By Constadina Zarokostas-Vasiliades
Many people think baklava, galaktobouriko, kourambiethes, kataifi, diples and karidopita are some of the most common Greek desserts. They aren’t exactly low-fat or low in sugar, and often people avoid entering Greek bakeries in Greece when on vacation to make sure they look great in their bathing suit. Believe it or not, there was a time where sugar was not easily accessible in Greece and there were desserts and snacks made that did not compromise one’s health. If you pay attention, you will find these traditional bakeries across Greece that are slowly becoming more common. My favorite healthy snack in these types of bakeries is called “Kritsinia Iliosporou” or written in Greek “Κριτσινια ηλιοσπορου,” and are a little narrow cigar-shaped multi-grain cookie that is as light as a feather and rolled in sunflower seeds. Pites, or savory pies, are another thing you can find at these traditional bakeries, with a variety of ingredients.
I like Kritsinia Iliosporou because they are multi-purpose. Good for breakfast, good for a snack, great with coffee, and I’m told really nice with a glass of whiskey. I’ll let you know once I’ve had my second baby (I’m pregnant right now) and finished breastfeeding. If you have the munchies one of these can tide you over for some time. It’s the protein from the sunflower seeds that seem to keep you from wanting to eat anything bad. They keep your blood sugar in check.
I first discovered these in the Greek northern city of Drama, in the province of Macedonia in Greece, about 30 minutes from Thessalonike, in a bakery called “Pes Alevri” in Greek, “Πές Αλεύρη.” The English translation of the bakery name is, “Say Flour.” The owner, Maria, is a very pleasant and friendly woman who knows a lot about traditional Greek natural health.
Don’t be scared to walk into a Greek bakery and ask for something that is low in sugar or fat. There are a lot more people with special nutritional needs that Greek bakeries cater to, even if their front window displays many sugary and creamy delights. You may be surprised with what you find.