Eating healthily might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re packing your suitcase for a well-earned break in sunny Greece. However, the good news is that, compared to most other Mediterranean countries, traditional Greek food is relatively healthy.
The majority of the fat content is the healthier, monosaturated type, and comes largely from the country’s liberal use of olive oil. Add to this a preponderance of superfoods like nuts, shellfish, broad beans and dried fruit in the Greek larder, and the country is actually blessed with a fairly low incidence of heart disease and cancer.
Not for nothing did the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates declare ‘let food be thy medicine’, so you needn’t trouble yourself about going hungry. Read on for what to pick from the Greek menu to ensure that you experience all Greece has to offer without worrying too much about your waistline!
As ubiquitous as it is varied, this classic staple typically revolves around tomatoes, olives, lemon juice, cucumber, red onion and feta cheese (made from goat’s milk), marinated with generous lashings of olive oil. Variants take all manner of healthy additions, including broad beans, chick peas and broccoli. For extra flavour and goodness, it goes particularly well with sardines.
Another old favourite, these layered pastry triangular treats are ideal for health conscious veggies, containing nothing more than spinach, feta cheese (which is high in antioxidants) and olive oil.
These moreish meze morsels of vine leaves, usually stuffed with rice, herbs and chopped onions, also get the thumbs up for being low in calories and high in nutrients.
Fava is a tasty bean puree often made from yellow split peas and generally topped off with something crunchy, such as raw onion, or better still crispy, grilled squid.
We may not think of kebabs as being much of a health food, but actually these are more so than most, since they’re marinated in oil and seared. They can be found everywhere, from simple street food stalls to upmarket restaurants. Opt for the chicken version instead of lamb where possible, as they contain less saturated fat.
The Greeks enjoy stuffing a variety of vegetables, especially huge, vine ripened tomatoes and peppers. Orzo pasta often makes a good filling, alongside feta, spinach and a variety of beans.
There’s no reason to sacrifice your fitness regime while you’re away, either. With over 9,000 miles of scenic coastline to enjoy with an average of 250 days of sun per year, Greek beach resorts provide the ideal backdrop for your early morning run (before the midday heat kicks into gear) while the many islands and costal resorts are well-placed to cater to scuba diving, windsurfing and any number of other watersports you may care to try. That should nicely offset the odd glass or two of ouzo that you’re bound to surrender to!