Turkish Food - Nutritional Information, Healthy Choices, Calories

The people of Turkey enjoy a Mediterranean diet, which has been promoted as one the healthiest diets on Earth. Turkish cuisine shares many of the attributes of the Mediterranean diet with emphasis on: vegetables, legumes, grains, oily fish, seafood, nuts, fresh fruits and olive oil.

Turkish food is a fusion of Balkan, Greek, Jewish, Armenian, Ottoman and Central Asian cuisines. Many Turkish restaurants in the west include Greek, Lebanese and Middle Eastern dishes on their menus.

Home cooked and Turkish restaurant cuisine includes a variety of chicken, lamb or beef dishes, fish and seafood that are mostly grilled or barbecued. This is a healthy way to cook meat, and there are many delightful vegetarian foods and dishes available as well. Foods are served with dips, bread and a huge variety of salads and side dishes.

The main issue when choosing healthy Turkish foods, especially when trying to restrict the amount of fat and calories, is that the food is so rich, tasty and wholesome; it is so easy to overindulge.

This article summarizes the nutritional information for about 100 Turkish dishes in a convenient table that can be sorted by calories, fat and protein content.

This makes it easy to check on various food and dishes to ensure you are meeting your health objectives.

This article also provides a detailed guide on how to make healthy, low calorie and low fat choices, when eating out at restaurants, or choosing what Turkish dishes to cook at home.

Turkish Food and Dishes - Healthy Choices, Calories, and Nutritional Information
Turkish Food and Dishes - Healthy Choices, Calories, and Nutritional Information | Source
Many Turkish dishes are healthy, but you need to be aware of high calorie sauces and dips that contain a lot of fat and oils
Many Turkish dishes are healthy, but you need to be aware of high calorie sauces and dips that contain a lot of fat and oils | Source
Discover how to choose healthy Turkish food choices with these nutrient summaries and tips for what to choose and what to skip over on the menus.
Discover how to choose healthy Turkish food choices with these nutrient summaries and tips for what to choose and what to skip over on the menus. | Source
Turkish desserts are very tempting. Choose small portion sizes to keep calorie counts under control.
Turkish desserts are very tempting. Choose small portion sizes to keep calorie counts under control. | Source

Turkish Meals and Healthy Food Choices

A main Turkish meal usually begins with soup and the meze, which is a delightful array of small servings of various dishes that are served hot or cold for sharing. Often included are dolma (peppers, egg plants or vine leaves stuffed with rice), cacik (taziki), Tarama salad, various types of borek (pastries) and arnavut cigeri (cubes of fried liver). A meze may be a good choice for a main meal served with dips and bread if you are on a diet, especially if its shared.

The main course is usually fish, seafood or meat – mostly lamb, usually served with rice and bread. Fish and seafood are generally are generally excellent choices

Often a salad is included as a side dish. A typical salad is çoban salatası, made from cucumber, parsley, tomato and onion with and olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Ask for the dressing to be served on the side, because you can then control the amount of oil in the salad to control the calories.

Most meat is lamb. The choice of how it is cooked and the other ingredients governs high its oil content and calories:

  • sis kebap (cubes of seasoned meat on skewer that are grilled) – a good choice
  • lamb stews such as sulu yemek or ev yemegi – generally a good choice with a small portion.
  • Iskender or Bursa kebab (slices of doner meat on small pieces of bread and covered hot butter, tomato sauce and yoghurt) .
  • adana kebap (spicy balls of minced lamb with hot peppers and spices formed around a flat skewer - a good choice but check the fat content
  • sis kofte (small lamb burgers or meat balls) worth trying - but check the oil content.

Why is Turkish Food Healthy? (Restaurants and Homemade)

Most Turkish food is healthy because of five main ingredients and the use of healthy cooking methods.

Yoghurt - is a staple ingredient in Turkish cuisine and is included in many forms. Yoghurt is used in many marinades for chicken and lamb. It is also widely used to make many dips such as hummus. It is used as a dressing for salads and as a sauce for grilled vegetables or even eaten on its own as a snack. Yoghurt is also the basic ingredient for the popular beverage called Ayra, which is diluted yoghurt

Olive Oil – Olive oil is a very healthy component of Mediterranean diet due to the high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and high level of antioxidants. In Turkish cuisine olive oil is used for salad dressings, and for preparing a wide range of dips and vegetable dishes, such as dolmades.

Grilling and Barbecueing – Grilling and barbecuing meat and vegetables is a long established tradition in Turkey. Red meat, chicken and fish along with an array of fresh vegetables such as eggplant, mushrooms, corn on the cob, zucchini, asparagus spears, tomatoes and various peppers are all grilled. This is a very healthy way to eat vegetables. Grilled vegetables are generally served sprinkled with dried chilli powder and with some garlic. Grilling is a healthier cooking method than frying and choosing a mixed Turkish grill is a very healthy option.

Oily Fish and Omega 3 fats - Oily fish is high in Omega 3 fats, high in protein, and generally lower in fat and calories than meat. The predominance of fish and seafood in diets have been promoted as reasons why the Mediterranean Diet is so successful. Most fish and seafood is grilled, barbecued or baked in foil and is a very healthy choice. Fish dishes are generally served with a healthy salads.

