The Greek diet is the perfect example of traditional Mediterranean eating. It’s based around a variety of colorful and flavorful foods that are high in nutrients and low in animal fats.
Grain foods- Wheat has been cultivated in Greece for thousands of years and it’s a staple part of Greek cuisine. It’s used to make a variety of breads including pita bread and crusty whole grain peasant bread. Bulgur, which is made from cracked whole wheat, is eaten as an accompaniment to hearty stews or added to soups and salads. Pasta, which was introduced to the Greeks by the Italians, is also a popular wheat-based food. Another important grain food in the Greek diet is rice, which is used in pilafs and bakes, served with stews or wrapped in grape leaves to make dolmades.
Olives and Olive oil- Like wheat, olives have been cultivated in Greece since ancient times. The golden green oil extracted from the first cold pressing of olives is called extra virgin olive oil, and it is used in some form in most traditional Greek dishes. Crusty bread dipped in a little extra virgin olive oil is also a popular accompaniment to food. As well as being used for their richly flavored oil, olives are also eaten whole. The most frequently eaten type is the plump kalamata olivewhich is added to stews and salads or eaten as part of a meze (appetizer) dish.
Fish, shellfish and poultry- Greece is almost surrounded by sea, so it’s no surprise that fish and shellfish are eaten regularly. The most popular types of fish and shellfish include tuna, mullet, bass, halibut, swordfish, anchovies, sardines, shrimp (prawns), octopus, squid and mussels. This fish and seafood is enjoyed in many ways: grilled and seasoned with garlic and lemon juice, baked with yogurt and herbs; cooked in rich tomato sauce, added to soups; or served cold as a side dish. Chicken is also eaten regularly, as are game birds such as quail and Guinea foul.
Meat and dairy- Meat doesn’t play a prominent role in traditional Greek cuisine. It’s usually reserved for festivals and special occasions or used in small amounts as a flavor enhancer. When meat is eaten it’s most often sheep or goat, but these animals aren’t just used for their meat. Sheep and goats also provide a valuable source of nourishment—milk. As milk spoils easily in the warm Mediterranean climate, it is traditionally turned into cheese (such as feta) or yogurt to help preserve it.
Classic Greek salad