Choosing Healthy Greek Food
Doctors and researchers alike laud the Mediterranean diet for heart health and most benefits are present in of the many flavors of Greek cuisine. Unlike traditional American fare, the options are mostly natural ingredients, fresh herbs and spices, lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and olive oil, all important parts of healthy diet. However, there are less than nutritious options to be wary of. With a little planning and keeping your portions in check, you can enjoy a full meal, without overdoing it calorie-wise and still get the variety and flavor you’re looking for.
For starters, you may be offered cheese-centered dishes or batter-fried foods noted by the name “tiganites.” Instead go for Tzatziki with fresh veggies like red bell peppers. Grilled options, named skharas are also a healthier option. Dolmades, stuffed grape leaves, are also a good option that aren't stuffed with cheese or fried.
Most healthy eaters are familiar with the traditional Greek salad and rightfully so. It's a well-balanced dish with vegetables, healthy fat, and fresh herbs. The tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and pepperoncini make for great flavor and the oregano, olives, and olive oil add spice and zing. To keep the salad skinny, ask for the olive oil on the side and don't let the big chunks of feta fool you. Just one cubic inch of feta packs almost 4 grams of fat, while an ounce has twice as many fat grams. The cheese and oil are generally the most dense ingredients to monitor your serving size of in other Greek-inspired salads.
Opt for a fish entree as opposed to the lamb offerings to shave off fat and calories. One gyro can run up to 500 calories in some restaurants. Many Greek seafood dishes add lemon, white wine, capers, and vegetables to their entrees. It may be served with rice or couscous, but ask for vegetable side dishes sich as Arakas me Anitho or dilled peas with peppers or horta vrasta, also known as boiled greens. The exchange of a cup of vegetables as opposed to rice could save you at least 100 calories. Watch the many dips your entrees may be served with as well. Skordalia and bechemel add a significant amount of calories if you're not watchful. Ask for the sauce on the side, and try to stick to no more than a 1/4 cup on your entree.
All Greek food isn't healthy, but there are some great opportunities for great taste in less calories if you look for them on the menu.
For an extensive list of Healthy Greek recipes and their nutritional information click here.
What healthy switches do you make to make for a wholesome Greek meal? What do you consider the cornerstones of a Mediterranean diet?