Turkish Desserts - Some of the famous Turkish desserts such as Turkish delight, Baklava and various buttery pastries are ladened with oil and calories, but there are many healthy alternatives. There are usually a delightful array of fresh fruit desserts made with slices of rockmelon (cantaloupe), watermelon or honeydew slices, often served withTurkish apple tea. This tea is a very healthy option as its all-natural and caffeine free.

Other low fat and low calorie Turkish dessert options include:

  • Candied Pumpkin with Walnuts
  • Sutlac (which is Turkish Rice Pudding) generally made from low fat milk
  • Turkish Almond Macarons

List of Turkish Food Items to Avoid

  • All high-fat and high calorie entrees like spanakopita (cheese and spinach pie).
  • Desserts such as baklava which has a very high fat content and a high calorie count. Or choose very small serving.
  • High fat main meals-such as moussaka (a dish made from minced lamb, eggplant, and white sauce dish, that usually includes a lot of butter and oil) or pasticcio (a very rich pasta and meat dish)
  • Restrict the number olives you eat. While olives are very healthy they have a very high fat and calorie content
  • Go easy on the bread and dips. While mostly made from healthy ingredients, the calories and fat add up if you are not very careful.
  • Don’t choose Barekas (pie stuffed with meats, potatoes and cheese) as an entrée.
  • Fried foods, such as falafel (which are made from chickpea balls, that are fried).
  • Limit the amount of tahini (sesame paste) used in sauces and dips.
  • Avoid desserts that have a lot of honey, oil and sesame paste.

List of Turkish Food Items to Choose

  • Order small serves of appetizers like stuffed grape leaves, hummus dips and pita or tabouleh. Share a single serve. These dishes are delicious, but you need a lot of control to keep the portion sizes down and under control.
  • Grilled meats, such as chicken, lamb and beef, as well as fish and seafood are excellent choices, especially if you ask for the sauces and accompaniments as side dishes.
  • All the various kebabs (skewered meat dishes) are also healthy choices (watch the sauces).
  • Choose grilled vegetables to go with your grilled meat dish. Be careful with the eggplant as it can be laden with oil and have a very high calorie count.
  • Meat and vegetable tagines are simple stews, generally made with fresh, simple ingredients and aren't too high in fat.
  • Meze, which traditionally consists of several small dishes. But check that what is offered does not include deep fried dishes and minced lab loaded with olive oil.

Nutrients in Turkish Dishes - Home Cooked and Restaurant Dishes

The table below shows a summary of the nutrients in popular Turkish dishes. It is ordered from dishes with the lowest to the highest number of calories. This will depend on serving sizes which are also shown. Serving size will vary considerably and this needs to be considered. You can re-order the list by clicking on the various headings.

Nutritional Information for Turkish Cuisine

(click column header to sort results)
Food  
Serving  
Calories  
Fat (g)  
Carbs (g)  
Protein (g)  
Fiber (g)  
Greek Yoghurt and Cucumber (Jadjik) Dip
20 g
22
1
1.6
1.1
 
Kumara and Lentil Dip
20 g
24
0.6
3.7
0.9
 
Traditional Hummus
20 g
33
2.1
2.3
1.2
 
Sundried Tomatoes Cashew and Parmesan Dip
15 g
38
3.9
1.5
1.7
 
Feta and Spinache Filo Pastries
1 cup cooked
38
2.3
3.1
1
 
Feta With Roasted Garlic and Green Olive Dip
20 g
42
3.7
3
1.3
 
Beetroot Dip
100 g
75
3.9
1.3
0.8
 
Smoked aubergine puree
1 serve
77
5
6
4
3
Sigara Borek
1 (26)
79
6.2
 
2.6
 
Yogurt Soup (Ayran Corba)
1 cup
82
1
13
5
 
Eggplant Stew (Imam Bayildi) (Homemade)
1 portion
92
4.9
12.1
2.1
 
Manti Soup
1 cup
102
0.7
18.2
5.9
 
Spicy falafels
1 serve
105
6
8
5
2
Realage - Shepherd Salad
1/2 batch
108
5.6
9.2
7.4
 
Sigara Boregi
1 piece
125
1
5
1
 
Beef Kofta with saffron Yoghurt
1 serve
131
6.5
3
15
1
Yogurt Soup (Yayla Corbasi) (Homemade)
1 cup
132
4.4
16.1
6.7
 
