By Stephanie S. Saunders

Greek cuisine is generally simple, nutritious, and savory, combining the influences of many cultures into a melting pot of flavor. Yes, you read it right. This week, we're actually discussing a healthy international cuisine—healthy, because it uses a wide array of fruits, nuts, grains, legumes, cheeses, and vegetables, with a huge emphasis on heart-healthy olive oil. Seafood is also a huge staple of Greek eating, as are lamb, goat, chicken, and beef.

Greece is the one country in the world where McDonald's® did not prove to be a success. So how is it possible that Greece is ranked number six in the world in obesity? Some would attribute it to the increased affluence of the Greek people, which means more refined sugar, late-night eating, and greater affordability of meat. With a bit of research, you might also discover that there are some aspects of a Greek menu which might be better left unordered. Baklava, anyone? So to help you figure it out, here is our latest installment of Beachbody Restaurant Rescue, the Greek Edition.


Much of what we think of as Greek food in this country would fall into the appetizer category. What is fascinating is that many of these dishes are the direct result of various invaders' seemingly constant occupation of Greece over the centuries. Some of these dishes are also found in Italian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Hummus, which can be found in virtually every grocery store in America, is completely Middle Eastern, regardless of what your local Greek restaurateur might tell you. Regardless of their origin, Greek appetizers are full of flavor and could comprise an entire meal's worth of calories, as they're usually eaten with bread.

For those unfamiliar with Greek cuisine, hummus is ground chickpeas and tahini sauce; tzatziki is Greek yogurt and cucumbers; dolmades are stuffed grape leaves; olive tapenade is puréed olives and spices; baked feta cheese is exactly as it sounds; and chickpea balls or falafel are fried balls of ground chickpeas and spices. Like I said, simple and nutritious.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodiuim Protein
Hummus, 1/2 cup 217 11 g 25 g 291 mg 6 g
Tzatziki, 2 Tbsp. 30 2.5 g 2 g 25 mg 2 g
Dolmades, 3 rolls 200 5 g 13 g 167 mg 26 g
Olive tapenade, 2 Tbsp. 80 8 g 2 g 260 mg 1 g
Baked feta cheese, 2 oz. 180 15 g none 176 mg 4.1 g
Falafel, 4 balls 180 9 g 21 g 380mg 5 g


Like all cultures, Greece has a huge array of soups to choose from. Some are even believed to have medicinal qualities. Like Mexican cuisine, Greek cuisine has a tripe soup called patsa, which is believed to cure a common cold or a hangover, and is good for the blood, whatever that means. I still believe anything made of sheep, goat, or lamb intestines that smells like a garbage dump can't be good for you. Luckily, there are other healthy, more appealing choices. Domatosoupa is a tomato-based soup with vegetables. Kotosoupa Avgolemono is a soup with eggs, rice, chicken, and vegetables. Lentil soup is pureed lentils, in a vegetable base.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodiuim Protein
Domatosoupa, 5 oz. 111 4 g 16 g 290 mg 6 g
Chicken and lemon soup, 5 oz. 219 6 g 17 g 435 mg 19 g
Avgolemono, 5 oz. 143 4 g 16 g 200 mg 9 g
Lentil soup, 5 oz. 236 3 g 39 g 507 mg 17 g
Patsa, 5 oz. 227 6 g 7 g 221 mg 14 g


In Greece, salad making is an art form, with specific salads eaten at certain times of the year, always with seasonal produce. The Greeks also love their tomatoes, and you will find them in most salads and in many Greek dishes. As always, a salad is a fairly safe dinner starter, and Greek salads are full of pretty great stuff. A traditional Greek salad in this country consists of lettuce, tomato, onions, feta cheese, and olives. A Macedonian salad is eggplant, cabbage, peppers, carrots, and celery. The other two salads below are self-explanatory. Greek salads tend to be lightly dressed in lemon, spices, and olive oil.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodiuim Protein
Greek salad, 7 oz. 158 11 g 10 g 652 mg 9 g
Macedonian salad, 6 oz. 83 6 g 18 g 70 mg 2.9 g
Cabbage and carrot salad, 4 oz. 73 4 g 10 g 15 mg none
Beetroot salad, 4 oz. 66 4 g 10 g 2 mg 0.5 g


Greeks have no fear of eating meat, with special emphasis on lamb and seafood. You can find meat prepared in a variety of ways, from baked dishes combining several different meats, to entire lambs being roasted on a spit, to deep-fried seafood drenched in lemon juice. Regardless of your preference, try to consider using meat as the ancients did, as more of an accent to grains, vegetables, and cheeses. Should you be feeling particularly carnivorous, perhaps focusing on seafood and lean grilled meats and avoiding crispy pork and all things fried will save you hours on a treadmill.

Moussaka is ground lamb, eggplant, pasta, and a sauce, served in layers similar to lasagna. Lamb souvlaki is grilled lamb, marinated and served on a kabob. Chicken Athenian is a baked chicken breast stuffed with feta cheese, olives, and tomatoes. Spanakopita is a phyllo pastry shell covering baked feta cheese. Kalamaria is calamari that has been sautéed and covered in tomato sauce. A gyro is lamb and beef ground together, often served in a pita.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodiuim Protein
Moussaka, 5 oz. 350 22 g 22 g 456 mg 16 g
Lamb souvlaki, 5 oz. 110 5 g 2 g 320 mg 14 g
Chicken Athenian, 5 oz. 638 41 g 25 g 637 mg 37 g
Spanakopita, 4 oz. 260 8 g 38 g 650 mg 12 g
Kalamaria, 5 oz. 400 38 g 10 g 100 mg 6 g
Lamb and beef gyro sandwich, 1 pita 390 12 g 50 g 950 mg 22 g


The number one dessert in Greece is ice cream. There's practically an ice-cream shop on every corner. It's said that previous to the invasion of sweet shops, the Greeks would add sugar to just about anything, and create a dessert. Currently, candied eggplant isn't appealing to me, but before I never knew the pleasures of fudge brownie ice cream, who knows? The following are a few more traditional desserts you might find on a Greek menu.

Loukoumades is a Greek honey dumpling. Halvas is a candy consisting of sugar, lemon, and sesame. Baklava is a phyllo-dough pastry with nuts, honey, and a lot of butter. They're all bad for you.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodiuim Protein
Loukoumades, 1 cookie 333 4.2 g 69 g 132 mg 6 g
Halvas, 3 oz. 469 21 g 60 g 195 mg 12 g
Baklava, 2-in. slice 334 22 g 29 g 253 mg 5 g

Greece is a beautiful country with a rich history, warm people, and astounding vistas in every direction. With this incredible culture has come a delightful fusion of cuisines. Like most of the Mediterranean, the Greeks make any mealtime an event that should be celebrated with time, conversation, and various alcoholic beverages. I'm not suggesting you get hammered with your gyro sandwich on your lunch hour, but slowing down and actually paying attention to what we eat and who we're dining with can make a huge difference in the way we enjoy our meals. It also gives our stomachs time to signal to our brains that they're satiated, so perhaps we will overindulge a bit less. So next time you're eating out, give eating the Greek way a try—except for the plate-throwing part. You can probably go ahead and skip that.