10 Greek Eating Habits That Will Boost Your Health

Take one look at her recipes and it’s clear that Benardis is a fan of herbs — one variety or another pops up in almost all of her dishes or is the star of the meal, like in this Fresh Herb Salad. “Herbs are a great way to boost the flavor of dishes without the added calories,” she says. “I add herbs to teas, stews, desserts, salads, Greek filo pies, soups, slow cooker vegetables — and meats, fish, and poultry that are about to be grilled or baked.” And while fresh, raw herbs are great, don’t be afraid to get creative with them. “I also submerge them in salt with some lemon zest and use the salt to flavor my dishes,” says Benardis. “Or I sometimes deep-fry them to add as garnish to a dish and use them to infuse my olive oils and herbed feta cheese.”

5. Serve greens with everything

“Leafy greens are essential in Greek cooking,” says Benardis. “I recall the many trips to the mountains with my grandmother during my childhood years living in Greece to gather various wild greens that we would toss in salads, add to stews, or simply boil and dress with olive oil and lemon juice.” In ancient Greece they were used for medicinal purposes, and to this day Greeks consume a high volume of wild greens, which are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, she says. Children are even taught to identify different types of wild greens, and it’s not unusual to see them playing the ‘horta hunting games’ during organized family excursions to gather them, says Benardis. Regardless of what you’re preparing, there’s room for leafy greens: Throw a handful in soups,smoothies, omelets, salads — you name it!

6. Use wholesome ingredients — and know where they come from

Benardis shares a story about one of her favorite ingredients to incorporate into mousse: mastic. The resin comes from a tree that can only be grown in Greece, so when people try to grow it in other places, the tree dies, she explains. While most of us don’t have an exotic tree growing in our backyard, the moral of the story is to stick to ingredients that are in season and local to where you live. “The first way I source my ingredients is to visit the local farmer’s markets, which sell a variety of seasonal fresh organic ingredients at lower prices than their retail counterparts,” says Benardis. She then supplements those organic ingredients with foods from grocery stores and local international food stores that sell imported Greek and European ingredients. Take a hint from Benardis’s recipe box and plan your meals around what’s in season in your area. Not only will youshave money off your grocery bill, but you’ll also be able to mix up your menu and try new ingredients.”

7. Keep it simple

Forget processed foods with a laundry list of ingredients. Benardis says that “each dish should be simple: made with a bit of oil, a pinch of salt, and cumin.” This back-to-the-basics approach will have positive effects on your grocery bill, health, and waistline. “In Greek cookery, ingredients are used moderately and simply, and they do not overpower the other ingredients,” she says. “The aim is to achieve harmony and balance so that each ingredient sings.”

8. Add a little cheese