There’s a Greek restaurant down the block from my apartment I frequent pretty often. It’s called Greek Corner, and I can say with zero reservations that it’s hands-down the best gyro place in Chicago. In fact, I’m pretty sure Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka the “Greek Freak”) himself would leave Milwaukee and come play for the Bulls if he ever tasted one of these delightful meat wraps.
Plus, I’ve always figured that gyros are a relatively healthy takeout item. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself as I’ve horked down a Greek Corner gyro once a week, every week, for the past 18 months. But perhaps it’s worth knowing how many calories are in a gyro before I contact Giannis’ agent. So let’s break it down.
How Many Calories in a Gyro: The Numbers
Below are the most common ingredients that make up a gyro, along with their estimated calorie counts.
- The Pita: Baked from wheat flour, the bready wrap that contains all the gyro’s meaty goodness weighs in at around 250 calories.
- The Meat: Carefully carved from a beautiful, spinning wheel of meat, the protein most commonly used in gyros is 6 ounces of lamb meat — which is about 438 calories. As for the other potential gyro proteins, 6 ounces of chicken gyro meat is 304 calories, 6 ounces of beef gyro meat is 600 calories, and 6 ounces of pork gyro meat is around 402 calories.
- The Tomato: One gyro sandwich contains about a quarter of a tomato, which rings in around five calories.
- The Onion: Similar to the tomato slices, around a quarter worth of a medium-sized onion adds another 12 calories to the total.
- The Tzatziki Sauce: Gyros typically contain about 2 tablespoons of a creamy sauce made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic and various spices like dill. Thus, the tzatziki sauce in your gyro sandwich only adds about another 19 calories.
Put it all together, and you’ve got a good 724 calories wrapped up in your lamb gyro sandwich. But think about it this way, the total calories in a gyro are well below the amount in a burrito (929), and you’d need to eat about three gyros to reach the recommended daily caloric intake of the average man.
Calories in Your Favorite Fast-Food Gyros
Very few national fast-food chains have attempted to offer gyros, but here’s the calorie counts for the couple that do:
Averaging out the calorie total for gyros offered by a few regional favorites such as the Halal Guys (613 calories), Niko Niko’s (630 calories) and Garbanzo (610 calories), you’re looking at an average of 617 calories. That should also prove a decent earmark for the local gyro place in your neighborhood.
How to Build a Low-Calorie Gyro
If 600 to 700 calories for a single sandwich feels like a little much, Anne Danahy, a registered dietitian in Arizona, has a great low-calorie option. Basically, you can cut out a lot of calories simply by opting for the baked chicken as your protein, and low-fat yogurt in your tzatziki.
- Make the tzatziki sauce with 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon of garlic and minced cucumber and 2 teaspoons of chopped dill.
- Peel and chop your onion and tomato into slices. If you’d like more veggies in your gyro, Danahy includes thinly sliced red bell pepper and pitted black olives in her recipe, too.
- Either bake or grill your chicken breast until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees (or about 9 to 10 minutes). If you don’t have a grill or trust your cooking skills, a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store works in a pinch.
- Briefly heat up your flatbread pita either on the grill or in the microwave, slather 2 tablespoons of tzatziki on it, then load it up with the chicken and veggies to your preference.
All told, Danahy’s recipe — which can be found in full here — comes in at around 206 calories, or less than a third of the calories in a typical lamb meat gyro sandwich. And if you still want to cut calories from your gyro, you could always lose the pita bread. But then you have to ask yourself, at what point does that make your gyro sandwich a salad?
The answer is up to you, but if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that no one, especially the Greek Freak, is moving to Chicago to play for the Bulls just for a gyro salad.