A gyro is a popular Greek sandwich made with meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, loaded into a pita along with tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce. Gyros are a go-to choice for a quick, satisfying meal. But like any savory sandwich, gyros do come with a considerable amount of calories. So how many calories are actually in a gyro made with lamb?
What is a Gyro?
The gyro is a Greek delicacy that has become popular around the world. The sandwich consists of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie known as a gyro cooker or doner kebab. Thin slices of the cooked meat are then stuffed into a pita or flatbread along with veggies and a cool tzatziki sauce.
Traditional gyros are made with lamb, beef, or chicken. The meat is stacked and roasted vertically on the rotisserie, allowing the strips of meat to cook slowly while the outside gets crispy. As the meat cooks, the fat melts and bastes the meat, keeping it juicy. The vertical cooking also leaves the meat shaved in thin slices, perfect for filling a sandwich.
Common Gyro Fillings
While the meat is the star of the show, a gyro isn’t complete without its delicious fillings. Here are some standard ingredients found in an authentic Greek gyro:
– Tzatziki – A creamy white sauce made from Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs. It adds a refreshing zing to the sandwich.
– Tomatoes – Sliced tomatoes provide a juicy crunch.
– Onions – Thinly sliced onions give a bit of sharp flavor.
– Pita or flatbread – The meat and toppings are stuffed into a warm pita or flatbread. Traditional gyros use puffy, pillowy pita bread.
– Lettuce – Crisp lettuce leaves are sometimes added for extra texture and freshness.
– Feta cheese – Salty, tangy crumbles of feta can be added as well.
– French fries – Gyros are often served with a side of french fries in Greece. The fries can also be tucked into the sandwich.
Calories in Lamb Gyros
The number of calories in a lamb gyro can vary depending on the portion size and exact ingredients used. But on average, a lamb gyro in a standard 8-inch pita contains around 700 calories.
This estimate is based on:
– A 115g serving of lamb gyro meat (about 4 ounces cooked)
– 1 small 8-inch pita
– 2 tbsp tzatziki sauce
– 1/4 cup chopped tomato
– 1/4 cup sliced onion
So what accounts for all those calories? Let’s break it down.
Calories in Lamb Gyro Meat
The lamb meat is the main calorie contributor. A 115g serving of cooked lamb gyro meat contains around 300 calories.
Lamb is one of the fattier cuts of meat. A 4 ounce serving of cooked lamb can have up to 25g of fat, with around 10g as saturated fat. So the high fat content of lamb significantly contributes to the gyro’s calorie count.
Other common gyro meats like chicken and beef have slightly fewer calories per serving compared to lamb. But lamb does provide a juicy, rich taste that beef and chicken can’t quite match.
Calories in Pita Bread
A small 8-inch pita adds about 165 calories to the gyro. The pocket-like round pita allows all the meat and veggies to be neatly wrapped up. If you’re looking for a lower carb option, you can swap the pita for a lettuce wrap. Two large lettuce leaves contain only about 5-10 calories.
Calories in Tzatziki Sauce
While the tzatziki sauce provides a cooling, creamy contrast to the hot meat, it’s no diet food. Two tablespoons of tzatziki can have around 70 calories.
The main contributor is olive oil. Tzatziki is made by mixing Greek yogurt with diced cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, and a generous glug of olive oil. Olive oil has 119 calories per tablespoon, so that adds up quickly. If you’re concerned about calories, ask for sauce on the side and use sparingly.
Calories in Onions and Tomatoes
Onions and tomatoes provide nutritious vitamins and moisture without too many calories. There are about 10-15 calories in 1/4 cup of raw chopped tomato and 5-10 calories in 1/4 cup of sliced onion.
Calories in Lettuce
Crisp lettuce leaves are very low calorie, with only 1-2 calories per leaf, so feel free to pile them on.
Ways to Make Gyros Healthier
While an authentic lamb gyro is never going to be a true “diet food”, there are some simple ways to lighten it up:
– Choose chicken instead of lamb. Chicken is significantly leaner than lamb.
– Load up on veggies like tomatoes, onions, lettuce to fill up.
– Use tzatziki sparingly or ask for it on the side.
– Opt for a lettuce wrap instead of pita.
– Skip the fries as a side dish and choose a salad instead.
– Ask for a smaller 6-inch pita. This smaller size can shave off around 100 calories.
– Order a gyro salad. This forgoes the bread entirely for a healthified, Greek-inspired salad packed with flavor.
