The gyro is a traditional Greek and Middle Eastern food that consists of meat wrapped up in pita bread and served with onions, tomatoes and tzatziki sauce, which includes a blend of yogurt and diced cucumber. Gyro meat is most frequently lamb, although some restaurants also serve gyros with beef, chicken or pork. Cooks sometimes add fat to gyro meat to keep it moist and juicy, so it’s not always the healthiest meal choice.
It’s typical to find about 4 oz. of meat in a gyro. That amount of gyro lamb meat contains about 175 calories, 11.5 g fat, 5 g saturated, 60 mg cholesterol, 265 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrates, 0.5 g fiber, 0.5 g sugar and 16 g protein. In a normal diet of around 2,000 calories per day, that means gyro meat will provide about 25 percent of daily saturated fat, 20 percent of cholesterol, 10 percent of sodium and 30 percent of protein.
Basic gyro meat differs slightly in fat and calorie content, but it’s also important to consider the total nutritional values of the dish. If the meat is served with a generous amount of oil and salt, for example, the calorie, fat, cholesterol and sodium contents will be higher.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting the amounts of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium you eat each day because those nutrients have been linked to conditions including heart disease and high blood pressure. There aren’t enough calories, fat grams or amounts of cholesterol and sodium in a single serving of gyro meat to wreak havoc on any balanced eating plan, however. Whereas gyro meat doesn't contain enough beneficial nutrients to be strictly considered “healthy,” it’s not a harmful food when enjoyed in moderation and eaten as part of a varied diet.
One way to make gyro meat healthier and lighten its nutritional profile is to prepare it yourself. For example, in the May 2005 issue of “Cooking Light” magazine, the editors recommend preparing gyros with shredded meat from a roasted leg of lamb that has very little added salt and no added fat. You could also use roast chicken, which naturally contains less fat and cholesterol than red meat.
If you have concerns about how gyro meat may fit into your diet or you feel that your overall eating plan isn’t striking a healthy balance, speak with your physician or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.