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How un-healthy is Falafel?

subinai Jun 30, 2008 10:41 AM

It's a cheap eat when I'm on a budget.It's deep-fried, true, but it's vegetarian with other veggies on a whole wheat pita. I guess in the words of R. Kelly: "My mind is telling me no but, my body is telling me yes." Am I doing more harm than good?

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  1. Will Owen Jun 30, 2008 11:04 AM

    If it's fried properly, it shouldn't be greasy at all. And if it's fried in the right kind of oil, it's probably not only OK but actually good for you. Anyway, between the whole-wheat pita and the high-quality carbs in those ground chickpeas, you're getting some good stuff there. I just wish I had a good falafel joint nearby...like right now!

    1. Catskillgirl Jun 30, 2008 11:07 AM

      Who cares, it's delicious! I always tell myself that it's not nearly as bad as other treats I could indulge in. Ahhhh, a nice hot falafel with tahini sauce and a little hot sauce on top.. heaven.

      1. c
        cimui Jun 30, 2008 11:44 AM

        Chickpeas are high in protein, and falafel is usually served with yogurt-tahini sauce, a good source of iron, calcium and additional protein. It's fried, but fat isn't bad for you in moderation, and if you need the calories. I've actually always considered it a pretty healthy food.

        1. mnosyne Jun 30, 2008 11:50 AM

          Depends on whether they've changed the oil in the last year or two!

          12 Replies
          1. re: mnosyne
            sandylc Jan 16, 2012 06:53 PM

            Have you heard about that restaurant somewhere that deep-fries its hamburgers in 100-year-old grease?

            1. re: tech0925
              sandylc Jan 16, 2012 08:32 PM

              Dyer's Burgers in Memphis.

              1. re: sandylc
                The Professor Jan 16, 2012 09:08 PM

                sounds like "urban legend" material to me....

                1. re: The Professor
                  BobB Jan 17, 2012 08:06 AM

                  Nope: http://www.dyersonbeale.com/

                  1. re: BobB
                    The Professor Jan 17, 2012 09:04 PM

                    I still have my doubts...

                    1. re: The Professor
                      MandalayVA Jan 18, 2012 11:59 AM

                      Nope, it exists, I've eaten there. The grease is strained every night. I'm not a fat phobe so I found the burgers delicious. They do hot dogs the same way.

                      1. re: MandalayVA
                        The Professor Jan 21, 2012 03:12 PM

                        I'm not a fat phobe either, not by a longshot. And I've had deep fried hamburgers that were very good indeed.

                        I just find it amusing that this place thinks that using potentially decades old frying fat is something to brag about.

                        1. re: The Professor
                          sandylc Jan 21, 2012 07:54 PM

                          You do have a point!

                  2. re: The Professor
                    westsidegal Jan 17, 2012 10:06 AM

                    concur with The Professor here.
                    if they were frying in grease that old f the flashpoint of the grease would have declined to the point where it would start flaming.

                    1. re: westsidegal
                      BobB Jan 17, 2012 11:18 AM

                      You need to follow the link I posted just above - it's not only real, they brag about it. Besides, why would the flashpoint of grease decline over time? Makes no scientific sense to me. Unless you're thinking of the buildup of food particles in it, but they do say on their site that they filter it daily so that's not an issue.

                      1. re: BobB
                        sandylc Jan 17, 2012 06:10 PM

                        I think they use high-fat burger, which adds new fat to it.

                        1. re: BobB
                          Shanel Mar 31, 2012 07:30 PM

                          They couldn't possibly strain every bit of food particle out of the grease. I think sandylc's explanation is right.

                2. mrbozo Jun 30, 2008 12:48 PM

                  Hmmm, I just had a falafel from El Ghazale here in Toronto. Three virtually greaseless golf ball size falafels wrapped in a whole wheat pita after having been doused with tahina and hot sauce and smothered with fresh tomato and lettuce, chopped onion and pickled turnip.

                  A Mickey D or Burger Thing fat bomb it ain't, and that's a good thing. Besides, chickpeas don't require much grazing acreage at all.

                  1. tatamagouche Jun 30, 2008 12:50 PM

                    I agree with the others that it's a fine part of a balanced diet. R. Kelly may not be the best frame of reference when it comes to balance, however.

                    1. Miss Needle Jun 30, 2008 02:02 PM

                      Everybody has their own definition of what is considered healthy. Personally, I wouldn't call falafel "health" food. Here's the nutrition info for one falafel patty.


