13 Foods Worth Trying at a Greek Restaurant

Are there other healthy and delicious options you are missing out on at your neighborhood Greek restaurant? Here are some other menu items to consider. "Kali Orexi!" (Bon Appetit!)

By Meaghan Cameron
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    You know what a gyro is and the delicious yogurt sauce that tops it, which you can neither pronounce nor spell (i.e., tzatziki). But are there other healthy and delicious options you are missing out on at your neighborhood Greek restaurant? Here are some other menu items to consider. "Kali Orexi!" (Bon Appetit!)

    1. Papoutsakia
    According to the Greek cooking and hospitality blog kopiaste.org, papoutsakia means “little shoes,” which this dish resembles.

    Is it healthy?
    Featuring eggplant stuffed with ground beef, this recipe is reasonably healthy as long as the chef takes it easy on the béchamel sauce and the cheese. But there are healthier options on a Greek menu.

    2. Loucanico
    Loucanico (or loukaniko) is the Greek word for sausage, which is much like Spanish chorizo sausage in that it tends to be pretty spicy. Learn more about this delicious sausage from souvlakiforthesoul.com.

    Is it healthy?
    This sausage can be on the fatty side, so try to share it with others as a simple appetizer.

    3. Dolmades
    They sound exotic but you've probably had these stuffed grape leaves in your Greek salad at many diners. Most people either adore them or they push them to the side along with the ubiquitous peperoncini.

    Is it healthy?
    Absolutely. Typically stuffed with rice and spices then simmered in broth, these little appetizers are a very healthful choice. Even a little lean ground lamb won't hurt the calorie count too much. Eat your peperoncini too—they’re good for you!

    4. Skordalia
    A traditional dip made from mashed potatoes and garlic, served with pita or vegetables.

    Is it healthy?
    Dipping bread in mashed potatoes is a deluge of simple carbs that your body doesn’t need. You’re better off dipping cucumbers, or other veggies, rather than the pita.

    5. Shrimp Saganaki vs. Saganaki
    Despite their names, these two dishes are actually nothing alike. The reason for the confusion is because both are cooked in a sagani—a traditional Greek cooking pan—and anything cooked in a sagani gets the name “saganaki” added on to it. Thus just plain “saganaki” is commonly fried cheese, while “shrimp saganaki” is a dish of shrimp, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and feta.

    Are they healthy?
    Stick with shrimp saganaki for a healthy, vegetable filled appetizer. Fried cheese, while delicious, is not a healthy low-fat appetizer.

    6. Pastitsio vs. Mousaka
    Both of these are casseroles. Pastitsio is often referred to as Greek lasagna; it’s a layered pasta dish with either beef or lamb in tomato sauce, and creamy béchamel. Mousaka combines vegetables and meat with a cream sauce.

    Are they healthy?
    The béchamel in both adds a good dose of fat and calories. You may want to skip appetizers, and dessert, if you care to indulge in these dishes.

    7. Souvlaki
    Grilled skewers of meat are on every Greek menu. Choose chicken, pork, lamb, or beef, and get them as a platter or as a sandwich.

    Is it healthy?
    Low-fat protein, veggies, and pita, plus a touch of yogurt sauce, equals a very healthy choice.

    8. Pikilla
    Pikilla is an appetizer sampler of grilled or fried meats and/or fish. As the blog organicallycooked.com notes, the healthiness of this dish depends on the location. Some restaurants "use ready-to-cook, mass-produced food to serve in a pikilia, while others cook everything from scratch."

    Is it healthy?
    It depends on the place. You have to ask. Skip one that is heavy on the fried foods and creamy dips.

    9. Taramosalata
    Hmm, sounds exotic should you try it? Well if you like roe—aka fish eggs—give it a go. This dip is a traditional carp roe mousse.

    Is it healthy?
    Yes, if eaten sparingly. It is mostly fat in many cases, yet it’s full of the healthy fats found in fish.

    10. Briam (Tourlou)
    A mixture of Mediterranean vegetables roasted together.

    Is it healthy?
    Yes, go for it!

    11. Gigandes
    Basically Greek baked beans.

    Is it healthy?
    Gigandes are packed with fiber, and as long as they’re not too sweet they are a nice side dish.

    12. Avgolemono
    A simple lemony chicken-orzo soup thickened with eggs.

    Is it healthy?
    Yes, a perfect choice for a filling appetizer.

    13. Baklava, Galaktoboureko, Kataifi Ekmek, and Bougatsa
    All of these Greek desserts are towering pastry combinations of honey, phyllo, nuts, and sometimes rich custard.

    Is it healthy?
    Is dessert ever healthy? Skip it if you are concerned about calories. All of these are heavy and sweet.


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    Your Comments

    • Chef C.T.

      healthy Gyro is the same recipe but obviously to make it healthier you can choose to have less fat in your meat (just ask your butcher) & add a table spoon of olive oil to the mixture. Then instead of frying the Gyro meat, grill it which again is a healthier method of cooking. I add very thinly chopped red and green peppers to my mix as well as chili flakes. My Mom even grates potato and egg plant in hers which is very nice also. if you do add vegetables to the mix please remember they produce water so drain them, squeeze the excess juices from them and lay on some kitchen paper for 10-15 minutes after sprinkling with salt which pulls the water out of them also. There are many different types of Gyro meat. Pork, Beef, Lamb or a mixture of meat. They have different names of course but the version you’re talking about I’m guessing is the type you can buy from your local take out joint. That would be either Pork or most likely a mixture of beef and lamb. The Pork version is my favourite though

    • Chef C.T.

      thats actually a very silly comment. Greece has middle eastern, north African and Mediterranean influences in regards to its cuisine and do have traditional dishes tat can be found in neighboring countries. That’s not to say that they’re not Greek. It’s like saying Pasta isn’t Italian because they got the idea from chinese noodles. The fact that Greece is so close to countries such as Italy,Egypt, Lebanon, Sicily etc means that they must have had influences from eachother. For example Egyptians make Stuffed peppers which apparently doesn’t originate from the region but they’re close enough to Greece that they have had enough influence over a long stretch of time making their own traditional versions of the same dishes making it their own. Germany also make Fish and Chips in their own traditional way and it originated there. Does that mean it’s no longer British. The same way language spread throughout Europe, mainly Latin and Hellenic Greek is the same way other influences spread as well. They didnt have internet, mobile phones back then they spread through travelling communities

    • Maya

      what is the recepy for a healthy gyro?

    • M. E.

      A little research on the background of some of these dishes will tell you some of these dishes aren’t  Greek but from other Mediterranean countries. Adding -ki, -ko, -ka, -es, -o at the end of the name doesn’t make it Greek.