A month ago, we went for an amazing trip to Greece. It's a place known for beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, impressive architecture and delicious cuisine. Some of the traditional Greek food (Moussaka, Bougatsa, Yemista, etc.) is loaded with carbs. However, as I discovered, it's a perfect destination for all those following a healthy low-carb diet like myself.
You can choose from many foods naturally low in carbs such as fresh seafood, succulent lamb and fragrant vegetables and fruit. Unless you are still struggling with sugar or bread addiction, you will find it very easy to eat healthy in Greece. I actually didn't miss my almond flour muffins, coconut flour pancakes or any other foods common in low-carb cooking. Here is what I've realised about Greek food: the simpler the food, the tastier and healthier it is.
This is my list of some of the best low-carb meals to try in Greece:
- Souvlaki (lamb, chicken, beef, pork), I also have a recipe on my blog: Lamb Souvlaki (Greek Lamb Skewers)
- Gyros (without bread)
- Seafood (octopus, calamari, prawns, clams, mussels, lobster, langoustines, ...) either grilled or slow-cooked
- Fish (ask for "catch of the day")
- Kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb on the bone)
- Kokoretsi (seasoned lamb innards baked until crispy)
- Horta (boiled greens served with lemon and olive oil)
- Greek salad
- Grilled Haloumi cheese
- Tzatziki (yogurt salad & cucumber salad) great as dip with meat
- Melitzanosalata (aubergine salad) great as dip with meat, I also have a recipe on my blog: Melitzanosalata (Greek Eggplant Salad) and Why Eat Eggplants
- Tyrokafteri (cheese, red pepper and garlic dip)
- Anginares A La Polita (artichokes with olive oil)
- Bamies (okra with tomato sauce, avoid potatoes)
- Greek coffee (black or with cream)
+1: Traditional Soutzoukakia (Greek meatballs in tomato sauce) are not keto-friendly but I made this recipe both paleo and low in carbs :-)
Souvlaki is one of my favourites. These meat skewers are very simple: meat, olive oil, oregano, lemon juice and salt. Tzatziki and Melitzanosalata are traditional salads best used as dips.
Octopus is my absolute favourite seafood. Grilled or slow-cooked, with lemon & olive oil, garlic or tomato sauce - if done properly, it's the best meal you can try! Greek salad is known by Greeks as "Horiatiki salata" or "Rustic salad" made from fresh vegetables and feta cheese.
Haloumi cheese is naturally low in fat and I wouldn't recommend eating it by itself - it's too dry and plain. However, it's delicious when grilled with some olive oil and garlic!
Fresh fish is a MUST when you visit any of the Mediterranean countries! This one was Gilt-head (sea) bream with plenty of lemon & exra virgin olive oil.
I suggest you try boiled greens known as Horta which are served simply with lemon & olive oil. While often overlooked as some "weed", they're one of the best sides for meat or fish. My favourite type of Horta is Almira, they're very low in carbs and taste amazing! They're very hard to find outside Greece, but you can try a similar meal at home using beetroot greens or spinach.
"One-tomato salad" made from beef tomato, soft goat cheese, capers and caper greens, extra virgin olive oil and oregano - true heaven!
More seafood: Arugula salad, prawns with mayo, fried shrimps and garlic mussels. Whole fried prawns are deliciously crispy, but be aware of flour - some restaurants may use it before frying!
Lobster and langoustines are delicious and great with melted garlic & herb butter!
What I love about Greece is all the fresh produce and street markets, where you can find anything from fresh fish to zucchini blossoms (great recipe here: Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms).
When it comes to my diet, I follow Mark Sission's 80/20 rule. I'm maintaining a healthy weight and tried a few meals I wouldn't call low-carb. Fried fish with wild rice is not a keto-friendly meal - rice, whether wild or white, is high in carbs. I wouldn't recommend it for weight loss but in most cases, it's not an issue if you are maintaining your weight and you are active. Cheese-baked mushrooms are a great starter and I have a similar recipe on my blog: Italian-style Baked Mushrooms.
Here is what you should be careful about when ordering meals:
- Some foods, especially fish and seafood, may be covered in flour before frying. This adds crispiness but also carbs and gluten. The same applies to meatballs - some of them may have added flour.
- Beware of added sugar and always ask for coffee with no sugar and no milk!
- It may be difficult to find coffee with cream. In most cases, you can only get black coffee or coffee with foamed milk. I was lucky enough to find coffee with whipped cream. Again, make sure there is no sugar added in it.
- Avoid Ouzo - this traditional drink is full of sugar.
- Bread is served with everything. Avoid any unnecessary temptation by asking for no bread. Once it's on the table, it's easy to binge.
- You may be tempted to order "yogurt with fruit" for a dessert. Although it's delicious, don't do it. It doesn't contain fresh fruit but fruit preserved in syrup and it's very high in cabs.
- If you REALLY want to try something sweet, be reasonable with portion sizes and don't make it an everyday rule!
Is there any Greek / Mediterranean meal you would like to see on my blog? Let me know! :-)