I love to travel and gather food inspiration from trying new cuisines – that Smørrebrød from Denmark was my addition to the article Cancer Fighting Foods from Around the World.
While there are several ways to make better choices when traveling that I wrote about here, I also enjoy trying dishes as they are and later adapting them to a healthier version at home. During that same Smørrebrød-filled trip through Northern Europe, I tried several exotic foods, but one of the absolute best things I ate was actually fairly simple: a roasted vegetable döner kebab in Berlin.
Döner kebab (originally Turkish) is a very popular fast food item in Berlin. It’s traditionally made with shaved lamb, beef or chicken in a thick white flatbread or wrap, topped with cabbage, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and usually a yogurt sauce. The dish is generally far from healthy due to the high-fat meat, thick white bread/pita and creamy sauce.
The one I had was a bit healthier than a standard döner kebab since it was made with roasted vegetables instead of meat, and the combination of flavors and textures was incredible.
Sandwiches often get a bad rep when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, but with some modification you can easily make a more nutritious, but great tasting version of a dish like this on your own. When modifying recipes, aim to increase the plant foods while decreasing the meat, carbohydrate and added fat.
For the döner kebab, I added more veggies (and kept it meatless), made a lower-fat sauce and used a thin whole wheat type of bread (pita or wrap) instead of white bread. These swaps lead to a dish that is lower in fat and calories while including more of the good things – fiber, vitamins/minerals, and other cancer-fighting compounds found in whole grains and vegetables.
With a few tweaks, even ‘fast food’ can be part of a cancer-protective diet! Here’s my reconstructed, healthy take on a German döner kebab:
Homemade Vegetarian Döner Kebab
Step 1 – Rinse the assorted vegetables and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Coat them very lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and pepper, and spread out over a baking sheet.
Step 2 – Roast at 400⁰F for 15-20 minutes, or until fork-tender.
Step 3 – While your vegetables are roasting, combine the yogurt-dip ingredients in a small bowl to make a healthy, high protein yogurt sauce.
Step 4 Toast your whole wheat pita, fill with roasted veggies, top with the remaining raw vegetables and add a dollop of the yogurt-sauce to the top.
Tip: you can make the roasted veggies and yogurt dip ahead of time and refrigerate for a quick roasted veggie kebab on the go.
- Small whole wheat pita
- Assorted vegetables such as zucchini, summer squash, onions, red bell peppers and carrots
- Dried herbs (e.g. basil, thyme)
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- Chopped fresh dill
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp chopped garlic
- Thinly sliced red cabbage
- Sliced tomato
- Chopped cucumber
How have you adapted your favorite foreign dish at home?