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Quantity Is Key When Following Mediterranean Diet In Houston

A recent study reinforced what many already know: Mediterranean food is good for you. That should be good news for health-conscious Houstonians, since Houston has an abundance of different ethnic cuisines. But does Mediterranean food here have the same health benefits as the food in Mediterranean countries?


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“We’re trying to make sure that we’re pure to the Mediterranean and to the Greek cuisine.”

Dimitri Fetokakis is the owner of Niko Niko’s Greek and American Café on Montrose. His parents opened the restaurant in 1977, and if Fetokakis is to be believed, the cuisine has remained loyal to Greek recipes.

“Every year we go back to Greece, so we see what my aunts and my cousins and my grandparents would eat, and it was different than here. Everything was either off their orchards or their farms and organic.”

He says he tries to use authentic Greek ingredients whenever he can, including olive oil, spices and fish, all of which the restaurant imports from Greece.

“A Mediterranean diet is essentially a diet that’s high in olive oil and nuts or seeds and that has a lot of fish and legumes in it or beans in it and is lower in dairy and saturated fat content.”

That’s Dr. Shreela Sharma, a dietician at the University of Texas Health Science Center. She says if you want to follow the Mediterranean diet at Houston restaurants, you certainly can. But she points out that simply eating at a Mediterranean restaurant in Houston doesn’t mean you’ll follow a healthful diet. One reason:

“The portion sizes here are bigger, which automatically means more calories.”

And then you have all these options you don’t usually have at restaurants in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, such as soda fountains. And often there’s a bigger selection of desserts here whereas in Greece, people tend to eat fruits after dinner.

“While on [the] one hand, you might be able to get similar foods here which might have been cooked in a similar way, there are other foods that you’re exposed to that takes away from the Mediterranean diet.”

Dimitri Fetokakis says his customers are getting increasingly health-conscious and are ordering sauces and cheese on the side, so they can decide how much to use. But if they want to indulge, they can as well.

“If you don’t want to go Greek, we have it. But if you want to stay Greek, you stay with the grape leaves, you stay with our fish, you stay with the lamb shanks, you stay with the gyros … ”

And if you want to stay with burgers and French fries, you should stay in Houston. According to Men’s Fitness, the Bayou City has the most fast-food joints in the nation.

In the end it really is to each his own.