Illustration: Serge Bloch
Greek food has a healthy glow because researchers have linked its mix of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and unsaturated fats to reducing risks of everything from heart disease to breast cancer. But as with any other culinary import, the Americanized restaurant versions roll out huge portions—crumbled feta with a side of salad and Mount Olympus--sized piles of moussaka.
But you can navigate the menu in a healthy way. Just eat as the Greeks do: Go for simple grilled meat or fish and plenty of vegetables—exactly the kinds of foods that drew attention to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in the first place (olive oil alone can't take all the credit). When it comes to starchy sides, many restaurants plate extra helpings of pita alongside white rice; choose just one (or ask for extra veggies instead).
The dishes below marked with a red light aren't untouchable (no food is) but can be a really big splurge. Nutrition numbers vary widely among restaurants; use these as a guideline.
- Gyro in Pita
The shaved mixture of lamb and beef piles on saturated fat. Sodium, too—as much as your entire day's 2,300mg allotment.
A rich, creamy topping over layers of ground meat and oil-drenched eggplant yields 26g saturated fat. Add side dishes, and you could easily consume enough calories for an entire day.
Ask Your Server:
- Roast Half Chicken
To avoid going overboard, stick with the breast meat and leave at least some of the calorie-laden skin on the plate.
- Lamb Souvlaki Platter
Usually served with grilled vegetables and tzatziki (both relatively lower-calorie flavor boosters) and rice and pita. Cut the rice or the pita, and you'll come in under 700 calories.
- Whole Grilled or Roast Fish
You get a whole lot of bang for your calorie buck, thanks to hefty portions that come at low calorie cost. This is the go-to dish when your hunger says "supersize me" but your waistline disagrees.
- Greek Salad with Chicken
Just keep your eye on the feta, which is relatively high in saturated fat and sodium. And, of course, order dressing on the side.