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Elaine Gavalas, Low Fat Greek Food and Health Expert

Interview

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Photo of Greek cookbook author and health specialist Elaine Gavalas

Elaine Gavalas, used by permission

The traditional Greek diet has been identified as one of the healthiest in the world, but isn't often known as being low fat or fat free. Elaine Gavalas's cookbook, "Secrets of Fat-Free Greek Cooking," not only points to original recipes that are naturally low in fat, but also offers up low fat or fat free alternatives for dishes from appetizers to mouth-watering desserts.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Elaine and learn more about her approach to Greek food.

Q: Tell me a little about your Greek background and how your health-focused professional life brought you to write about Greek foods.

A: Although I’m a third generation Greek American, my family remained close to our Greek roots. My father and grandfather were Greek Orthodox priests, so our lives revolved around the Greek church, Greek traditions, and of course, Greek food! Greek food still remains an important part of Greek American life. Growing up in a Greek household, it seemed as if every weekend was an occasion for a glendi (party). I was constantly attending a celebration for someone’s nameday (their Saint’s feast day), birthday, wedding, bridal shower, or baptism. Then there were our yearly celebrations including the Greek Independence Day parade, the annual glendi of our patriotis (fellow countrymen) from Arcadia and Laconia (the regions of Greece my family is from), the numerous religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and the American holidays too - Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Thanksgiving. With all the relatives, koumbados (godparents), sembetheros (in-laws) and patriotis, we barely had time to digest before the next gathering would come about!

As a sports nutritionist, exercise physiologist and weight management specialist, I’m interested in the beneficial nutritional aspects of the Greek Mediterranean diet. I often recommend healthy Greek dishes to clients with various diet and fitness concerns. My cookbooks, Secrets of Fat-Free Greek Cooking and Yogi in the Kitchen, are derived from that experience.

Q: What you look for in a food regimen?

A: I look to include “superfoods” in the diet, certain foods that are nutritional powerhouses. These foods are rich in nutrients, low in calories and unhealthy fats, high in fiber, which helps you to feel full after a meal, and high in complex carbohydrates, which boost your energy levels. These foods include whole grains, such as whole-wheat pasta, oats, or brown rice; low fat dairy products, such as yogurt and feta cheese; lean meats, including lamb, and skinless chicken and turkey breast; fresh fish and seafoods; beans and legumes, such as lentils and black-eyes peas; olive oil and olives; nuts and seeds; and deeply colored fruits and vegetables. In other words, all of the foods you find in traditional Greek rural cuisine. I call them Greek superfoods.

Next: The Rural Greek Diet & Fat-Free Greek Cooking

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Bio: ELAINE GAVALAS and her books have been featured on the NBC TODAY Show, PBS-TV THE GREEK AMERICANS, and numerous radio programs, magazines, and newspapers worldwide. She's an exercise physiologist, sports nutritionist, weight management specialist, and yoga therapist, and received her Master's degree from Columbia University, New York. Elaine is the author of over 200 articles and 6 books including, Secrets of Fat-Free Greek Cooking, Yogi in the Kitchen, The Yoga Minibook For Weight Loss, The Yoga Minibook For Stress Relief, The Yoga Minibook For Longevity, and The Yoga Minibook For Energy and Strength. Visit her Web site at www.elainegavalas.com.

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