Its Greek Food to Me

Another Mediterranean cuisine is popular: Greek food. For many consumers, experience with Greek restaurants comes from fast-food courts in shopping malls. The popular gyro sandwich, souvlaki, Greek salad, rice pilaf, moussaka, and baklava are best known. But like other cuisines, full-service restaurants offer far more variety. To order smarter, consider these menu tips:

  • For a creamy dressing on salads, or a sauce on pita sandwiches, enjoy tzatziki. It's made with yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers. Sometimes tzatziki is listed on the menu as a salad. Try tzatziki as an appetizer dip with pita bread, too.
  • Enjoy smaller amounts of baba ghanouj, a higher-fat dip made with eggplant and olive oil, and of hummus, made with mashed chickpeas and sesame seed paste.
  • Flavorful olive oil for dipping is often served with a basket of pita bread. Again, go easy. Although high in monounsaturated fat, low in saturated fat, and cholesterol-free, olive oil contains just as much fat as butter or margarine. Bread often can soak up a lot of oil!
  • Ordering saganaki as an appetizer? Saganaki is thick kasseri cheese that's fried and sometimes flamed in brandy. To trim the fat, share with someone else.
  • For nutritious fast food order pita bread stuffed with Greek salad, lean meat, tabouli, or other ingredients. Tabouli is bulgur wheat mixed with chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice. For more fiber ask for whole-wheat pita. Another popular use of the pita is the gyro, which is minced lamb molded and roasted vertically. When cooked, the lamb is sliced and tucked into pita bread with grilled onions, bell peppers, and tzatziki sauce.
  • As a main dish, look for broiled and grilled meat, poultry, and seafood: perhaps shish kebob, which is skewered and broiled meat and vegetables; souvlaki, which is lamb marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs, then skewered and grilled; or plaki, which is fish broiled with tomato sauce and garlic.
  • As another menu option, try dolmas, or stuffed vegetables. Grape leaves are most commonly stuffed with ground meat; other vegetables, such as bell peppers, cabbage leaves, eggplant, and squash, are stuffed with mixtures of ground meat, rice, dried fruit, and pine nuts. Because they're steamed or baked, fat usually isn't added with cooking.
  • To boost fiber, order dishes made with legumes. In a full-service restaurant you'll likely find mixed dishes and soups made with fava beans and other legumes.
  • Order a Greek salad to go with meals. Ask for dressing on the side. And go easy on the higher-fat, higher-sodium ingredients: anchovies, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.
  • Go easy also on rich Greek desserts such as baklava. Made with phyllo and plenty of butter, honey or sugar, and nuts, this sweet, compact pastry is very high in calories. It's wonderful-tasting, but a small serving is enough to satisfy a sweet tooth!

From the Greek Menu

Enjoy more often:

  • Broiled, grilled, simmered, or stewed dishes
  • Greek salad
  • Tabouli
  • Dolmas
  • Tzatziki
  • Fresh fruit
  • Pita bread

Enjoy sometimes:

  • Pan-fried dishes
  • Vegetable pies such as spanakopita and tyropita
  • Baba ghanouj (a Middle Eastern dish that appears on some Greek menus)
  • Baklava and phyllo pastry dishes
  • Deep-fried falafel and calamari
  • Moussaka and other creamy casseroles
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