Calories Lebanese Food - Healthy Choices at Restaurants, Homemade

Lebanese cuisine is served generously, and abundantly according to tradition. There are a fabulous variety of dishes available starting with small portions called 'mezza' which is a combination of bread, salads and dips.

Most meals based mostly on lamb, are served with bread and many side dishes. All this variety of delicious choices, bread, dips and side dishes can add up to a huge number of calories.

Many of the lovely lamb dishes are rich and tasty, but can be high in fat. All this means that if you are on a calorie controlled diet it pays to have the information to make healthy choices at restaurants. The same applies to Lebanese food you cook at home. You need to know how to make healthy choices from the huge number of recipes available.

This article provides a listing of the calories and nutrients in the common Lebanese dishes and provides helpful hints of which foods to avoid and which dishes you can use as substitutes.

Many Lebanese dishes are healthy but contain oil, sugar and nuts which boosts the calorie count. Discover the calories in various Lebanese food dishes
Many Lebanese dishes are healthy but contain oil, sugar and nuts which boosts the calorie count. Discover the calories in various Lebanese food dishes | Source
It pays to know how to make healthy food choices when enjoying food at Lebanese restaurantsor making your own dishes
It pays to know how to make healthy food choices when enjoying food at Lebanese restaurantsor making your own dishes | Source
Lebanese mezza is generally a good healthy choice provided you choose the low calorie dishes
Lebanese mezza is generally a good healthy choice provided you choose the low calorie dishes | Source
Most Lebanese desserts are too rich in calories for those people on a diet or trying not to put on weight. See the calorie charts to make healthy Lebanese dessert choices.
Most Lebanese desserts are too rich in calories for those people on a diet or trying not to put on weight. See the calorie charts to make healthy Lebanese dessert choices. | Source
Fresh fruit is the best low calorie Lebanese dessert, but it is seldom available.
Fresh fruit is the best low calorie Lebanese dessert, but it is seldom available. | Source

Healthy Lebanese and Middle Eastern Food Choices

Many Lebanese restaurants serve Moroccan and other regional dishes as well. Lamb is the favorite meat: served stewed, roasted, pressed, ground or skewered.

Unfortunately most dishes have high fat and calories and so should be avoided or eaten in small portions (entre size). Seafood is better choice.

Tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds, is a tasty ingredient in favorites such as baba ghanoush, hummus and halvah (a rich sweet ingredient). Tahini is rich in calories.

Bulgur is a staple grain that is added to tabbouleh salad. But this adds calories. Chickpeas, rice and lentils are widely used and although these ingredients are generally healthy the calories accumulate in large portions sizes especially when eaten with bread and dips made with yogurt.

Choose dishes that are rich in vegetables such as garlic, onions, eggplant (can be oily), okra, lemon, carrots, cauliflower, green beans.

Most Lebanese meals include the following:

Tabbouleh: A salad made of bulgur, tossed with mint, tomatoes and parsley. The bulgur grain adds to the calories

Kibbe: Bulgur and ground lamb combined into patties and cooked. Once again this dish is high in fat and calories and should be eaten in moderation

Fattoush: A refreshing salad of toasted bread cubes, cucumbers, tomatoes and mint. The bread adds to the calories in this dish.

Hummus: Pureed chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini and garlic. Very rich and needs to be eaten in moderation.

Baba ghanoush: Charcoal-grilled eggplant combined with olive oil, tahini, crushed garlic and lemon juice. It is served as appetizer with pita bread for dipping or as a side dish. It is very rich and should only be eaten in small quantities.

Pita: A round, flat bread torn into pieces and served with dips. Be careful not to eat too much bread.


Healthy Choices for Lebanese Appetizers

Lentil soup is rich in fiber and lower in calories and fat than most other options
(Nutrition: 190 Cals; Fat: 3 g; Carbs: 30 g; Protein: 12 g ).

Yogurt salad, flavored with parsley, mint, and dill, blended with shredded cucumber and other salad vegetables is a healthy choice. (Nutrition: 80 Cals; Fat: 1.8 g; Carbs: 9 g; Protein: 6 g).

Salads made from tomato, pepper, eggplant and cucumber in olive oil and lemon juice are a good choice. (Nutrition: 265 Cals; Fat: 15 g; Carbs: 40 g; Protein: 6 g). Avoid dishes with a lot of olive oil.

Hummus can be a healthy choice in small quantities. It tends to be very rich because of the olive oil and tahini (sesame paste) - both high in fat and calories. (Nutrition for about 1/2 cup: 100 Cals; Fat: 1 g; Carbs: 20 g; Protein: 5 g).

Pita bread is eaten as with dips and as a side dish. It can add up to a lot of calories for the entire meal (Nutrition one half: 170 Cals; Fat: 1 g; Carbs: 35 g; Protein: 6 g)

Healthy Choices for Lebanese Main Meals

Try to substitute the lamb based entrees with vegetarian or those made with fish, seafood or chicken.

Dishes with a bean or lentil base are generally rich in fiber.

For example, lentil-rice dishes are a good choice with a small portion size (Nutrition: 440 Cals; Fat: 20 g; Carbs: 45g; Protein: 10 g).

Fava beans in a garlic-lemon sauce (Nutrition: 335 Cals; Fat: 2 g; Carbs: 60 g; Protein: 25 g).

Grilled fish is a good, healthy choice.

Vegetarian moussaka is another good choice with an eggplant base, if available (Turkish restaurants). (Nutrition: 300 Cals; Fat: 15 g; Carbs: 40 g; Protein: 10 g).

