Having lived in Greece for the past 5 years I often get asked the following or similar 2 questions:
Q1. - “I’d like to visit Greece in the summer could you recommend anywhere that is raw food friendly.
Q2. - I am going to spend 2 weeks in _____ do you have any tips for staying raw?”
Even though I lived in Greece for a few years I haven’t quite managed to see the whole country yet. I have every intention to at some point but with a husband and kids in tow and a million other commitments getting around to touring Greece is happening at a very slow pace.
However I have seen a fair bit of the country and have many friends all over therefore from my experience and knowledge the climate, hospitality and produce is very similar throughout the country.
So with question 1 in mind, sadly I would have to say that there probably isn’t anywhere that is particularly raw food friendly in terms of hospitality and local acceptance of the raw food diet. However over the years in Athens and Thessaloniki small raw food communities are growing and Athens has a few places suitable for a raw foodist to eat in, also online raw food stores are popping up all the time, so things are looking up.
Unfortunately the mentality of most locals across the country towards food and diet is stuck in the past and sadly most people prefer and cater for meat eaters.
Having said that there are ways to stay raw so addressing question 2 here are my top tips for staying raw while holidaying in Greece and other holiday destinations.
First and foremost be prepared!
Before you book:
- Try to book your holiday with people who are understanding to your needs. Someone who is willing to make some small compromises.
- If possible book to stay in self catering accommodation, this way you will have access to crockery, cutlery and a fridge which will make preparing your own food easier.
- If you are staying in self catering make a pact with your holiday companion to eat in 3-4 nights a week, or to only eat out at dinner time this way you can control more of what you eat and save a few pennies to spend on souvenirs and seeing the surrounding beauty and sights.
- I have heard that some airlines offer a raw food meal, however I have yet to see it with my own eyes, but in all honesty I’ve mostly travelled between England and Greece in the past 10 years so I couldn’t say for sure, it is always worth checking this with your airline, again be prepared because some peoples idea of a raw food diet may not entirely match yours.
- With heightened security measures since 9/11 taking anything fluid in your hand luggage can be a problem, however there are tons of raw packaged goodies available that are suitable for in flight snacking - raw snack bars, raw crackers, trail mixes, dried fruit, nuts and seeds are all acceptable. And indeed fresh fruit is the perfect travel companion because it comes in its own packaging ready for travel.
- When flying ensure you drink enough water during your flight, air cabin pressure can dehydrate you and your skin. You will have to purchase your water once you have passed security control, but it will be worth it.
Once you get there:
- In your suitcase pack a good stock of your favourite dry fruit and nuts, you can never be sure that you will find good raw nuts or dry fruit without added sugar or preservatives.
- *In Greece there are many coffee grinders, these are small shops which sell freshly ground coffee by weight. Depending on the shop and the area you are visiting you can often find a good selection of nuts and dry fruit in these shops, raw almonds and walnuts are a safe bet but be careful with the dried fruit it is often coated in some sort of vegetable oil and may even be heated to high temperatures. Figs are your best bet for a dried fruit without additives.
- Pack a superfood green powder you can add to water to boost your nutrients. My favourite is Natures Living Superfood from Kiki; added to a glass of fresh orange juice is a great start to your day.
- Add some seaweed or raw nori to your case to sprinkle on your homemade salads and make things more interesting.
- Don’t forget to add a knife in your case (never in your hand luggage) for cutting fruit and vegetables, a spoon, fork, plastic plate and if you have space a plastic bowl for mixing things in, I also like to ensure i have a simple citrus squeezer for fresh orange/lemon juice in minutes.
Specific to Greece:
If you go off the beaten track you may find wild or abandoned fig trees, prickly pears (be extra careful when picking these, wear gloves and remove the spikes with a brush or broom before handling), loquats, and many others. If these trees are abandoned or hanging over a public road, it is acceptable to pick the fruit if someone else hasn’t beaten you to it.
If you are visiting a mountainous area, look out for wild chamomile, oregano and mountain tea.
If you rent a car you may find locals selling their produce on the road side, this is a good opportunity to get fresh, in season, locally grown fruit and vegetables and support the local farmers.
During the summer months vine leaves are in season and at their best, normally around May, June and July in Europe. The best leaves are the young tender ones which are still very soft. You can normally find a combination of older and younger leaves on a vine, so you should be able to identify the young ones easily. These are great for rolling a filling into, you could marinate them in olive oil, lemon juice and salt and roll chopped tomato and avocado or anything else you fancy into them. Many places use a grape vine to shade a sunny area, they are very common in and around Greece, they sometimes also grow wild, so if you spot a vine, ask the owner if they mind you picking a few leaves.