Garbanzo Salad
1/2 cup
137
3.4
19.4
3.8
 
Pogaca With Feta
1 (45)
143
6.8
16.6
3.6
 
Falafel Basil
100 grams
148
4
21.6
6.9
 
Red Lentil Balls
1 piece
150
6.6
18.5
4.6
 
Pide Bread
2 oz
150
1
31
5
 
Shepherd Salad
1/2 salad
153
8.6
14.7
6.1
 
Kazandibi - Rice Pudding (Ulker Icim)
3.5 oz
160
5
24
4
 
Hot Soudjouk
57 g (1/5)
170
13
 
13
 
Manti
1 grams
170
7.1
14.6
11.1
 
Labneh- Light
100 g
174
12.5
7
8.2
 
Spinach and White Cheese Burek (Homemade)
2 cups
175
9.9
16
6.5
 
Slow-Cooked Lamb and Vegetable Stew
1 cup
179
7
15
17
 
Menemen ( Breakfast)
1 egg portion
181
12.3
11.4
 
 
Spinach and Feta Dip
20 g
185
4
1
1.5
 
Shrimp Stew (Homemade)
1 portion
186
8.1
1
22.7
 
Lentil Soup
79 g
188
1.1
33.5
12.5
 
Roasted Eggplant Salad
11 ounces
188
12.9
16.7
4
 
Fish Stew (Firinda Balik Pilaki) (Homemade)
1 portion
194
5.8
16.9
19.9
 
Griddled aubergines with sesame dressing
1 serve
194
16
6
7
7
Wood-Fired Pizza Base ( Bread)
75 g
197
1
39.7
6.8
 
Spinach and Feta Borek
1 Slice (pizza sized)
216
7.5
29.9
7.2
 
Rice Pudding
1/2 cup
220
5.5
44.3
6.9
 
Chicken and Cheese Pide
1 whole
225
1
16
17
 
Chilli ginger lamb chops
1 serve
227
12
1
30
0
Yellow Lentil Soup ()
1 cup cooked (198 gm)
230
0.8
4
18
 
Herb and Garlic Bread Roll
85 g
238
5
40.5
7.6
 
Smoked Salmon Dip with Dill and Cashews
100 g
241
20.3
7.6
7.2
 
Rustic Red Lentil Soup
291 g
249
 
27
1
 
Sweet potato salad
1 serve
252
6.2
45.7
2.7
6.7
Sea Bass (Levrek)
1 (188 g)
258
 
 
 
 
Ezo Gelin Soup (Ezo Gelin Çorba)
1 cup
274
1.4
51.3
14
 
Pide
112.5 g (1 slice)
280
3.9
50.5
9.2
 
Pide Long Roll
133 g
286
2.1
56.7
9.8
 
Turkish Style Pizza
1/6 Pizza
286
14
28
12
 
Almond Pudding
1 cup
300
15
34
1
 
Mixed Gozleme
1 gozleme
300
 
 
 
 
Panettone with Creamy French Butter and Raisins
83 g 1/9th
300
11
44
6
 
Meatballs In Tomato and Pomegranate Sauce
3 meatballs
303
17
14
24
 
Spinach and Mushroom Soup
400 g
304
11.6
39.6
10.4
 
Rice Pilav
158 g cooked
307
10.9
46.8
4.2
 
Red Bean Salad
1 cup
315
15.4
46.5
11
 
Pizza
1 pizza
319
19.5
63
35.9
 
Baked aubergine stuffed with roast pumpkin, feta and walnut
1 serve
320
27
10
10
6
Lahmacun- Beef Mincegrilled with lettuce and Tomatoes
1 Portion
322
4.5
2.4
14.3
 
Lamb Burger
1 burger
324
9.3
21.3
36.7
 
Shish Barak
5 cup cooked
324
26
13
1
 
Chickpea and Lamb Soup
1 2/3 cups
329
13
37
18
 
Rice Pilau With Eggplant and Chickpeas
12 oz
347
12
54
9
 
Chick Peas With Beef
1 cup
350
 
 
 
 
Otlu Gozleme
1 piece
350
 
 
 
 
Lamb kofta with fattoush
1 serve
355
12.9
25
31.5
5.1
Meatballs
125 g
371
1.5
78.2
10.8
 
Karniyarik
1 Karniyarik - no rice
375
13
21
13
 
Peynirli Pide
500 g
400
 
 
 
 
Imam bayildi with BBQ lamb and tzatziki
1 serve
435
32
12
27
5
Pumpkin Soup with Bread
520 g
445
8.8
78
11.4
 
Katmer ( Fatayer)
1 portion
470
 
 
 
 
Manti Ravioli (Homemade)
180 g
490
 
 
 
 
Kiymali Pide
1 serve
492
 
 
 
 
Kunefe ( Dessert)
1 individual serving
497
25.5
57.4
11.8
 
Gozleme
1 Gozleme
500
22.4
57.4
19.6
 
Lamb Pita Burgers
1 Burger
546
2
6
32
 
Doner Kebab or Burger
1 Burger or Kebab
550
26
 
 
 
Mezze Plate
1 serve
560
44
25
15
7
Lamb Pilau
1 serving
584
24
65
32
 
Grilled aubergines with spicy chickpeas & walnut sauce
1 serve
640
45
39
22
13
Spinach and Cheese Gozleme
200 g
650
30.1
76.2
18.2
 
Spiced Chicken Kabons with Pomegranate Relish and Tahini Sauce
1 pita
762
37
6
 
 
Iskender Kebab
4 kebebs
816
31
72
60
7.5
Mensaf (Lamb In Yogurt Gravy)
1 cup cooked
1394
79
10
73.6
 

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I love this food. It seems that is simple and just healthy and delicious. I am going to bookmark this for future use. You did an excellent job on the material. Voting UP.

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