Dining Out: Greek & Middle Eastern Cuisines


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

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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Member Comments

No Greek restaurants where I live, a couple Mediterranean ones & an annual festival. For me since it's a rare treat, I'm going to order what I love & be mindful of portions. Healthy fat can be a good thing for the diet & I like all the vegetables; eggplant or spinach. Lamb is given respect. Lemons are often an accent flavor. As for dessert, baklava varieties feature different nuts so of course it's calorie dense & sweet but really good & well worth it. If I was around it more often, that could be a problem. Thankfully I can't have any dairy so at least those dishes aren't an issue. Report
Good to know information Report
Very helpful article, we have a lot of Greek restaurants around us. Report
Greek recipes can be fun Report
Good article. Report
I am crazy about the Greek salad 🥗 NO gabazonza beans pls😋 Report
I love Greek food. I also recommend Persian food. It's different than Greek - it's definitely my favorite. Report
Headed to the Greek Festival today, thanks for providing the information for me to make healthier choices. Report
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)
. Report
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 Report
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! Report
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. Report