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 Christine August 12, 2023 at 6:13 pm

    All your recipes are delicious. How would you suggest adapting the bread guideline for someone with a wheat allergy? Free from bread is really processed and unpleasant tasting. Is it suitable to replace with rice, quinoa?

  • Reply Leen Barakat December 17, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    where can find the Greek and European guidelines can you provide me with the links

  • 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?

  • 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 Mary June 28, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Really helpful information thank you.

  • 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 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 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 An January 13, 2018 at 5:04 am

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

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