Calorie Counts for Other Gyro Meats
While lamb may be the most traditional choice, beef and chicken are common gyro meats too. Here are the average calories for gyros made with other types of meat in an 8-inch pita:
– Chicken gyro meat (4 oz cooked): 230 calories
– Total (with tzatziki, vegetables, pita): 650 calories
– Beef gyro meat (4 oz cooked): 280 calories
– Total (with tzatziki, vegetables, pita): 700 calories
So chicken gyros end up being around 50 calories less than lamb or beef when all is said and done. Not a huge difference, but can add up if you eat them frequently.
Calories in Pork Gyros
Pork gyros are less common than lamb, beef, or chicken. But pork cooked on a rotisserie can also make tasty and tender gyro meat.
A 115g serving of cooked gyro pork contains about:
– 180 calories
So a pork gyro in an 8-inch pita would have roughly:
– Pork gyro meat: 180 calories
– Pita: 165 calories
– Onions: 5 calories
– Tomatoes: 15 calories
– Tzatziki: 70 calories
– Lettuce: 2 calories
Total Calories = About 435 calories
So pork ends up being the lowest calorie meat choice for gyros. While not as fatty as lamb, pork still provides plenty of flavor. So splitting the difference with half pork, half beef or lamb can be a lighter way to enjoy gyro deliciousness.
Calories in Vegetarian Gyros
Veggie lovers can also get in on the gyro fun. A vegetarian gyro substitution swaps the meat for meatless options like grilled halloumi cheese, seitan, portobello mushrooms, or fried eggplant.
Here’s a look at the calorie count for veggie gyro fillings:
– Halloumi cheese (4 oz) = about 400 calories
– Seitan (4 oz) = about 120 calories
– Portobello mushrooms (4 oz) = about 28 calories
– Fried eggplant (4 oz) = about 60 calories
So seitan or mushrooms are your best bet for keeping a vegetarian gyro low in calories. Or mixing the veggies half and half with halloumi or eggplant can provide more substance.
Calories in Fast Food Gyros
If you don’t have access to an authentic Greek restaurant, major fast food chains provide another option for getting your gyro fix. Here are nutrition comparisons for some of the most popular fast food gyros:
|Quiznos Greek Gyro
|Schlotzsky’s Greek Gyro
The Quiznos Greek Gyro provides the lowest calorie option, coming in at 590 calories. Arby’s and Schlotzsky’s gyros are closer to 700-750 calories.
Most fast food gyros use a beef and lamb or all beef mixture for the meat rather than lamb alone. They also tend to be served in larger pitas around 10 inches which boosts the calories.
To lighten up a fast food gyro, ask for extra veggies, less sauce, and choose a salad as your side. And splitting the sandwich in half to eat as two smaller servings can help avoid overindulging.
Should You Eat Gyros When Trying to Lose Weight?
Gyros make a tasty and satisfying meal. But at 700+ calories each, eating them too often can easily thwart weight loss efforts. Should gyros be off limits when dieting? Not necessarily – here are some tips for enjoying gyros in moderation when trying to shed pounds:
– Stick to just half a gyro pita and pair it with a low calorie side like a Greek salad. This can allow you to indulge while still keeping calories in check.
– Skip the pita and order a gyro salad instead. Load it up with extra tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and feta over a bed of greens.
– Choose chicken or pork gyro meat to save some calories over higher fat lamb.
– Use tzatziki sparingly or ask for it on the side and dip your meat into just a teaspoon or two.
– Make gyros an occasional treat meal instead of a weekly habit.
– Order a mini gyro using a 6-inch pita to trim calories.
– Avoid adding french fries and soda for lower calorie sides like fruit or yogurt.
For daily eats, replace gyros with lighter Greek-inspired options like grilled chicken kabobs with veggies, shrimp skewers, or greek yogurt bowls until you hit your weight loss target.
Healthiest Way to Order a Gyro
To get maximum nutrition and flavor for fewer calories, your best bet is to order a gyro salad with chicken. Ask them to go easy on the tzatziki and load up on the fresh veggies.
Here’s an ideal healthy gyro salad:
– Base of chopped romaine lettuce and spinach
– 115g grilled chicken gyro meat
– 1 tbsp tzatziki sauce (on the side)
– 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
– 1/4 cup sliced red onion
– 1/4 cup diced cucumber
– 2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
– Fresh lemon wedge
This Greek salad crammed with gyro flavor provides a lighter take on the classic sandwich. You can also swap in other low calorie gyro proteins like pork or mushrooms.
Gyros pack some serious calories with all that meat, pita, and sauce. An average lamb gyro rings in around 700 calories. Choosing lighter meats like chicken or pork can slightly reduce the calorie count. For the best nutrition-to-calorie ratio, gyro salads reign supreme. While not exactly a diet food, gyros can be enjoyed in moderation by keeping portions small and sides light. With some adjustments, you can still get your Greek food fix even when watching your waistline. Just don’t forget the tzatziki!