                      You can determine for yourself if you would consider falafel healthy.

                      21 Replies
                      1. re: Miss Needle
                        brendastarlet Jun 30, 2008 02:09 PM

                        That seems healthy to me -- you have protein from chickpeas, and yes, 3 grams of fat, but it isn't like it's going to hurt you. The one thing to watch out for is the tahini sauce, which is made from sesame and can send the fat/calorie count soaring. Two tablespoons has 12 grams of fat, according to this recipe. http://www.cooking.com/recipes/static...

                        1. re: brendastarlet
                          Miss Needle Jun 30, 2008 02:16 PM

                          Personally, I don't think about food the way most people do in terms of protein/carbs/fats, etc. I take these things into consideration, but also think about other things as well.

                          But if one is going to determine what is healthy by adhering to the fat grams thing, a lot of falafel sandwiches are comprised of about 5-6 balls. With tahini, you're talking 30 grams of fat.

                          1. re: Miss Needle
                            mrbozo Jun 30, 2008 06:05 PM

                            5-6 balls? That's "Supersized" up here (Toronto) where 3 balls is the norm. One can always ask for no tahina if that is a concern.

                            And, if you are having a falafel, make sure you know what you've already consumed in the day and let that (plus the falafel) dictate what you will consume in the remainder of the day. Actually that is an excellent rule to follow on an ongoing daily basis.

                            1. re: mrbozo
                              cimui Jun 30, 2008 06:39 PM

                              actually in nyc, too, unless they're teeny little balls. i think mamouns only stuffs three and at most four into a pita.

                              1. re: cimui
                                Miss Needle Jun 30, 2008 06:41 PM

                                Wow, I'm pretty sure I get at least 5. But, then again, I don't go to Mamoun's. Are they the place where falafel is only $2.50?

                                1. re: Miss Needle
                                  cimui Jun 30, 2008 07:02 PM

                                  yes -- and i guess mamoun's set my standard for what is 'normal' in a falafel sandwich, since i've eaten far more of them from mamoun's than from anywhere else. (it used to be right around the corner from me when i lived in the village.) they were only $2 two years ago -- and had been for the past twenty years before that.

                                  1. re: cimui
                                    bigjeff Jun 30, 2008 08:44 PM

                                    keep in mind that nutritional facts linked to were for a 2.25" diameter falafel ball which is pretty huge and most of the places in nyc, you get 4-5 smaller ones so, there's your disparity. but in any case, its deep-fried, bottom line. whether its healthy stuff or not doesn't quite matter; no one claims that tempura is good for you either, even if its vegetables or seafood. if you were making it yourself and baked the falafel, substituted yogurt for the tahini, etc. then you could make a passably healthy one. but the real deal is, a typical falafel sandwich w/ the garnishes and the works is usually a gutbomb, at least for me.

                                    1. re: bigjeff
                                      cimui Jul 9, 2008 09:27 AM

                                      nutrition has so much to do with what your body needs and how it functions. i like high density, low volume foods, since i don't have all that much stomach capacity -- so occasional doses of deep fried food is great for me. :)

                                    2. re: cimui
                                      Miss Needle Jul 1, 2008 06:56 AM

                                      I was there once during my college days with a guy who really liked to drink. He thought of his paycheck in terms of how many beers it would buy him. So he wanted to spend as little as possible for food so he could buy more beers. I don't remember the exact cost, but $2 probably sounds right.

                                      1. re: cimui
                                        michele cindy Jul 9, 2008 04:30 AM

                                        last week I went to Mamouns, but they were closed due to a health violation. Any idea of they have re-opened?

                                      2. re: Miss Needle
                                        linguafood Jul 1, 2008 07:02 AM

                                        Whoa. Contrary to most food offerings in the US of A, your balls seems to be tiny. Falafel balls, of course '-).

                                        When you get a falafel in Berlin, it's one ball, *maybe* two, and each is the size of a tennis ball.

                                        1. re: linguafood
                                          Miss Needle Jul 1, 2008 07:10 AM

                                          Wow! A tennis ball! That's huge! The falafel balls I see are the size of ping pong balls. But the tennis ball sized ones sounds intriguing. It's actually probably a bit healthier as there's less surface area that gets into contact with the oil.

                                          I definitely have to try falafel when I visit Germany.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle
                                            Bob W Jan 26, 2010 08:01 AM

                                            But the outside is the best part!

