My story starts off in a Chicago suburb, where my mom would spend hours on end in the kitchen cooking Greek and only Greek food. At school while the other kids had bologna and cheese sandwiches, we had pastichio (a Greek type of lasagna), she never made toll house chocolate chip cookies like my best friends mom, instead we had to eat melomakarona, Greek honey and walnut cookies. And when our mother did decide to cook an American recipe, she’d always manage to sneak in that ubiquitous “Greek element”, hamburger patties with a sprinkle of oregano and lemon, cookies with olive oil… you get the picture.

For a few years we moved to Greece, where I got to experience this diet in its natural environment. Even as recent as the 80’s, most Greeks were eating meals with seasonal produce, a little bit of meat and children were not eating junk food with the exception of an occasional ice cream in the summer. Returning back to the U.S. I started my studies in nutrition.

You can imagine my surprise when I moved to Greece 10 years later, and discovered that Greeks were snubbing Greek food, choosing Caesar’s Salad over Greek salad and brownies over baklava. Didn’t they know that the Greek-Mediterranean diet was the healthiest in the world?

Sadly, despite our forefather philosopher’s rants about enjoying everything “in good measure” and “nothing in excess”, today’s reports show that Greeks, Italians and other Mediterranean nations – those very cultures that instituted the Mediterranean Diet – are consuming more calories and more saturated fat than ever before. In fact, the latest statistics reveal a prevalence of obesity in Greece at 22.5%, with 35.2% of the population being overweight.

Surprised? I was.

As a Registered Dietitian, writer and mother of two, currently living in Greece, I took more than just a professional interest in the Mediterranean Diet, its preservation and promotion. As a Greek, I had a personal stake in it too. I felt that it was time to bring the Mediterranean Diet, back into the picture; clearing up prejudices and misunderstandings; making it relevant today and applicable to the modern way of life.

That said, I welcome you to Olive Tomato. If you want to learn more about the Mediterranean Diet and are looking for tried and trusted information, you’re at the right place. Join me as I talk about the nutritional value of the Greek Diet, cooking, news, research, Greek products, and easy ways to incorporate Greek and Mediterranean ingredients and recipes to your diet.

I invite you to try my tips and recipes, read the articles and stories, stay up to date on the science behind the Mediterranean Diet, and of course, leave comments and suggestions.



Elena Paravantes is an award winning Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Writer specializing in the Mediterranean Diet. She has been active in the field of food and nutrition for over 15 years as a clinical dietitian, food and nutrition consultant, writer, teacher and lecturer, both in the U.S. and in Greece. Elena firmly believes in the wide-ranging health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and is committed to educating the public about the wholesome food plan she grew up with through her writing, teaching and lecturing.

Elena developed the Food and Nutrition sections for the Greek editions of Men’s Health and Prevention as Food & Nutrition Editor, establishing them with her work for over 8 years. She also planned, organized and implemented the food program for Starbucks Greece, as their first Food & Beverage Director, developing and incorporating Greek and U.S. food items into the brand’s menu. Elena is currently the Health Editor for Olive Oil Times, provides consulting services on the Greek/Mediterranean diet and food for companies, writes for several U.S. and Greek media outlets and blogs for Huffington Post. Her interviews and articles have been published in many publications including the American and British editions of Prevention, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Today’s Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Magazine and NPR. As well as Greek publications such as Vima, Eleftherotypia, Vimagazino, VimaGourmet, Athinorama, Iatronet and Madame Figaro.

An active member in the international nutrition community, Elena was recently elected President of the American Overseas Dietetic Association, and has been on the Board of Directors for over 4 years. She is the official representative of the American Dietetic Association in Greece. She is a member of the Hellenic Dietetic Associations, the Union of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Greece and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (former American Dietetic Association), The International Association of Culinary Professionals, Food and Culinary Professionals Practice group and Slow Food International. She has been awarded the Outstanding Dietitian of the Year award and Recognized Country Representative of the Year award by the American Overseas Dietetic Association. Elena is the former Greek delegate for the European Federation of the Association of Dietitians (EFAD), and Media Representative for the American Overseas Dietetic Association.

Elena earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and Dietetics and her Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a Registered Dietitian by the U.S. Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)

Based in Athens, Greece, Elena lives with her French-American husband and her two sons.

To view her complete CV visit here.

Copyright Policy

© Olive Tomato and Elena Paravantes. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  • Reply Ted Theo July 4, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Lovely lovely site!! Just a comment on Feta though. If you live in Northern California look for the exclellent feta cheese made from goat milk in Sebastopol,Sonoma county. When I go there I bring some for my cousins here in Athens. The ladies are from a village where they know their cheese! They tell me the had not tasted such true goat cheese for a very long time. They sell it at the Berkeley’s farmers market every Saturday. California is NOT Denmark, all right?

