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Shawarma is one of those “fast foods” that is actually a traditional food for a particular region. A classic shawarma is marinated chicken, lamb, or beef, fries, and pickle wrapped in a thin pita bread, which is optionally toasted over a grill.
Among the sauces that accompany shawarma is a garlic sauce made by adding garlic cloves to a food processor and blending them with oil.
Naturally, the high-fat nature of shawarma does not make it a very healthy food to consume. In fact, studies done on university students who consume shawarma as part of their diet had a risk of elevated cholesterol levels and were more likely to gain weight. (1)
So, while it is clear shawarma is not a healthy choice for weight loss, making some changes can make it a healthy food that you can easily include as part of a weight loss diet.
How to Make Shawarma a Weight-Loss-Friendly Food
Swapping certain ingredients or choosing healthier cooking options can easily make shawarma a healthy food.
1. Choose lean meat
A diet high in protein is considered beneficial for weight loss. Studies have reported that intakes of protein at 2 g/kg body weight each day can effectively reduce body weight. (4) Since shawarma is packed with grilled meat, it can be a high-protein meal.
Lean proteins such as chicken and turkey are better protein source options due to their naturally low fat content. In addition, their breast cuts only have 1% fat content and can be a great choice for your shawarma. (5)
2. Air-fry potatoes
It is no shock that deep-fried potatoes are not the healthiest option. Fortunately, with the use of air fryers becoming common, you can easily make low-fat versions of your favorite fries. (6)
In addition, air-fried potatoes have been found to have a lower content of acrylamide, which is a carcinogen formed in potatoes upon frying. The changes that occur in the starch content also prevent blood sugar spikes after eating. (6)
3. Add more veggies
Adding veggies such as fresh cucumber, lettuce, shredded carrots, sliced onions, and grated cabbage will not only add flavor to the meal but also contribute to the total serving of vegetables in the day.
4. Switch the dipping sauce
Instead of using a high-fat garlic sauce or mayonnaise, you can easily switch to using a Greek yogurt sauce. Not only will it boost your protein intake, but Greek yogurt consumption has also been associated with a lower BMI, lower body weight, and a lesser waist circumference. (9)
To make a yogurt sauce, simply mix ½ cup of Greek yogurt with 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic, salt, black pepper, and a little olive oil.
5. Opt for a high-fiber wrap
Shawarma is usually made with a wrap or pita bread made from plain white flour. Choosing a pita bread made from whole wheat will give you additional fiber but will also delay the blood sugar spike after consumption. (10)
You can also use chia seed or flaxseed tortillas for added nutritional boost.
Can I Eat Shawarma Without a Wrap?
Yes! You can eat a shawarma salad with veggies, grilled meat, and a Greek yogurt and garlic dressing.
- Shawarma contains ingredients that are often fatty and can lead to weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, and increased risks of developing chronic illnesses.
- Shawarma is not a food suitable to eat on a weight loss diet.
- However, adding veggies, air-frying potatoes, making a low-calorie sauce, and using high-fiber wraps can make shawarma a food suitable for weight loss.
- It is still advisable to limit eating shawarma to once a week.