Vegetable tagine (more of a Moroccan dish) is a good option if available. (Nutrition: 250 Cals; Fat: 10 g; Carbs: 35 g; Protein: 10 g).

Shish taouk (chicken on skewers) is a lean, lower fat alternative to the beef and lamb versions (shish kebab). (Nutrition: 475 Cals; Fat: 30 g; Carbs: 30 g; Protein: 30 g.)

Chicken shawerma is marinated chicken combined with rice, hummus, grilled tomatoes or peppers (Nutrition: 475 Cals; Fat: 13 g; Carbs: 50 g; Protein: 40 g).


Healthy Choices for Lebanese Desserts

In reality there virtually no healthy choices for desserts in Middle Eastern restaurants, unless fresh fruit is offered (very rarely).

Most desserts are packed with cream (custards and rice pudding); butter and oil (pastries such as baklava).

Figs and dates are often served with very rich sauces. Avoid dessert if you can.

Choosing Healthier Alternatives on the Menu

The table below list a series of healthy substitutes for common Lebanese dishes.

Healthy Substitutes for Lebanese Food

Choose
Instead of
Labnee (thick yogurt dish with mint)
Hummus (chickpea based dip)
Oubieh (green beans generally combined with tomatoes)
Tabbouleh (salad with bulgur that adds calories)
Eggplant with tomatoes, garlic and peppers
Fattoush (cucumber and tomato salad with bread pieces)
Shish kebab (grilled, spiced cubed chicken (preferred)or lean lamb on skewers)
Kibbe (bulgur and ground lamb patties)
Kofta (balls of onins and ground lamb, skewered and grilled)
Falafel (chickpea based patties)
Shish taouk (skewered chicken pieces grilled over charcoal)
B'steeya (Moroccan pie dish made with chicken and almonds)

Nutrition Facts for Lebanese Food and Common Dishes

The following table lists common Lebanese and Middle Eastern foods listed from low calories to highest calories. The table can be sorted alphabetically to hep find the dish you want. Serving sizes vary and this needs to be taken into account when choosing healthy options.

Calories and Nutrients in Lebanese and Middle Eastern Dishes

(click column header to sort results)
Meal  
Serving  
Cal  
Total Fat (g)  
Sat Fat (g)  
Cholest (mg)  
Sodium (mg)  
Total Carbs (g)  
Dietary Fiber (g)  
Protein (g)  
Hummus
1 serve
49
 
 
 
33
7
2
 
Doogh
1 glass
85
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Greek Salad
1 serve
87
7
3
13
282
4
1
3
Middle Eastern-Style Chicken
1 serve
99
 
 
27
106
 
1
 
Lubieh Bel Zeit
1 cup
100
2
 
 
 
 
 
3
Stuffed Grape Leaves
1 serve
100
6
 
 
 
 
 
3
Tabouli Salad
1 serve
108
8
1
0
36
10
4
3
Shorbet Al-addas (Lentil soup)
1 serve
110
1.5
0
0
10
18
9
8
Curry Chicken
1 serve
145
 
 
52
43
2
 
 
Labneh with pita appetizer
1 serve
146
2
1
5
81
17
0
14
Baba Ghannouj with Pita
1 serve
147
2
0
0
67
19
1
14
Tinkka Kababs
1 serve
161
 
 
 
81
14
 
 
Minted Lamb Kebabs
1 serve
169
 
 
71
165
2
 
 
Macedonian Tzatziki Salad with Pita
1 serve
170
3
1
7
92
22
1
16
Hummus with Tahini and Pita Appetizer
1 serve
179
3
0
0
68
24
2
16
Spinach and Feta Pie
1 serve
190
9
6
35
520
12
1
14
Shrimp with Vegetable Sauté
1 serve
190
14
2
95
115
5
1
11
Shorba Addas
1 cup
200
3
 
 
 
 
 
7
Fattoush
2 cups
236
2
 
 
 
 
 
9
Tabbouleh
1 cup
240
6
 
 
 
 
 
6
Chicken and Vegetable Curry
1 serve
250
 
 
51.7
203
29
 
 
Foole M'daas
1 cup
250
3
 
 
 
 
 
9
Falafel Patties With Yogurt Cucumber Sauce
1 serve
255
 
 
1
586
28.6
 
 
Vegetarian Kabob with Rice
1 serve
270
5
1
0
15
49
4
7
Calamari with vegetable Sauté
1 serve
270
17
4
40
125
8
1
24
Scallops with Vegetables Sauté
1 serve
350
15
2
75
370
13
1
39
Shish Tawook 1/2 order - Chicken Kabob with Rice
1 serve
362
13
2
65
79
31
2
29
Shish Kharouf (lamb) with Rice
1 serve
370
8
2.5
100
75
37
0
36
1/2 order Shish Kabob (beef) With Rice
1 serve
420
9
3.5
95
90
41
1
39
Samak - Marinated 6 oz Salmon with Tabouli and Rice
1 serve
480
16
2.5
95
90
42
1
39
Arayess - Falafel wrap with Salad and Lebanese Fries
1 serve
504
18
2
0
466
78
14
15
Marinated 6 oz Tuna With Hummus & Lebanese Fries
1 serve
560
13
2
75
140
52
5
58

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 2 comments

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France

I adore Lebanese food and used to eat it a lot when I lived in Cyprus. I'm hoping to visit Lebanon later this year and cannot wait to get stuck into a big mezza! A great, comprehensive hub, voted up and interesting.


janderson99 profile image

janderson99 3 years ago from Australia on Planet Water Author

Thanks, Glad it was useful

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