                                    3. re: mrbozo
                                      westsidegal Mar 7, 2010 09:45 PM

                                      a 'normal' falafal sandwich in my part of the world is three small balls in a small whole wheat pita pocket.
                                      six balls is a dinner portion.

                                    4. re: Miss Needle
                                      julesrules Jul 1, 2008 02:32 PM

                                      So, nosy question, but if you don't primarily think in terms of calories or fat grams, why would a falafel be unhealthy?

                                      1. re: julesrules
                                        Miss Needle Jul 2, 2008 06:16 AM

                                        Julesrules, it's not a nosy question. I'll try to best explain my theories. But it's sometimes difficult to grasp because it's from an Eastern perspective and the way of thinking is fundamentally different from what we've learned about nutrition in the West.

                                        Ok. I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with the concept of yin/yang, and in order for a healthy body, there needs to be balance of yin/yang. I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of it and will just say things as plainly as possible.

                                        In the Eastern perspective, our stomach wants foods that are "warm" --- not too hot and not too cold. While this whole hot/cold concept can also refer to temperature of the food, it is not exclusively so. We also talk about the energy the foods have. For example, greens are generally energetically cold and therefore usually stir-fried with some ginger or garlic in Chinese culture to warm it up. Deep- fried foods tend to be very "hot" energetically for the body. (Though some people would look at it as being very "cold" as extreme "heat" can transform into "cold" in the yin/yang theories). When the oil gets heated, its properties change. Oil is best consumed cold -- ie. adding oil to steamed vegetables as opposed to deep-frying vegetables in oil. A compromise is generally stir-frying where you cook the vegetables in a small amount of oil. Raw vegetables/salads are generally a no-no in the Eastern view as it is too cold. Your stomach will spend more energy trying to digest it. This is a concept that a lot of Westerners have trouble grasping, especially as we've been taught that salads are very healthy. But I've seen so many people with digestive issues get a lot better once they stopped eating salads and replaced them with cooked vegetables. This all depends on the person -- some people can benefit from eating a lot of raw things because they're out of balance. But once they're in balance, it's best to eat foods that are warm in nature to stay in balance. So the salads that are in falafel aren't necessarily considered the best thing from the Eastern perspective. Not saying that the Chinese never eat raw foods, but they're more apt to have them during the warmer months -- think of seasonal eating.

                                        And not from the Eastern perspective, but tahini is considered to be are refined product as the hulls are removed (sesame paste is different). It's not a whole food. There have been issues linking tahini to liver stagnation (a concept in Eastern medicine, manifesting in a lot of emotional problems).

                                        And this is more of a personal thing, but I have a slight gluten intolerance. So I eat things like bread sporadically. It's actually amazing how many people are intolerant to gluten. Most people don't know. I didn't realize it until I did an elimination diet. And DH realized he had problems with gluten as well when he told me that he gets bloated from wheat pasta but feels lighter and better when consuming rice pasta. I don't totally eliminate gluten from my diet because I can't/won't be 100% about it. When one removes an offending item from your diet, your body becomes extremely sensitive to it, and any little amount can cause a really bad reaction. For example, I was off of gluten 100% for a month. Had a biscuit -- had diarrhea, stomach cramps, and my body swelled up. Not a pretty sight. So I purposefully eat a bit of gluten here and there to desensitize my body, but don't eat it on a daily basis as most Americans do. A lot of people really should try the gluten challenge -- eliminate gluten from your diet for a week or two and then have some bread and see how you react.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle
                                          julesrules Jul 2, 2008 09:00 AM

                                          Thank you, that was very interesting. I actually took a "Intro to Chinese Culture/History" course in university where we briefly studied ying/yang and how it relates to food, but that was some time ago and your explanation wrt to falalfel is great. My sister was also briefly following a diet based on the 5 elements - some great meals came out of that as it seemed she always had to cook at least 3 dishes to fulfill the requirements. Anyway I am always fascinated by the so many very different views on "healthy" we have on chowhound never mind the world at large! Personally, these days, I tend to be looking for heart-healthy fats and fibre, so falalfel has a lot of "healthy" ingredients from my perspective.
                                          Oh and I like your perspective on gluten... so many people take the view that if once they eliminate something, they then experience severe symptoms if they indulge, therefore they must completely eliminate that food. I can understand that reaction too but your approach seems more reasonable given that gluten is hard to avoid.

                                          1. re: julesrules
                                            Miss Needle Jul 2, 2008 09:09 AM

                                            You're welcome. Ah, my explanation probably would make more sense to you considering your background.

