Mediterranean Diet, Mediterranean Diet 101, Nutrition

Eat Like Greek? Greek Dietary Guidelines – A Better Choice

January 15, 2016

Gigantes Beans GreekLast week the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans were presented and I, along with many others presented my comments and opinion on these new guidelines. Among many of the comments going around was the fact that once again politics influenced some of the recommendations. They also recommended a Mediterranean style eating pattern that was not exactly Mediterranean.

Now about a year and a half ago, Greece also published their own updated dietary guidelines, and I saw it fit to publish them here. I took the initiative of translating them in English and I am presenting them here on

The guidelines (as the previous ones as well) basically follow an almost true Mediterranean diet, the Greek diet. With the exception of some details, such as only 2 servings of low fat dairy (instead of 3) or a slightly higher consumption of white meat (it recommends 1-2 serving of white meat a week-I would limit to 1 serving white meat) a week, these recommendations are spot on!

5 Reasons the Greek Dietary Guidelines are Better than the American Guidelines

  • They recommend at least 4 cups of vegetables (as opposed to the U.S. 2 ½ cups)
  • They recommend up to 5 Tablespoons of fats (mainly olive oil)-as opposed to 5 teaspoons in the U.S. guidelines
  • The recommend 3 cups of legumes (beans) a week, as opposed to only 1 ½ in the US guidelines
  • The clearly state to avoid processed meats, the U.S. does not
  • The specifically recommend limiting red meat to only 1 serving a week

And notice how none of the recommendations seem to be influenced by “politics” either.

Now one may say “yes but the U.S. is not Greece”, but really when you look at these guidelines, they are not “exotic” or difficult, this eating pattern can be followed by anyone, anywhere.

They also provided examples of meals one can have in order to follow these recommendations. Here are examples of dishes that are suggested:

  • Grilled sardines with boiled greens and a glass of wine
  • Briami (a Greek version of ratatouille) a mixture of vegetables cooked in olive oil with feta cheese and bread
  • Chicken cooked with okra and a cabbage-carrot salad
  • Bean soup with a tomato-cucumber salad
  • Octopus with pasta and boiled vegetables
  • Veal with rice and a tomato-cucumber-lettuce salad and a glass of wine

Sadly, I have to say that many Greeks do not follow these guidelines, but what is more concerning is that even colleagues of mine who have their own nutrition practices do not follow these guidelines. Unfortunately, you will still see in many dietitian offices and even in schools as well as presentations here in Greece, the U.S. plate or even the old U.S. Pyramid being used. I have no idea why. It is such a shame that here in Greece, even though we have a such a great nutrition legacy (Mediterranean diet) and good, evidence based nutrition guidelines of our own, that health professionals here are not using them, but prefer the American guidelines.

The Dietary Guidelines for Greek Adults were developed by the non-profit organization Prolepsis who was commissioned by the Ministry of Health. They are similar with the previous guidelines (1999) which were in the form of pyramid, also presented here.

-How Do You Follow a Greek Diet-

Dietary Guidelines for Greek Adults

1. Consume a variety of fruit and vegetables everyday.

2. Consume a variety of grains everyday. Prefer whole grains.

3. Opt for low fat dairy.

4. Reduce the consumption of red meat. Choose lean cuts. Avoid processed meat.

5. Consume Seafood (fish and shellfish) often. Choose fatty fish and prefer small fish.

6. Consume legumes often.

7. Choose olive oil as your first choice of fat.

8. Reduce consumption of sugar, salt and products that contain them.

9. Engage in physical activity everyday. Maintain a normal weight.

10. Drink plenty of water.

Here are the serving amounts of each food group:

Greek Nutrition Guidelines

*Table above has been developed and translated by Elena Paravantes. Unauthorized use of this table is prohibited.

And here is the original Greek Diet pyramid, which is essentially a Mediterranean diet:


Greek Diet Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

Photo by Kirk K for flickr

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  • Reply Domna Pissalidou Naylor January 15, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    You are always so informative and also bring us such great recipes . I get excited when I see an email from you because I know it will be special.
    Σας ευχαριστω πολύ,
    Δόμνα από Καλιφορνια

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 17, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      What a great compliment! Thank you Domna.

  • Reply Mary January 15, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Many special thanks!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 17, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks Mary!

  • Reply Karen January 15, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Great read. Eating like a Greek should be the dietary guidelines!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 17, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks Karen! I think so too.

  • Reply Laura McDonnell January 19, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Thank you I love your posts. I visit Cyprus a couple of times a year and I enjoy the food.

  • Reply Steve Smith January 27, 2016 at 2:30 am

    I found it interesting that the Greek guidelines called for low-fat dairy, just like the US FDA guidelines … when we now know that whole milk is really more nutritious (and that eating fat doesn’t make us fat). I’m sure the Greeks following the traditional diet were drinking their goat milk whole, and their goat cheese was made from whole milk, too.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD February 1, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Hi Steve, Yes I agree on that point. And yes you are correct traditional Greek cheeses are full fat.

  • Reply Mary February 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    I just discovered your web site and it is great. I’ve been interested in Greek diet habits (and especially Ikarian eating habits) since I read a couple of the Blue Zone books. It looks like there is lots of interesting information on this site. One thing I noticed from the Greek Diet Pyramid above, is that they also seem to want to follow the old US pyramid in emphasizing grains (by putting it at the base of the pyramid). If you look at the pyramid, they really should put fruits and vegetables at the base of the pyramid (9 servings compared to the 8 servings for grains).

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD February 1, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Mary,
      Yes that Greek Pyramid is from 1999, so the current guidelines are in table form (above) recommending 5-8 servings of grains a day.

