Dining With an International Flair: Eating Healthy in Greek, Indian, and Japanese Restaurants

If you're tired of the same old food choices, perhaps it's time for an international food adventure. Learn how to eat healthy while enjoying the wide variety of foods that international cuisines offer.

Greek Cuisine

IMAGE Among international cuisines, it is difficult to find a more healthful cuisine than the so-called Mediterranean diet, which provides an abundance of grains, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and very little meat.In the United States, Greek food is the most popular example of the Mediterranean diet. American consumers have become familiar with gyro sandwiches, Greek salads topped with kalamata olives and feta cheese, moussaka, and baklava. However, because a typical full-service Greek restaurant has a much greater variety of offerings, why not treat yourself to a five-course traditional Greek meal, armed with some tips to keep it healthful—and tasty?To the surprise of some, pasta is almost as popular in Greek restaurants as in Italian restaurants. Rice is also featured in many dishes. Sauces are based on wine, stocks, tomato, and yogurt, rather than milk or cream. Lentils and beans are commonly used in appetizers and main courses, and vegetables are prominently featured in appetizers, soups, and main courses. Ready to order? Instead of starting with taramasalata, a delicious, though calorie-rich, cream-based dip, experiment with pita bread spread and a yogurt-based dip, for example, tzatziki, made with yogurt, garlic, and cucumber. Or try bread sticks dipped into baba ghanoush (eggplant and olive oil) or hummus (sesame paste and chickpeas). If you order soup, try torato, which is a cold soup with eggplant, peppers, and yogurt. This has more fiber and less cholesterol than the better-known avgolemono soup, which has a lemon and egg base. If you are watching your fat and cholesterol intake, you may want to pass up moussaka and pastitsio casseroles made from eggs and cheese for grilled or broiled meat, poultry, or seafood. Too nervous to order unfamiliar menu items? Maybe this will help: souvlaki is lamb marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and herbs, and then skewered and grilled; fish in plaki sauce is broiled with tomato sauce and garlic; and dolmas are grape leaves stuffed with ground meat, rice, and pine nuts. Because they are steamed or baked, there is usually no need to add extra fat for cooking. Although they are the signature of a Greek salad, remember that Greek olives and feta cheese are high in sodium. Ask to have the feta rinsed before it is served if you need to limit your sodium intake. And if you must have baklava for dessert, remember that the usual single portion size can serve two or three people.

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