  • Reply Elena Paravantes RD July 4, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Thank you Ted! Yes, Sonoma has wonderful food, my sister in law lives in Sonoma. I love goat cheese too! Feta is primarily made from sheep’s milk – sometimes it does not contain any goats milk. It was a shepherds cheese.

  • Reply George Contaxakis April 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Thank You! Just great in all aspects hope people will adopt part our cousin not only because it tastes Good! But also for the health benefits which a lot of us know but the public out there is always skeptical, and thank YOU are showing them, great stuff keep it up makes us proud!!! One more feather in our cap. It is Very True we love food, we leave to eat and to us a meal is a feast it been said in ancient days Greeks when they feasted in the wealth of food they payed homage to the 5 Ancient Gods responsible for our senses, we just do not eat so that we can stuff our stomachs.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD April 9, 2013 at 6:21 am

      Thank you George! Yes our cuisine combines both health and taste, making it ideal for anyone.

  • Reply Ondina Maria June 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Elena

    I’m more and more in love with the Mediterranean Diet. In Portugal, food took the same path as in Greece and nowadays people reject what was traditional and stuff themselves with junk food. Recently there’s been a group of people that are trying to revive all that was good and healthy about our past life style. So, for me it’s a real pleasure to read your wonderful blog and apply your advices 🙂

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD June 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      Thank you Maria, One of my most memorable and delicious meals was in a fish restaurant in Portugal! Yes, all of us in the Mediterranean need to revive our traditional foods and ingredients and find a way to bring them in our daily lives.

  • Reply dimitrios pavlidis June 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Very nice site, very healthy food !!!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD June 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      Thank you Dimitrios!

  • Reply Ioanna August 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    We have a similar life story 🙂 Glad to have found your site!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Wonderful, enjoy!

  • Reply Anika September 3, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Geia sou Elena!
    I currently live in Athens and am from California. I am crazy about health, nutrition, local farms and cooking. I just found your site and want to say hello.


    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD September 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      Hello Anika!

  • Reply Judy Crabtree September 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Elena,

    I have been searching for a healthy alternative to my diet and one that my family will embrace. I have a friend Jeanie who gave me a book to read called the Flat Belly Diet– By Liz Vaccariello. Which led me to you.I believe that the Mediterranean Diet is going to be just what I’ve been looking for ,for taste and nutrition. We shall see.



    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD September 16, 2013 at 6:35 am

      Thank you for your note Judy.
      The Flat belly diet is a Mediterranean style diet which describes monounsaturated fat as the “secret”. However, the original Mediterranean diet is the most studied diet, with a lot of research behind it and a diet that occurred naturally in mainly Greece and Italy. I think you will enjoy it, as it is very flavorful and not low-fat. Reducing slightly your calories can help you lose weight (if needed).

  • Reply Mir December 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Hi Elena, from Chicago! I just found the Mediterranean diet, and welcome your site as a wonderful reference tool! Thank you for your recipes and information, I look forward to using your updates as a way to stay healthy and explain the diet to others.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD December 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      Dear Mir, Thank you I’m glad you enjoy my site!

  • Reply Cindy Burris January 2, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Hello Elena! Found your site while researching what/how to cook with olive oil. Have friends in Greece who brought us olive oil from their own orchard (lucky yes?) and while I’m thinking it should be saved for ‘special’ dishes (like on my Greek salads) I would like to cook with olive oil. Can you address what kind I would look for in order to get best results and I can fry with it??? I found the site that said I could NOT and got suspicious when the big Wesson Oil canola bottle was pictured at the end. But happily it led me to your response and website!! I’m looking for any and all help as I want to be healthy, lose some weight and LOVED the Greek food I was served by my wonderful friends in Koroni. Thank you!

  • Reply MELİKE KAVALA February 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Hi ELENA , I feel myself so lucky to meet your site as I was deeper and deeper searching on CRETAN COUSINE..since 30 years I am trying to avoid the western unhealty food very strictly and as I studied pharmaceutical botanic in Faculty of pharmacy years I am in love in herbs more than ever..wish we will be exchanging valuable notes from ISTANBUL to ATHENS…WITH LOVE..

