Dining Out with Diabetes: Greek Restaurants (With Checklist)

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Greek cuisine is one of the most famous things about the Mediterranean region. A typical souvlaki or gyro meal from Greek restaurants in North America usually comes with meat, fresh Greek salad, pita bread, and rice. Some restaurants may add potato wedges too! Many wonder how it could fit in a diabetic meal plan. With careful planning, people with diabetes can still enjoy fresh Greek foods too.

Greek Food Staples: Fresh Ingredients

Greece is home to an abundance of olive and lemon trees, so it’s natural to see many dishes that contain fresh olives, along with olive oil and lemon juice (both are used as as a traditional dressing for many salads). Other staples include fruits, nuts, grains, yogurt, seafood, wine, and cheese. You can find lots of entrees with grilled vegetables and lean or roasted meat. In addition, soups contain hearty fillings like fava beans, lentils, and vegetables.

Nutrition Information of A Typical Souvlaki Meal (Carb Counting)

Serving portions from different restaurants vary. I’ve picked a popular Greek chain restaurant to illustrate carb-counting for people for diabetes.

Nutrition Facts: Chicken Souvlaki dinner set from Little Greek Fresh Grill:

  • Chicken Souvlaki (9 oz.): Net carb is 4 grams
  • A mini Greek Salad: 16 g
  • Rice (6 oz.): 46 g
  • One piece of pita bread: 35 g
  • Tzatziki sauce (2 oz): 2 g

The total net carb for this chicken souvlaki meal is ~ 102 grams. That’s equivalent to 6 to 7 carb choices. For most people with diabetes, that’s a bit too much for a single meal. The easiest strategy is to cut the rice portion in half; that will instantly save 23 grams of net carbs. Better yet, eat half or 3/4 of pita bread as well.

Nutrition Information of A Typical Gyro Meal (Carb Counting)

Gyro, on the other hand, is more generously seasoned. Therefore, the carb content of the gyro meat is usually higher, likely due to the extra seasonings.

Nutrition Facts: Gyro dinner set from Little Greek Fresh Grill:

  • Gyro (7 oz.): Net carb is 14 grams
  • A mini Greek Salad: 16 g
  • Rice (6 oz.): 46 g
  • One piece of pita bread: 35 g
  • Tzatziki sauce (2 oz): 2 g

Due to the addition of seasonings in gyro meat preparation, the total net carb of gyro meal is higher at ~112 grams. That’s approximately 7.5 carb choices. To cut down of carb intake, try decreasing the portion of rice and/or pita bread.

Other Greek Menu Items

Not sure what to order if you have diabetes? Here’s a list that can help make ordering a little easier.

Diabetes-friendly Greek food 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 chickpeas with olive oil, sesame, garlic, and lemon juice (traditionally Lebanese, but served in many Greek restaurants)

For People Using Insulin: The following Greek food items are usually deep-fried or higher in fat:

If you are using bolus insulin, your Certified Diabetes Educator may suggest you to delay, or split the dosage. Check with your CDE or doctor for strategies appropriate for your situation.

  • calamari: fried squid
  • saganaki: fried cheese
  • deep fried vegetables
  • spanakopita: spinach and feta cheese wrapped in phyllo dough
  • baklava: phyllo dough pastry with syrup and walnuts
  • fried shrimp

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 higher in 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.

Health

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1 thought on “Dining Out with Diabetes: Greek Restaurants (With Checklist)”

  1. As a diabetic I’m told I should eat carbohydrates in every meal as I’m going to Greece for 10 days I was looking for Greek food with carbohydrates you advertise low carbohydrates diet which my nurses me to stay off can you advice some Greek food with more carbohydrates thank you

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