Traditional Greek cooking has a reputation for being healthy, but that doesn't mean it's naturally low-fat. The main fat used is Greek olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, which is a "good" fat, but still a fat - and Greeks are known for having a heavy hand when it comes to the rich, full-bodied olive oils that we use to fry, bake, stew, and drizzle over finished dishes.
In addition, like all other countries, we have some dishes (some of the most fun and impressive to prepare) that are quite high in fat content.
Following a more traditional Greek regimen (a high intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grain pastas and breads, and olive oil, and a lower intake of meats, dairy, and even seafood) with increased physical activity is a great idea but not always possible. What most of us do is incorporate Greek foods into our existing diet, and this can push fat levels higher than we would like.
If you love Greek food and you're looking for ways to lower your fat intake, here are some ideas.
Quick Tips to Reduce Fats in Your Greek Foods
- Serve smaller portions of high-fat dishes, and larger portions of dishes with lower fat content.
- Use leaner cuts of meat.
- Select cooking methods for meats, poultry, and fish that use minimal fats, such as roasting and grilling, which are Greek favorites.
- Many Greek foods call for sautéed ground meat. After sautéing, pour off any fat that accumulates before continuing with the recipe.
- When drizzling olive oil over vegetables and salads, reduce the amount to just enough to provide the moisture required (and not for dipping bread). Keep in mind that a little olive oil goes a long way.
- When preparing a meal with an entree that has a higher fat content, select low-fat side dishes and salads to go with it.
- In dishes like moussaka, pastitsio, and melitzanes papoutsakia (stuffed eggplant halves) with béchamel toppings (made with milk or cream and butter), leave off the béchamel.
Moussaka: Place a layer of very thinly sliced potatoes on top, brush lightly with olive oil, and cook.
Pastitsio: Top with thin slices of tomato instead of the sauce.
Papoutsakia: Leave off the béchamel and add another thin tomato slice to cover the meat filling.
- In dishes calling for thick, strained yogurt, look for Greek yogurts at the market (Fage, Delta, and others) that are fat-free or low-fat, or make your own using commercial low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
- Get creative!
Check out my growing list of reduced and low fat Greek recipes that have been slightly altered to bring down the fat content without sacrificing taste.