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD February 24, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply John Bobbin April 16, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Hi Elena,
    This is an excellent website, informative, well presented and best of all you do know your stuff. I watched a documentary on Crete in 1971 and it renewed my love of the mediterranean diet. When I was a school kid way back in the distant past, I had some Italian, Greek and German friends and i found loved the mediterranean food, I particularly shared their love of vegetables, fruit, nuts and pasta and I do have to confess I loved home made salami, without the nitrosamines (cancer causers). In the 1971 doco it showed a Cretian fellow walking around with a camera crew gathering wild herbs and one of those herbs was purslane. I never stopped looking for purslane from that time on. I found it in publications like ‘Eat Your Own Weeds’ but could not identify it clearly enough to find it in the wild, besides all the references to it were either American or European, so I did not know for sure that it grew in Australia. I found it at a farmers market in 2012 and now grow it at home as a house vegetable (herb). In 1976 I started studying nutrition (basic) then Diploma of Nutritional Science, then I became a Herbalist, Naturopath and finally last year I graduated with a Master of Clinical Science(Lifestyle Medicine) from Southern Cross University. Without my love of Mediterranean food and later Asian food I would never have started this journey. Health through nature.
    John Bobbin MClinSc(LifestyleMed)

  • Reply Debra July 6, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Hi, just returned from vacation in Greece; we were often served a green, thin, stalked vegetable which tasted exactly like spinach without the soggy wilt. I bought a bundle of them from a street vendor- I cooked in salted hot water for ~10 minutes as instructed- perfect. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon. Do you know the name of this vegetable? It was always served as a side dish in a neatly circular scoop.
    Thanks for any help,
    Sacramento, CA

    • Reply lagatta à montréal August 31, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      That could be Vlita.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD October 7, 2014 at 5:53 am

      Hi Debra,
      It may be vlita as mentioned previously, but it may be also a number of other greens that are often served at restaurants in Greece, it depends on the season. Generally though all greens are cooked the same way and served the same way.

  • Reply Priscilla August 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Hi there, I just found your website looking for a Greek salad recipe and am excited to see other great recipes to try! I was wondering if you knew how much fat and cholesterol is contained in feta since you have it in your recipes? I have to watch my cholesterol and I know cheeses are high in fat and Chol being dairy products. Thank you for your help and great website!

  • Reply John Bobbin October 7, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Hi Debra,
    I would think lagatta à montréal has hit the nail on the head http://www.dianekochilas.com/healthy-amaranth-leaves-aka-vlita/

    John Bobbin

  • Reply Melike Kavala December 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I am so happy to be with you on your site..we have so many similar recipies but still wondering and searching the healthy formulasvia your help ..

  • Reply Mediterranean Culture & Cuisine Immersion Workshop April 21, 2015 at 8:32 am

    […] Paravantes, RDN, Food & Nutrition Writer, Mediterranean Diet […]

  • Reply Nancy May 15, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Hello, Do you have a recipe for a bean dish called Fasolia (not sure if I am spelling that correctly). It has beans, onions, tomatoes and spices. Thank you.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD May 16, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Hi Nancy,
      Yes, there are several bean recipes on the blog.Just search “beans” and several will come up.

  • Reply Cathy July 6, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Trying to activate my subscription but it is not clickable.

  • Reply Recipe: Greek Style Peas-Arakas Latheros | tasting crete July 24, 2015 at 11:54 am

    […] this week i chose a recipe that is not only cooked in Crete but in the rest of Greece as well. Elena Paravantes makes a great dish with peas which is a product used in Greece since antiquity. There are findings […]

  • Reply Elena 43 Restaurant | Pizza Fans July 27, 2015 at 6:42 am

    […] About | Olive Tomato – Hi Elena. I’m more and more in love with the Mediterranean Diet. In Portugal, food took the same path as in Greece and nowadays people reject what was traditional … […]

  • Reply Trine Ekenes August 7, 2015 at 8:33 am

    Is it free to subskribe???

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 7, 2015 at 8:47 am

      Hi Trine. Yes, it is free. Just add your email under subscribe. You will receive an email to confirm your subscription.

  • Reply Ioannis September 23, 2015 at 12:51 am

    Elena, you are championing Med Diet and in particular the Greek Diet and for this I personally thank you. Hopefully our new generation will embrace a healthy,tasty and well balanced culinary experience…Perhaps some Traditional Cretan recipe’s from you soon???

  • Reply Christella Leventis December 21, 2015 at 5:25 am

    Hi Elena,
    I love all your recipes.. They are healthy and delicious..
    I was wondering if you have a recipe for greek cabbage rolls.. I know is a common dish around this time of the year.. I would love to make them for my family this year.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD December 31, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Hi Christella, Not yet I’ll be posting soon.

  • Reply Anne Niesenbaum December 31, 2015 at 12:31 am

    Your recipe for Briami says to make it in a pot, then describes baking it in a pan. Which do you recommend?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD December 31, 2015 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Anne, In the post I mention that it can also be cooked in a pot but the recipe posted here is for roasted Briami as can be seen n the directions. Stewing in a pot requires a different technique.

  • Reply Q&A with Elena Paravantes | WindyCity Greek February 16, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    […] Elena Paravantes is a Chicago-born Greek living in Athens. She is a dietitian and blogger at olivetomato.com, promoting healthy eating the Mediterranean way. She tells her story as a Greek-American living in Greece. […]

  • Leave a Reply