                                            About the gluten thing, if you've got a disease like celiac disease, you really do have to be quite strict about avoiding gluten. But luckily I tested negative for it so I can have it once in a while.

                                            1. re: Miss Needle
                                              Jacey Jul 2, 2008 10:11 AM

                                              Yeah, falafel has protein from the chickpeas, and protein is good for you. However, it's almost like saying KFC (with all the protein) is good for you.

                                              1. re: Jacey
                                                julesrules Jul 2, 2008 10:26 AM

                                                If you're responding to me, I didn't say anything about protein. I'm more interested in the healthy (non-saturated) fats in the sesame, the soluble fibre in the chick peas, and the whole grain in the pita. I'm also making the hopeful assumption that the falafels are not fried in a vat of trans-fat. I am not claiming falafel is low-fat or low calorie.... but these are not my primary considerations.

                                                I totally understand that many other people's definitions of "healthy' are very different than mine. Even my definition of a "healthy" weight varies from the norm, as I'm big on genetics and both my grandmothers lived to their 90s, in their own homes, and were somewhat overweight. No diabetes, and also no osteoporosis.

                                  2. re: Miss Needle
                                    jarona Jan 17, 2012 08:25 AM

                                    I just calculated that information on my Weight Watchers Points Plus Calculator. One of those patties is 2 points plus. If you have three in a sandwich it is 6 points I'm guessing with the pita and the tahini the points value could rise to about 10 points--depending on the points value of the pita and the sauce. Not bad. Not the greatest. As a side note, I have made falafel in the oven rather than frying. Kinda dry but not too bad.

                                  3. Chew on That Jun 30, 2008 02:51 PM

                                    If you consider it being fried, falafel seems unhealthy. But compared to most things that are fried, it's contents and ingredients are MUCH healthier!

                                    1. j
                                      Jacey Jun 30, 2008 05:56 PM

                                      I guess you already know the answer to this: No. The thing with falafel sandwiches is if you break down the ingredients it's very nutritious. However, preparation and the combination is a caloric mess, unless you are on a weight-gaining type of diet. Regardless of the nutritional value of chickpeas, sesame, eggplant and all the other toppings at the falafel bar, when things are deep fried,sauces slathered on (many are also combined with sour cream or mayo) and swimming in oil, it becomes unhealthy.

                                      The falafel is similar to eggplant parm: the components are health in it's natural state but prepared together can create issues if you don't build it in your caloric allowance for a day.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Jacey
                                        cimui Jun 30, 2008 06:38 PM

                                        Unlike the few vitamins that exist in eggplant prior to being fried for eggplant parmesan, though, the proteins in chickpeas don't dissipate upon frying. And the chickpeas are combined with yogurt (calcium / dairy), veggies (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley), and starch (pita pocket). You get all your major food groups this way. I think you could do worse. There were days in grad school when I'd eat nothing but two of these falafel sandwiches a day. I credit them with keeping me scurvy and goiter free.

                                      2. v
                                        Val Jun 30, 2008 07:30 PM

                                        I think my pupils start dilating when I see the word 'falafel.' I JUST LOVE the stuff and have found a good place here in Naples to obtain it for lunch once in a while--it's crispy and not greasy--and it's a bit spicy...I figure it's much better than a burger or fish sandwich even if it IS fried. They serve theirs on whole wheat pita with TZATZIKI sauce rather than tahini sauce and I go crazy over it. I've tried it at another Greek place here and while the falafel was good and not greasy, they served it with tahini, not tzatziki...in fact, when I ordered it and asked about having it with tzatziki instead of tahini, the person taking my order bristled a little and said they never serve it that way. Oh, well, just a personal preference, I guess, but falafel rules, hands down.

                                        1. l
                                          lgss Jul 1, 2008 02:35 AM

                                          Here's a recipe for baked falafel...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: lgss
                                            howboy Jul 2, 2008 07:17 AM

                                            After boycotting The Chickpea in NYC after they switched over to baked falafel, I broke down and tried it a few nights ago. Left me cold....no yummy factor, no crunch, no pizzaz, not much flavor.

                                          2. Soop Jul 1, 2008 04:11 AM

                                            Actually, I head chickpeas xcontain a neurotoxin. Not enough to be damaging if eaten occaisionally, but if you regularly eat humous...

                                            Well I've just looked, and it seems like whoever told me may have been mistaken - although other kinds of legumes do contain bad stuff. Quite interesting.


