Greek cuisine is one of the most famous things about the Mediterranean region. When going out to eat a Greek meal, you are sure to enjoy fresh and tasty foods that can fit into a healthy diabetes meal plan.
A Brief History of Greek Food
Greece is home to an abundance of olive and lemon trees, so it’s natural to see many meals that contain fresh olives, along with olive oil and lemon juice (both are used as as a traditional dressing for many salads). Other staples are fruits, nuts, grains, yogurt, seafood, wine, and cheese. You can find lots of entrees with grilled vegetables and lean portions of meat. Soups contain hearty fillings like fava beans, lentils, and vegetables. Phyllo dough, a buttered pastry-type crust, is also common and may be used in pies and desserts. A popular fast food Greek option in North America is the gyro. A gyro is a meat sandwich wrapped in a large pita topped with a yogurt-based sauce called tzatziki. Ask for your gyro to be made with extra veggies and a whole wheat pita for extra fiber.
It’s All Greek To Me
Not sure what to order if you have diabetes? Here’s a list that can help make ordering a little easier.
Limit Portion Size:
- calamari: fried squid
- saganaki: fried cheese
- lamb gyro: skewered meat wrapped in pita bread
- deep fried vegetables
- spanakopita: spinach and feta cheese wrapped in phyllo dough
- baklava: phyllo dough pastry with syrup and walnuts
- fried shrimp
Meal plan-friendly choices:
- dolmades: grapevine leaves stuffed with rice and veggies
- horiatiki: also known as Greek salad, with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and feta cheese
- tzatziki sauce: yogurt with cucumber and garlic
- moussaka: eggplant casserole
- yemista: vegetables stuffed with herbs baked with rice
- souvlaki: grilled meat or veggies on skewers that are marinated in oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and lemon
- hummus: pureed chick peas with olive oil, sesame, garlic, and lemon juice (traditionally Lebanese, but served in many Greek restaurants)
- rice pudding: milk-based pudding with sweetened rice
Bottom Line for People with Diabetes
As with so many other ethnic foods, healthy foods are available when going out to eat Greek. As long as you are able to familiarize yourself with the basic preparations, ingredients, and names on the menu you can easily make healthy selections. For people with diabetes it’s important to try to limit foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates, so ask your waiter for help if you are unsure of how something is prepared. You can always order appetizer portions instead of an entree to limit your portion size, and sharing is always encouraged! So whether you are a Greek food aficionado or someone who is trying Greek food for the first time, rest assured that you can enjoy a healthy meal while still sticking to your health goals.
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Sejal is a registered dietitian, a certified diabetes educator and she holds a masters degree in nutrition and health. Sejal was the project coordinator for the Veteran’s Administrations (VA) national weight loss program and previously worked for the VA hospital in Tampa, FL as a Spinal Cord Injury dietitian.
Sejal has had numerous clinical and community education experiences, including pediatric and intensive care nutrition support. She has also had the opportunity to teach nutrition courses at the community college level to students interested in pursuing health professions. One of her favorite areas of education is diabetes management.