You might’ve heard about the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and how it can reduce your risk of many chronic diseases. The Mediterranean diet flavors its dishes with fresh herbs and healthy fats (instead of unhealthy fats). This makes Greek and Mediterranean restaurants a top healthy choice for dining out or getting take-out. Here are some healthy tips to get the most out of your dining trip.
Appetizers: Salads, Dips and Dolmas
Hummus, baba ghannouj and vegetarian moussaka provide a fiber-packed way to start your meal. Eating an appetizer high in fiber will help prevent you from overeating when the entree course hits the table.
Dolmas are stuffed grape leaves that are available with any mix of rice, meat and fresh herbs. Choose the vegetarian option to avoid extra fat and calories.
Tabbouleh, fattoush and Greek salads are go-to healthy options widely available at most Greek restaurants.
Tzatziki is a yogurt-based cucumber sauce that’s often served as an appetizer or side dish to an entree. Although yogurt provides protein and healthy probiotics, keep in mind that restaurants typically use full-fat yogurt, which can be high in saturated fat. Stick to one serving size to avoid the extra fats.
SKIP: Spanikopita, rakakat and fried arayes.
Entrees: Chicken or Fish However You Like It
Chicken kabob, shawarma and kofta kabob are all different preparation methods of lean chicken breast. Traditional chicken kabob is cubed, lightly seasoned and grilled. Shawarma kabob is broiled on a vertical rotating grill, and kofta is a ground chicken breast kabob. All of these methods are healthy ways to eat lean protein, and they’re versatile enough to be eaten with a variety of sides.
Fish or shrimp kabob are also nutritious entree options no matter how they’re prepared. Greek and Mediterranean seafood dishes are almost always prepared with fresh herbs and spices, and they very rarely have high-fat sauces.
Falafels are deep-fried and seasoned chickpea patties. Although deep-fried foods aren’t often considered a “healthy option,” falafels are a good source of fiber, which helps balance out the fats from frying.
Skip: Beef or lamb entrees and kabobs, moussaka with meat.
Choose Whole Grains
Greek and Mediterranean restaurants are increasingly offering whole-wheat pita bread and brown rice pilaf as a substitution option on the menu. If you spot any of these on the menu, make a quick swap to get the most nutrients per calorie.
Bobby is the community and social media manager at Zipongo. He has a degree in nutrition and dietetics and previously worked as a health educator.