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Healthy Menu Navigator: Greek and Mediterranean


What should you steer clear of besides a basket of pita? Nutritionist Heather Bauer explains how to order healthy dishes at a Greek and Mediterranean restaurant.
Shrimp kabob (Photo: 123rf.com)
Shrimp kabobs are low in calories and high in flavor, Bauer says. (Photo: 123rf.com)

 

Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinalEnter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

Last week, it was pizza. This week, we head toward the Med! Happy eating, everyone.

Heather Bauer’s Greek and Mediterranean menu navigational nugget

Get an appetizer salad even if no one else is, because it gives you something to eat when everyone’s chowing down on the hummus (or tzatziki) and pita, Bauer says. And know yourself! “If you can be disciplined about having just two triangles of pita, go ahead,” she says. “But remember, chickpeas are a carb (even if they do also contain some protein)—so when you eat pita and hummus, you’re basically eating bread on bread.”

WHAT TO ORDER

Appetizers

1. A tomato and cucumber salad, or a Greek salad (without the stuffed grape leaves). Many Greek or Mediterranean places offer meal-size or shareable salads, so be sure to ask about the portions.

2. Grilled octopus or squid, but be careful about how much oil they’ve been cooked in. When it comes to the health benefits of olive oil, a little goes a long way.

Entrées

1. A grilled, whole fish—Bauer’s go-to main. “It’s a project for me,” she says. “I like that it takes a while to eat.”

2. Grilled chicken or shrimp kabobs—or a combo of both lean proteins. Pair your entrees with a quarter of a pita and a small serving of hummus, or a fist-size serving of rice.

WHAT TO SKIP

1. Shared meze appetizers are really tricky, particularly for people who have a hard time controlling their quantities. Plus, your dining companions might not be as health conscious as you. It’s so much harder to make smart choices when a decadent dish is staring you in the face.

2. Fried calamari. Go grilled instead. The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet don’t come from the deep fryer.

3. Heavier meat and chicken dishes—even moussaka (the addition of eggplant in this traditional casserole doesn’t mean it’s healthy). Lots of meaty mains come loaded with sauces and are served with potatoes, adding lots of calories and carbs. Best to avoid ’em, Bauer says.

Hungry for more? Next week, Bauer’s spilling her secrets to ordering brunch. Or check out last week’s guide to ordering healthy pizza.

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