Let’s Go Out for...Greek

Published November 12, 2015

What to know      What to eat

Ready to enjoy one of the healthiest, tastiest cuisines in the world? Enjoy authentic Greek dishes with these insider tips.

Watch the olive oil
While extra-virgin olive oil deserves its reputation as a heart-healthy option rich in monounsaturated, omega-9 fatty acids, that isn’t reason to go overboard. “We are still talking about oil, with 40 calories in every teaspoon,” says Diane Henderiks, RD, personal chef and culinary nutritionist at DishWithDiane.com. That equals 1 SmartPoints value. “Leave the olive oil in the hands of the chef, and you’ll be getting plenty.”

Let the dressing sit and slide (off)
Ordering dressing on the side is a good idea, but you can do even better. “I let it sit for a few minutes, until the oil naturally separates, then pour it off into a saucer. You’ll still have some distributed in the dressing for plenty of flavor,” says Henderiks. If you manage to perform an oil clean-up of 1 tablespoon, you’ll cut about 3 SmartPoints value.

Go fishing 
“The fish section of the supermarket is often passed over. Here is your chance to have fish prepared right, so commit and go for it,” says Henderiks. You might even have the opportunity to select your fish from a fresh display of whole fish on ice. Look for gills that are bright red — not dark red, purple or black. Eyes should be clear and bright, not cloudy. And your nose should detect ocean and sea salt, not fishiness.

Square up those pita triangles
“Don’t just start dipping and eating, but visualize those little triangles like a puzzle,” says Henderiks. Figure out how many pita pieces would fit together to make one slice of sandwich bread, by visualizing or actually assembling a piece by connecting the triangles. Limit your intake to that amount.

Enjoy the horta culture
Greece has a big tradition of bitter greens, collectively called horta. Steamed, then laced with bold garlic, olive oil and bracing lemon, the greens themselves have 0 SmartPoints values and heaps of nutrients. Even if they pick up 1 SmartPoints value from a dash of olive oil, they make a delicious side that will really fill you up.

Treat lamb like steak
Take the opportunity to enjoy lamb when dining at a Greek restaurant, but remember that you’re basically enjoying sirloin steak — so portion accordingly. Try to limit your serving to 3 ounces (or a portion that’s about the size of a deck of cards).

Know your feta
The potent flavor of real feta is a relatively good value for a meal, with a SmartPoints value of 4 per ¼ cup. That same quantity, however, can contain more than 400 milligrams of sodium — more than twice the amount found in mozzarella. So if you're watching salt, use feta sparingly.

Consider Greek yogurt and tzatziki as salad dressing
Treat cucumber-flavored tzatziki sauce (and the Greek yogurt it’s made from) as you would any salad dressing or sauce. With a SmartPoints value of 2 per ½ cup, these rich restaurant toppings or dipping sauces are a long way from nonfat yogurt.