greek salad header

I’m a huge fan of Greek food, having been introduced to it properly during my time at Reading University. I never expected the town to be such a haven for the Greek community, but I experienced lots of wonderful Mediterranean food at lots of the parties held there.

The Greek diet is regarded as one of the healthiest in the world because it’s based largely around fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish, and a small amount of cheese and yoghurt.  Non-meat protein sources in the form of beans and legumes such as fava, split peas, and lentils are also a popular staple, usually used in soups, stews and salads. This array of foods looks a lot like what I regard as a healthy, balanced diet.

The Greeks are also famous for their love of olive oil, which is lower in saturated fat than butter, and therefore a good choice for cooking. If you’ll forgive some geeky science, recent evidence published by the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) journal shows that the combination of olive oil and leafy salad or vegetables is what gives the Mediterranean diet its healthy edge, because the formation of nitro fatty acids between the two food groups lowers blood pressure. So I recommend that as a side, whatever you’re eating!

Of course, Greece’s diet isn’t perfect – according to the World Health Organisation, 33% of 11-year-old boys and girls in Greece are overweight, which is actually the highest prevalence in Europe. It’s likely down to the rise of fast food outlets in the major cities and increased access to processed food that’s high in fat, sugar and salt. Their traditional cuisine isn’t faultless, though – if you’ve ever tried saganaki, a fried hard cheese, then you’ll know it’s a wildly indulgent (but delicious) dish. A nod should also be given to tiropita, otherwise known as cheese pie.

Generally, however, there’s a lot to be said for Greek cuisine, so here are a few delicious Greek-inspired recipes. My favourite is Jamie’s twist on Greek chicken with couscous, which everyone can tuck in to and help themselves.

greek chicken and couscous

To accompany this, there’s a great recipe on JO.com for a very simple Greek salad, although the key to getting this right is to use the best olive oil you can afford for the dressing and use the ripest tomatoes you can get your hands, so to maximise the flavour!

simple greek salad

Alternatively, try something new with this beautiful Cypriot-style potato salad!

greek diet

These colourful vegetable kebabs are a fun dish for the whole family, perfect in the summer and for getting kids exciting about cooking.

greek diet

And lastly, this simple fish stew is actually a total showstopper – big on flavour, and big on nutrition, full of lovely fish and healthy herbs. Get stuck in!

greek diet

 


Tags

cheese, feta, grains, greek, olive oil

More news

  • leon

    Saganaki is not a “traditional” greek food and neither is moussaka at least how it is commonly cooked today ie using bechemal sauce. My impression is that these recipes were introduced in the recent history of greece when people moved to large cities and professionally trained chefs came back from europe where bechamel and more elaborate ways of cooking were popular.

    The tradititional way of making a layered dish similar to mousaka would have used a yoghurt based sauce. Similarly, tiropita made traditionally uses filo made with flour, water, a little olive oil and mix of fresh creamy cheeses and is not unhealthy. The modern versions sold in most shops in Greece now of course are mass produced in factories probably contain a cheese flavoured sauce and no real cheese and are only baked at the point of sale.

    Traditional greek cooking does not overprocess ingredients-like frying cheese- and would use mainly olive oil, pulses, nuts, dairy and vegetables IN SEASON with very small amounts of animal protein. It isn’t just the basic ingredients but also how and when they were produced that defines greek diet. So in the winter pulses and vegetables like leeks, celery and perhaps fruits like quince would be cooked with/ without meat or fish whereas in the spring and summer things like fresh beans, peas, greens, tomatoes and artichokes would be used. So it would have been almost impossible to have a “greek salad” in the winter 50 -60 years ago simply because tomatoes are in season in the summer months when they actually taste like tomatoes.

    The greek diet was based on products from small holdings in more or less self sufficient agricultural communities. Greece was too poor in money and too rich in natural produce to import food stuffs and most people would never be able to afford eating out. So traditional Greek food is the home food of people from small mainly rural communities not the food in cities these days. A lot of greek people born in cities dont’ even know what most things are supposed to taste like. Courgettes produced with care are sweet and soft and hardly need any cooking; you should be able to smell a properly made greek salad from another room. This kind of quality of food is rare in greece these days and things are much worse in this country. I have lived in the UK for more than ten years and have yet to find courgettes or aubergines or tomatoes that taste as they should.
    This is the price of progress I suppose and I am not complaining about it. What made me write this comment is that an influential site such as this with access to all kinds of information and resoucrces comes up with such a poorly researched “article” on the health benefits of a diet. I would have thought you would have tried to actually shed light on such issues rather than skim over them with cliches and misinfomation. Dont you think you need to take a step further than the cliches of the mediterranean diet and superfoods and educate people about seasonality and what things should taste like so that they might stop spending a fortune on figs hard as golf balls in the middle of the winter?