiber, and taste to the table:

A staple in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries’ cuisines, this versatile dish can be used as a side dish, a condiment, or a meal itself. It’s also a great way to use excess parsley.

1 c. bulgur
1 c. boiling water
2-3 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 c. green onion or sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
2 c. tomatoes, diced or grape tomatoes halved
1/2 medium English cucumber, cubed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed or ½ tsp garlic powder
1/4 c. lemon juice (if using freshly squeezed then add some grated lemon rind)
1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt/pepper to taste

  1. Combine bulgur and boiling water in a separate bowl, cover, and soak for 1 hour. Alternatively, cook bulgur according to package directions using slightly less water. Drain any remaining water. Cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for oil. Chill for 1 hour.
  3. Before serving, add olive oil. Toss well. Serve alone or in a whole wheat pita pocket or on top of a bed of lettuce.

  • To mix it up, replace the bulgur with whole grain couscous, or to make it gluten-free, use cooked quinoa.
  • Make this into a balanced, one-dish meal (perfect for easy leftover lunches!) by adding your protein of choice: chicken, fish, chickpeas, or tofu.
  • Feeling cheesy? Top with crumbled feta!

Inspired by: Bob’s Red Mill

Mediterranean Orzo Salad
We also like to call this “not-your-grandma’s-pasta-salad.” With a 50:50 proportion of vegetables to pasta, this is chock full of goodness, color, and freshness.

16 oz. Orzo pasta
2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
6 oz. can or about 3/4c. olives of choice (black, kalamata, or Castelvetrano), drained
1/2 medium sweet or red onion, chopped
1/2 medium English cucumber, cubed
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed
1/2 c. fresh parsley or basil or 2 c. of arugula or fresh spinach, sliced
1/2 c. Feta crumbles
1/3 c. lemon juice (if using freshly squeezed, then add some grated lemon rind)
1/3 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions to al dente texture. Drain. Cool.
  2. Wash and chop all vegetables.
  3. Add all ingredients to a large salad bowl except lemon and oil.
  4. Add lemon juice, rind (if using), and olive oil to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until immersed. Pour over salad before serving. Toss well.

  • Substitute any whole wheat or gluten-free pasta shape.
  • Add 1-2 cubed avocados before serving.
  • Dress the salad with your favorite Italian style dressing instead of the lemon juice mixture.
  • Don’t like or don’t have some of the vegetables on hand? Leave them out or substitute in others: cubed raw zucchini, green or red peppers, broccoli, shredded carrot, etc.

Carrot Beet Salad
This the most unique use of beets we’ve seen – they’re consumed raw and shredded in this naturally sweet salad bursting with bright color.

5-6 medium carrots
3-4 medium to large Beets, raw
1/3 c. Pumpkin seeds (e.g., pepitas)
1/2 c. 100% orange juice concentrate
1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 c. fresh mint, washed, thinly sliced
Salt, pepper to taste

  1. Wash and scrub carrots and beets very well, but do not peel. In a large salad bowl, grate them with a cheese grater, mandolin, or in a food processor fitted with a grater attachment.
  2. Toast pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium heat or in an oven on a sheet pan until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Cool. Option: skip the toasting and add them raw.
  3. To make the dressing, use a jar with tight-fitting lid and add orange juice concentrate and olive oil. Shake until immersed. Add mint and dressing to the salad, toss well. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Before serving, sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the salad. Serve.

Lentil Celery Salad
Have extra celery to use up or love celery? This is your salad! It’s sweet, it’s tangy, it’s crisp, and it’ll surprise and delight your guests. Try to see if they can guess the ingredients!

1/2-3/4 of a bunch of celery, finely sliced or chopped
15oz. can lentils, drained
1/2 sweet Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 c. fresh parsley or use the leaves of the celery stalks instead, minced
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. Walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 c. Olive Oil Mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed or 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  1. Wash and chop all vegetables as indicated. Add celery, lentils, onion, parsley, cranberries, and walnuts to a large salad bowl.
  2. Prepare dressing by mixing mayonnaise, vinegar, and garlic.
  3. Add dressing to salad bowl. Toss well. Serve.

At the start of summer, we’re so excited for the new, fresh foods and salads that the season brings…but by the end of summer, it’s all old news. We’ve worn out the summer salads, and we’re usually looking for a little something different. Hopefully, one of these salad ideas is making you salivate and renewing your interest in vegetables. Whether at your family table or a larger gathering with friends, enjoy and take pride in your new vegetable creation and share the nutrient love! Dietitians are well versed in creating renewed excitement around fruits and vegetables. If you need a little help in that area or for more personalized food as medicine advice, book a Telenutrition appointment with any of our talented Kroger Health Dietitians who are true foodies at heart.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

A mom of 2 little kiddos and over 15 years experience in nutrition, Katy enjoys helping her patients squeeze good nutrition and activity into an already “full” life and find their own balance with nutrition and health while still enjoying food to the fullest. She is an expert in weight management, mindful eating, digestive health, anti-inflammatory nutrition, culinary nutrition, cooking/baking, and any other topic related to food! Outside of work, you’ll find her traveling, walking, jogging, beer tasting, and eating gelato.