The Easiest, Fastest, Tastiest Summer Lunch: A Mezze Plate

Clockwise starting with the pretzels: Happy Herbert’s Spelt mini-pretzels, Hawthorne Valley Farms lacto-fermented Dilly Beans, Sabra pine-nut hummous, organic Cali fig, organic local carrot, organic local pear, herbed goat cheese, organic green grapes (on sale).

I’m a busy Eco Chick and I like it that way; I run two websites, am working on my next book, do public speaking, travel/research near and far to keep up with all that’s new in green, teach, run a home (I do most of the house cleaning and lawn and garden care myself) care for a dog and two cats, work out six days a week, and have a very active social life. I love my life but a few months ago I recognized that it could use a bit of balance.

So I started closing my computer at a reasonable hour, extended the time I spent working out, am reading a lot more novels (which I LOVE) and made a promise to myself that I would eat more healthfully, which included these basic ideas:
-eating a wider variety of non-wheat carbs (Spelt, quinoa, oats, and wheatberries)
-doubling my produce intake
-cutting out pretty much all processed foods
-reducing alcohol consumption
-limiting dairy to small amounts and mostly goat- or sheep-milk products (lower in fat and much tastier!)

But I didn’t have much time, especially in the middle of the day for lunch, and then I hit upon an idea: The Mezze plate (a middle-eastern appetizer or main meal composed of various appetizers) which can really be made up of whatever’s on hand (I mix and match ethnic foods with abandon). Balance the carbs, produce and protein yourself, watch the calories, and voila! The fastest, easiest lunch ever!

Try any of the below combined with a generous quantity of fresh, raw, local, in-season fruits and veggies; I like to listen to my body and really try to figure out what I’m craving so that I’m paying attention to what I really need:

-edamame salad with sesame seeds (high in protein and fiber)
-baked sweet potato (I buy the small ones and bake 3-4 at once and keep them in the fridge: high in beta carotene and fiber)
-nut butters (try almond, macadamia, or Brazil nut rather than peanut for variety)
-kale (cook a bunch of kale with organic olive oil, salt and pepper and you can keep in the fridge for a week)
-bean dips (kidney and white bean with spices and herbs is always an easy one)
-lactofermented veggies (kimchi, sauerkraut, or others)
-bottled artichoke hearts (low-calorie liver cleanser)
-big dill pickles
-Japanese (nori) seaweed salad
-black bean and corn salad (I mix black beans with Trader’s Joes Corn salsa)
-Organic corn chips
-cold soup (gazpacho or cucumber is great in the Summer!)
-hard boiled (organic, free-range or local) eggs
-high quality, small batch hard cheeses made from raw sheep, goat and cow’s milk (keep this quantity small as they are quite nutritious but also high in calories)

I finish my mezze plate off with a generous portion of organic dark chocolate, almost every day. If you follow my Twitter stream, you’ll see which ones I’m trying, but I’ll also be posting about all my faves soon!

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.