                                            1. p
                                              Panini Guy Jul 1, 2008 05:07 AM

                                              As with most all deep fried food, if the oil temperature is high enough - and the oil is of sufficient volume so that inserting the foof to be cooked doesn't kick down the temperature - there won't be a lot of oil (or extra fat calories) permeating the food. Almost all of the grease and fat calories from deep frying come from poor cooking technique, not from the oil.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Panini Guy
                                                mrbozo Jul 1, 2008 01:29 PM

                                                Exactly. And consider the type of oil being used. Can't see falafel deep fried in lard or tallow. Besides, as I noted above, the customer has control over the condiments and toppings.

                                                I'll bet you bhaji to donuts that a falafel sandwich has close to half the calories of a Big Mac or equivalent and is more nutritious.

                                              2. PeterL Jul 1, 2008 09:19 AM

                                                You can get baked falafel, which is even more healthy. But it's healthy the way it is.

                                                1. c
                                                  cresyd Jul 2, 2008 11:48 AM

                                                  After living in Jerusalem for a while, I have a hard time thinking of falafel as being much different health wise than most other fast-food. The fry factor really does up the fat factor (the idea of 3 grams of fat doesn't seem remotely correct to me), and if there's a lot of tahini it can move over from "good fat" to just "excess fat". In Israel, I wasn't helped because most of my favorite places had toppings that were equally naughty (the fried cauliflower was almost better than the falafel...).

                                                  Regardless, I have to join the club of "mind is telling me no, but my body is telling me yes". While falafel isn't at the "bad" level of getting a big mac and fries - it's hardly equivalent to healthy eating.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: cresyd
                                                    brendastarlet Jul 2, 2008 12:01 PM

                                                    I'm in the camp of, once a week won't hurt you. But if someone is eating falafel every single day with a quarter-cup of tahini on top, that's probably not the healthiest diet.

                                                  2. p
                                                    piccola Jul 2, 2008 06:16 PM

                                                    There are two different ways of looking at this: is it healthy, and is it fattening.

                                                    Like others have mentioned, a falafel pita is full of legumes, vegetables, whole grains and (presumably) healthy fats. So it's pretty good for you, nutrient-wise.

                                                    But it is fried, tahini sauce is made with sesame (duh) and oil, all pretty high in fat and calories. So it's also pretty fattening.

                                                    It all depends on what you think is more important.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: piccola
                                                      Val Jul 3, 2008 04:09 AM

                                                      Do you think eating it with tzatziki sauce instead of tahini sauce makes it better? I suppose it depends on if the tzatziki is made with whole fat yogurt (in the restaurant where I get my falafel pita, I suppose they could even be making it with whole fat sour cream...I hope not!) I've never asked them how they make their sauce--I should.

                                                      1. re: Val
                                                        cresyd Jul 7, 2008 06:23 AM

                                                        Eating falafel with tzatziki as opposed to tahini would most likely be lower in fat (depending on the kind of yogurt/sour cream used) - but not necessarily lower in calories. Again, that's also based on comparing that to how the tahini is made. Some tahini has a lot of oil in it, and some has less - all depends on how its made. Also the amount of tzatziki used compared to tahini, etc etc.

                                                        At the end of the day - unless you go for baked falafel - you're dealing with a fried food. And there's usually little to no way of knowing what kind of oil is used (I've never known of a place to use peanut or coconut oil to cook falafel - but then again, I've also never asked). So I'd just echo brendastarlet that if it's viewed as a once a week treat, and you're able to keep the toppings in check (adding french fries and other fried veggies is probably more of a Middle Eastern thing and less common in the West), then it shouldn't be a problem. But if you're doing it every day for lunch, then I wouldn't see it as being much different as getting a Big Mac every day for lunch.

                                                    2. d
                                                      davisready Jan 26, 2010 07:41 AM

                                                      If done correctly, the frying will add little fat to the falafel. The tahini does have a high fat content, however, it is very low in saturated fat. Additionally, chickpeas contain high levels of cholesterol lowering soluble fiber. So all in all, I'd say a falafel sandwich with vegetables is a pretty healthy option.

                                                      1. s
                                                        sillygoosedown Feb 20, 2010 08:24 PM

                                                        You should eat falafel sparingly but anything is OK in moderation.

