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Dining Out: Greek & Middle Eastern Cuisines

Restaurant-Specific Strategies

-- By SparkPeople

Characteristics:

There’s more to Greek food than gyros, baklava and Greek salads. Many dishes include low-fat dips, but many desserts and pastries are loaded with fat. Overall, this is generally a healthy way to eat; even the higher calorie items are usually not that high compared to other cuisines.


Common Ingredients:

Olives and olive oils are a signature. Legumes (especially chickpeas), eggplant, okra, garlic, lamb, beef, and yogurt are very popular. Feta cheese is also a staple, especially in salads. Fresh meats, grains and vegetables dominate the menu.
Hidden Dangers:
  • Take small portions of yogurt dressing, unless it’s low-fat.
  • Feta cheese can be high in sodium.
  • Falafel (vegetable patty made of fava beans and chickpeas) is a deep-fried favorite that is surprisingly full of fat.
  • Hummus can be high in fat, depending on how it’s made. A quarter cup serving can pack 420 calories and 12 grams of fat, but it is also a good source of vegetarian protein.
  • Watch for pan-fried dishes.
  • High-fat salad ingredients include anchovies, kalamata olives and feta cheese.
  • Spanakopita (spinach pie) may be small, but it has 290 calories and 21g fat
  • Although these dishes are be high in fat, it’s the good kind, but you still need to watch your portions:
    • Baba ghanoush (dip made with eggplant and olive oil)
    • Tahini (ground sesame paste) is almost all fat
    • Hummus
  • Saganaki (thick kasseri cheese fried and flamed in brandy)
  • Any pastry made with phyllo dough, which contains a lot of butter and oil
  • Bechamel (rich white sauce)
  • Baklava: 400 calories and 21g fat
  • Moussaka: 350 calories and 22g fat
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Healthy Finds:
  • To boost fiber, look for dishes and soups with fava beans and other legumes.
  • One skewer of Kafta has only 85 calories and 5g fat.
  • Chicken or veggie shish kabobs
  • Greek Salad
  • Tabouli (bulgur mixed with tomatoes, parsley, mint, olive oil and lemon juice) has just 170 calories per 4-ounce serving
  • Dolmas (stuffed vegetables, such as peppers, cabbage leaves, eggplant or squash)
  • Couscous (steamed wheat cereal)
  • Pilafs (rice dishes)
  • Midya Dolma (rice-stuffed mussels)
  • Yalanji Yaprak (rice-stuffed grape leaves)
  • Lah Me June (Armenian pizza)
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Plaki (fish broiled with tomato sauce and garlic)
  • Pita Bread, especially whole wheat pitas
  • Tzatziki (creamy yogurt and cucumber dressing/dip)

The Big Tip:

Any menu item that contains the word “lathera” means that it is cooked in lots of olive oil.
Substitution Ideas:

 Try This Skip That
 Gelati Baklava
 Tzatziki  Olive oil for dipping
 Appetizers stuff with rice Appetizers stuffed with meat
Roast lamb shish kabob Moussaka (lamb/beef casserole)
 Chicken pita sandwich Gyro

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