  • Reply Laura February 6, 2016 at 1:15 am

    I love this article. I googled “Greek diet” today because I think the new US recommendations are BS. I lived in Spain for 2 years and know that this version of the med. diet is not truly Mediterranean at all! My doctor told me to start adding whole milk to my diet and more full-fat cheese so I can eat more like a Mediterranean person–ha! In Spain I possibly had 1/4 c milk per day and a small slice of cheese. In the US, dairy is about 1/2 of our diet it seems like and bread is the other half! Of course we want to support our farmers, but we need to shift not only the portions but also the focus of what we cook from meat/grain/veg as a side to delicious stews and salads that incorporate more veggies. If only we had a better understanding how to cook vegetables in this country to make them delicious to our children. Americans are so bad at cooking veggies–but we are getting better! Thanks for the recipes!!!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD February 18, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Laura. Yes, making vegetables delicious is key to getting children to eat more of them.

  • Reply Mary February 8, 2016 at 12:54 pm


    Yesterday I made the traditional greek cauliflower dish on your web site. It was delicious and I was amazed at how good something that simple could taste. I had it for lunch with some feta and sourdough bread. I know that these lathera are popular during fasting, but do Greeks eat something like this daily or several times a week?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD February 8, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Mary,
      Wonderful. Yes these dishes are consumed all year round, I would say about 2-3 times a week. Although nowadays many younger Greeks eat much more meat based dishes than lathera.

  • Reply Rachele February 18, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I hate to ask such a silly question but, what group are beans and lentils in? Grains?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD February 18, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Rachele,
      Beans are under the category “legumes”

  • Reply melanie March 17, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    After suffering double breast cancer in 2014 l am focusing on my diet. The Greek diet seems to me the best and your table of the recommendations for an adult helps me lots.

    Can l ask a question, when l have been reading up about diet l came across the “Ikaria” diet. I was wondering if you could post about it on your blog and maybe suggest some recipes. If that is okay with you.

  • Reply Aimee April 13, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you so much Elena for this super-informative article – exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m a bit confused though by the vegetable serving sizes…Today I made a scaled-down version of your (delicious!) fasolakia lathera, the beans, tomato and onion together (raw) weighed barely 300g but there was so much, I could barely finish it! Can a big plate like that really be only two of the four recommended daily servings? (Not to speak of 150g salad leaves!) Am I missing something?!

    Thanks again for an awesome site, so glad I can now make my favourite Greek dishes at home 🙂

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD April 14, 2016 at 5:06 am

      Thanks Aimee! The recommendation is 4 cups of vegetables, so it depends on the serving, it looks like you would be getting more. I do mention in the fasolakia recipe that you can easily get 4 servings of vegetables in one meal.

  • Reply Aimee April 14, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Got it – thanks 🙂 Cups definitely make a *lot* more sense – I only noticed on the Prolepsis website they don’t mention them. But if you say so, I’ll take it 🙂

    Thanks Elena 🙂 xx

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD April 14, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Yes, generally Greek Guidelines do not use cups, but I “translated” into cups as well.

  • Reply Kristina May 4, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Thank you Elena, this is really great. I was just wondering, who are the guidelines for? Do you recommend to vary them by age or activity level (I am 28 year old girl, and I walk every day)?

    • Reply Elena May 22, 2016 at 7:27 am

      Hi Kristina, The guidelines are for adults with average activity.They do have specific recommendations for children as well.

  • Reply Tim August 15, 2016 at 9:31 am

    What would be a serving of softer cheeses like feta please? I think they are lower in calories than hard cheese?

    Also, do things like dates and dried figs and also avocado, count?

    Thank you!

  • Reply Irene July 16, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Elena I love your blog. You have taken me back to my roots
    Thank you

    • Reply Elena July 18, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Thank you Irene!

  • Reply The Authentic Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan and Menu December 6, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    […] on the official Greek Nutrition Guidelines which basically represent the Mediterranean diet. Go here to check the Greek Diet […]

  • Reply An January 13, 2018 at 5:04 am

    I just stumbled across this page, amazing tips, recipes and insights! Thank you Elena!

    • Reply Elena January 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

      Thank you An!

  • Reply Skip Gue April 8, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Love your info and inspires me to cook healthy! This is how I prefer to eat ! Well also, healthy asian cuisine as well I must say. Always Mediterranean first though! Thank you……

  • Reply Christy May 1, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    I am curious, do they also recommend daily recommended values for vitamins/minerals, and a generally recommended number of calories to consume daily? I think, for example, here in the US, it’s around 2,000 calories a day. Either way, this is such a wonderful resource! Thank you so much for sharing this with us 🙂

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN May 2, 2018 at 5:02 am

      Hi Christy,

      Yes, in the detailed guide they provide recommended values, these are based on the recommendations of EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and the SCF (Scientific Committee on Food) which is the main committee providing the European Commission with scientific advice on food safety. For calorie level, they recommend 3 levels of intake based on activity and gender and instead of recommending calorie level, they recommend specific amounts of servings from each food group.

  • Reply Emilia April 24, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Elena, thanks for bringing here all this useful information. Greeks had delicious foods, also I love their way of life.

  • Reply Mary June 28, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Really helpful information thank you.

  • Reply Candace February 24, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    Just discovered you website. Everything sounds wonderful. I have one question. I don’t eat seafood. I don’t like it. I noticed the food guide Shows 5-6 servings a week. Any suggestions what I can do?

  • Reply Heather October 16, 2020 at 3:04 am

    What kind of milk to Greeks drink if any I read in your article that they get their dairy from cheese and yogurt is that the only way how about goats milk? I have two young boys one is still breastfeeding but my older one loves milk everyday is there a better milk to give him daily?

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