Nutrition Articles

Dining Out: Greek & Middle Eastern Cuisines

Restaurant-Specific Strategies

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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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Member Comments

  • I love Greek food. I also recommend Persian food. It's different than Greek - it's definitely my favorite. - 8/16/2013 8:43:48 AM
  • Headed to the Greek Festival today, thanks for providing the information for me to make healthier choices. - 9/2/2012 2:10:25 PM
  • I'm going to a Greek Fest for lunch today. I'm glad I looked here first! I know exactly what I'm going to get. (Gotta stay away for those deep fried honey-dipped dough balls - whatever they are called....though)
    . - 6/2/2011 11:06:56 AM
  • i'm greek
    and i aslo am a cook
    even in tsatsiki we add olive oil
    almost all greek foods are stir fried in lots of oil
    so if eating out be extra carefull - 4/2/2011 1:43:36 AM
  • My husband's family is part Greek and it's always a good reminder to look over the list before we have a big family meal! - 9/11/2010 11:57:06 AM
  • I love Middle-Eastern cuisine! The article mentioned falafel as a high-fat choice and I'd like to point out that you can usually get it baked, too. Baked falafel is not that high in fat or calories as long as you eat a reasonable portion size.
    Also, I wish this article had addressed some of the more common items that I see on Middle-Eastern menus like shawarma, kibbe nayah and fattoush salads. We have amazing Middle-Eastern cuisine here in Detroit and those items are very popular in our restaurants. - 1/15/2010 2:59:59 PM
  • I love Greek food and this article is an excellent reminder of the need to make good choices when eating in Greek restaurants. Thank you for such good info. - 11/13/2009 8:48:19 PM
  • Its great to have this. I love going to Folkfest, but have no idea what the calories are in the ethnic foods. It would be nice to know what is best before making a choice. Hopefully, you will do more nationalities in the future! - 10/14/2009 11:06:39 AM
  • Great article. - 5/16/2008 2:19:51 PM
  • Thank you! What a resource! Before going out to dinner it will be very helpful to check and make some healthy choices. Planning ahead helps me to make wiser decisions at the table. - 1/20/2008 11:52:58 PM

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