Mediterranean restaurants, such as those offering Greek, Turkish, Israeli, or Lebanese cuisine, are great choices for those on the South Beach Diet. At these eating establishments, you’ll likely find grilled seafood, chicken, and lamb, along with chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes, a wide selection of fresh vegetables, and lettuce salads topped with olives, cucumbers, peppers, and cubes of tangy feta cheese. You'll also find bulgur and Israeli or brown rice couscous, which can be enjoyed instead of potatoes or white rice (Phase 2). Mediterranean cuisine also utilizes a variety of herbs and spices, from oregano, mint, and rosemary to cardamom and coriander, all of which enhance the flavor of meats, vegetables, and whole grains.
An ideal starter is hummus (a purée made with chickpeas). Ask for it with veggie dippers on Phase 1 or enjoy it with a little whole-wheat pita bread on Phase 2. Ask for extra-virgin olive oil for dipping as well.
Color Your Plate
Vegetables cooked Mediterranean-style—roasted, grilled, or steamed—are a great way to fill up your plate, especially during the two weeks of Phase 1, when grains are not permitted. Ask for eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, or green beans to be served with a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
What to Watch Out For...
When dining out at a Mediterranean restaurant, steer clear of gyros served in white pita bread with full-fat yogurt sauce (have the sliced lamb on its own or grilled on skewers instead). Also watch out for moussaka and pastitsio, which are usually made with high-fat béchamel sauce, and spanakopita, a spinach-and-cheese pie typically made with a buttery phyllo crust. You also want to avoid falafel (which is deep fried) and baklava, a Mediterranean-style dessert made with flaky pastry, nuts, and honey.