There are a lot of healthy options at Roti Mediterranean Grill, but some toppings are worth avoiding. Photograph courtesy of Roti's Facebook page.
The successful Chicago-based chain Roti Mediterranean Grill, which came to Washington in April 2010, seems to be a fast-food spot with integrity: The kitchen is visible, the ingredients are simple, and meals are served up with the tried-and-true assembly line technique. Roti describes its fare as “food that loves you back,” and nutritionist Allison Marco seems to agree.
“Nothing really stood out as something you should never have,” she says of the menu. “Overall it looks like a really healthy place.”
If you’re thinking about heading there for a meal, check out Marco’s picks for the best options.
Double steak kebab: Steak has lots of sodium and saturated fat, and by itself has 529 calories, which is pretty much a whole meal’s worth. “With red meat, you should only enjoy it once or twice a week, because it’s so high in fat,” Marco cautions.
Chicken kebab: All of Roti’s meat is roasted, which is a good preparation technique, and this option is already a lean one. “Compared to everything, it’s lowest in saturated fat and calories,” Marco says. It’s also comparable to the chicken roti but has less sodium.
Feta cheese: Cheese is “another one of those foods that should be consumed in moderation,” our expert explains. “It does have nutritional benefits, but it’s high in cholesterol. Portion sizes should be taken into account.”
Sumac onions, mixed greens, and hummus: “A lot of the toppings are veggie-based, so I went with the ones that are lowest in sodium, calories, and saturated fat,” Marco says. They’re also all cholesterol-free. Hummus makes it as Marco’s honorable mention—“It’s higher in calories and fat, but it has fiber and protein, so if you’re looking for that, it adds an extra punch.”
SAUCE & DRESSING
Tahini and tahini vinaigrette: Together, these two condiments account for 356 calories and 512 milligrams of sodium—and that’s before you add them to your plate.
S’hug sauce and red wine vinaigrette: Enjoy Roti’s signature spicy sauce or this light vinaigrette on the side. Marco cautions, “The right serving size is one and a half ounces, and sometimes you don’t know how much the server will give you.”
Mediterranean chopped chicken salad: To our surprise, our expert found that this salad has the most fat, calories, cholesterol, and sodium of all three favorite options. In fact, it packs almost a full day’s worth of sodium.
Double chicken kebab plate: This meal is low-fat, low-sodium, and a great source of protein. It falls squarely in the proper calorie range for a balanced meal. You can even enjoy the pita without worrying about your carb intake (pita and rice add 100 to 200 calories to every meal).
“Choosing your own food is the best option,” Marco says. “Regardless of where you’re eating, focus on the vegetables, stick to lean meats, keep sauces on the side, and go for whole grain if it’s available.”
What’s on her plate? “I’d do a chicken kebab salad with onions, mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, and S’hug sauce on the side.”
Allison Marco is a nutrition counselor at NuWeights in Northern Virginia. You can reach her at email@example.com or at 631-513-0252.