Get what you can from the nearby land and local market, however for more exotic things you will probably need to go to a supermarket. My favourite supermarket is AB Basilopoulos because they probably have the biggest variety of fruit and veg including things like avocadoes, mangoes, medjool dates and a good selection of raw nuts.
When you go out and about you should be able to find fresh orange juice in the cafeteria’s, other than that unless there is a specific juice bar in town your options will be limited.
Raw food friendly places in Athens:
- Once you are settled into your hotel/apartment take a walk into town, ask the receptionist or locals when and where you can find a fruit market, every town has one. In Greece these are called Laiki (pronounced La-ee-Ki) and can be found most days in the heart of town, open until around 2pm. If it is very close by, buy a few items in order to ensure freshness, otherwise stock up on what you think will keep for a few days. When I was in Ibiza a few years back I stocked up on Galia melons because they are so easy to eat; cut in half, scoop out the seeds and eat the flesh straight from the skin with a spoon. Something me and my kids still love to do when at the beach.
- Do not allow yourself to become dehydrated, dehydration is often mistaken for hunger and in hot climates we need to drink more water then what would be normal back home.
- Snack on something before going out to dinner in order to be prepared for a lack of options and so that you are not starving hungry when you look at the menu and not tempted to make bad choices.
- In restaurants, don’t be afraid to ask for something which is not on the menu. Most restaurant owners will be happy to prepare something special for you if they think you will go back there. You can ask the waiter to combine a couple of salads, or remove unwanted items from a salad already on the menu. However you may be asked to pay the full price of the original dish, so again be prepared. You can always carry with you a small pot of nuts and seeds to sprinkle on top of a simple salad to make it more filling or even an avocado*. *Although avocadoes can be found in some supermarkets in Greece it is rare to see them on a menu unless in a major city like Athens or Thessaloniki.
- Always ask what the salad dressing is, although not traditional often salads come drenched in mayonnaise or thousand island dressing. If that is the case ask for a salad with only olive oil and request half a lemon to make your own Greek dressing.
- Many restaurants also have some fruit on offer as a dessert substitute, this may not be on the menu, again if you don’t ask you don’t get. In Greece it is common to be offered some complimentary watermelon after your meal if you are a regular customer or you are known by the owners. Why not jump ahead and ask if they can offer you some fresh local fruit that you would be prepared to pay for.
- If you are with company who like to drink, and you are not intending to consume alcohol, order a bottle of water and ask for a glass with ice and a slice of lemon, this way it wont appear to others that you are drinking water and what the eyes don’t see the mind often doesn’t think.
- Many cafe bars now offer fresh juices or fruit smoothies, however you may need to ask to know that these are available, and if you are ordering a smoothie check to be sure they do not add pasteurised juices to the blended fruit.
- In top holiday destinations it is fashionable to have blended fruit with an alcohol twist, order yours without the twist.
- In general be aware of your surroundings, take a quick peek behind the bar, or in the direction of where the food is coming from, you may be surprised to see a fresh pineapple, a blender or a citrus juicer lurking in the background.
*Please note this is advice from friends who live in Athens, I haven’t visited any of these places.
- Cafe Bliss - Romvis Road, near Syntagma - Makes raw food and super shakes
- Oikologoi Elladas - Panepistimiou Street, near Omonia - They have two stores, one is the food shop which has vegan, vegetarian and even raw foods. They also sell fruit and vegetable juices and some gourmet raw high fat foods. Next door you can find the health food grocery store and in the opposite street, a bit closer towards Omonia is another of their shops with health foods and cosmetics.
- There are a few organic fresh food markets in various parts of Athens, you can find one every day of the week in different areas. Click here for a list of farmer's markets in Athens, both conventional and organic.
- Troofood Liberation - Provides catering, cooking classes, and an online raw food store. They can be found every week somewhere in the city cooking vegan food. See their website and blog for details - www.troofoodliberation.com
- Glikiarmonia - A raw vegan food delivery service, delivering all over Athens. Glikiarmonia offers special Greek raw food dishes and traditional sweets, all raw vegan. Call or email prior to your arrival to arrange a menu according to your needs - www.glikiarmonia.com
- Mediterranean Goes Raw – A website and company run by our favourite Greek raw foodists Flora Papadopoulou - Author of the Mediterranean Goes Raw recipe book. The website contains plenty of information, recipes, articles, links and videos. Flora also runs courses and seminars in Athens based on food prep and the Alissa Cohen Chef Certifications. See website for full details - www.mediterraneangoesraw.com
- Biosophy – An online raw food store offering superfoods such as cacao, maca, raw food snacks and more - www.biosophy.gr
Most of all don‘t forget to have a good time and relax on your holiday after all that is why you are there. Soak up the sun, enjoy a dip in the Sea, make new friends and take advantage of the fresh local produce.
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