With just a few small changes to your celebratory dinners you can add a taste of the Greek-Mediterranean diet but also the health benefits of this diet, without changing your menu all that much.
1. Serve Mediterranean Dips. Instead of heavy cheese dips rich in saturated fats start with some equally delicious Mediterranean dips. The yogurt based garlic dip tzatziki, the creamy split pea fava and the tasty fish roe dip taramosalata make ideal choices. All three of these easy recipes are rich in antioxidants and the good fats and they can be made the day before. Accompany them with some thin breadsticks and if you can find them, barley rusks (paximadi).
2. Cook with Olive Oil and Greek Yogurt. Use olive oil and Greek style yogurt for your cooking. When making mashed (regular or sweet) potatoes use olive oil and Greek style yogurt instead of butter and cream. It will make for a lighter side dish but also a healthier one without sacrificing taste. Olive oil also can be used for roasting and cooking as well. An easy and tasteful way to serve seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli is by simply placing them in a pan, adding olive oil and garlic and roasting them for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Add a large salad. While there are plenty of side dishes during holiday dinners, most of them cooked and starchy. Add a large salad using seasonal vegetables for a fresh taste. Salads with ingredients such as cabbage, carrots, spinach, nuts and dried fruit topped with an olive oil based dressing make an ideal accompaniment to the rest of the “heavier” dishes.
4. Try Greek style casseroles. Instead of the traditional green bean casserole try making a Greek style one. Cook on the stovetop green beans with tomato sauce and herbs. You can also do the same for peas. Not only is it a delicious way to eat vegetables, it provides a dose of extra antioxidants from the tomato and olive oil.
5. Make some olive oil based desserts. Olive oil is traditionally used for desserts in the Greek kitchen. While these do not necessarily have fewer calories than a sweet made with butter, they do contain the healthy monounsaturated fats from the olive oil. Try the traditional Greek Christmas Honey Cookies melomakarona or something not as traditional such as chocolate mouse made with olive oil.
6. Add fruit to your list of desserts. Alongside the wonderful pies and cakes serve a platter of seasonal cut fruit such as apple, pear and orange. In another bowl or dish serve a variety of dried fruit; figs, apricots, prunes and raisins are nutritious choices. Yes, people will enjoy the tasty cookies and cakes, but fresh fruit will provide a much needed break and some extra vitamins and fiber.
7. Serve Herbal Tea. Accompany your desserts with some herbal teas such as chamomile, thyme, mint or mountain tea (tsai tou vounou). It will help bring some relief after overeating for your guests while providing beneficial antioxidants through the herbs.