                                                        1. pdxgastro Feb 21, 2010 10:25 PM

                                                          There's nothing wrong with a little Bump n grind, or Falafel, Subinai! ;-)

                                                          1. missmar79 Feb 23, 2010 11:24 AM

                                                            on askmen.com - its on one of the 12 FOods You think are Healthy-
                                                            Here are their comments-

                                                            Number 2
                                                            Keep in mind that vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean that what you're eating is healthy. The chickpea-and-herb balls are fried and covered in creamy dressing, which means that a falafel pita can contain up to 550 calories and 32 grams of fat. The only good news is that Middle Eastern foods are generally low in saturated fat and high in iron, calcium and fiber.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: missmar79
                                                              Miss Needle Feb 23, 2010 11:32 AM

                                                              Ha ha. I had an ex who thought falafel was so healthy that he would eat two of them in a sitting for extra health benefits. I do have to say that the falafel was probably an improvement over those Campbell's condensed soup concoctions he used to eat.

                                                              1. re: missmar79
                                                                sillygoosedown Feb 23, 2010 07:17 PM

                                                                OMG. 550 calories?

                                                                1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                                  piccola Feb 24, 2010 02:55 AM

                                                                  That's probably a conservative figure.

                                                                  1. re: piccola
                                                                    julesrules Mar 7, 2010 08:40 AM

                                                                    I agree it's probably a conservative number. I don't think 500 - 700 calories is out of line for a meal though. Falafel wraps tend to be very filling and I can't imagine needing anything else at that sitting (what people need and what we actually eat are two very different things of course).

                                                                    1. re: julesrules
                                                                      piccola Mar 7, 2010 10:32 AM

                                                                      It's totally reasonable, depending on the person. I'm pretty little, so 700 calories is almost half my daily energy requirements.

                                                                      1. re: piccola
                                                                        Val Mar 7, 2010 11:38 AM

                                                                        Well, here's one dietician's take on falafel...in case anyone wants one person's qualified opinion on this beloved food...I like his website and have been reading it for a while now...the days I eat falafel for lunch which is about once a month, I just eat very lightly for the rest of the day:

                                                                        1. re: Val
                                                                          SeaSide Tomato Mar 11, 2010 06:06 AM

                                                                          Val--That's a reat blog. Thanks for the link!

                                                              2. q
                                                                quick.to.chuckle Mar 7, 2010 02:46 AM

                                                                I've read most of these posts and a lot of the time when people say if falafel heathly or not they are adding in a stipulation that it is slathered in sauce.

                                                                I make my falafel at home or I get it from Extreme Pita (SOOO good) and I never get it with sauce. I only have the falafel and a garden mix of green veggies in a whole grain pita. And every once and a while with cheese (<---YUM). I don't think the question is if the sauces you put on it make it unhealthy, but if the actual falafel is healthy. I, personally, could do a hell of a lot worse than non-greasy fried veggies topped with fresh veggies wrapped in whole grain.

                                                                So me? The way I eat it? Hell yeah I think it's healthy. Covered in sauce and greasy? Possibly no.

                                                                If I feel cleaner, lighter, and overall better by eating that rather than a burger with fries and a coke, I call that a win for the day. :o)

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: quick.to.chuckle
                                                                  piccola Mar 7, 2010 05:31 AM

                                                                  I can't speak for everyone else, but I answered thinking only of the actual falafel, since I rarely eat it in a sandwich.

                                                                  My take is, the ingredients are healthy, but it is fried food, so probably higher in fat and calories. So if to you, "healthy" means "not fattening," this is probably a sometimes food. If you're talking nutrients, then falafel at least has a lot of protein and fibre.

                                                                  1. re: piccola
                                                                    bigjeff Mar 8, 2010 06:55 AM

                                                                    what if you like lining the pita with some fries before adding the falafel balls? jokes, jokes.

                                                                    1. re: bigjeff
                                                                      PotatoPuff Dec 13, 2010 04:21 PM

                                                                      hey, I know some places that do that.

                                                                      1. re: PotatoPuff
                                                                        bigjeff Dec 13, 2010 06:35 PM

                                                                        olympic pita, yes!

                                                                2. h
                                                                  HillJ Mar 7, 2010 01:11 PM

                                                                  We control the calories by a) making the mix from scratch, b) baking the falafel shaped balls instead of frying; c) omit the sauce and use lime instead and stuff the whole wheat pita with lots of crunchy greens. Just as tasty and much easier on the waistline. Plenty of recipes on the Net for a baked falafel version. So good.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: HillJ
                                                                    Val Mar 7, 2010 01:17 PM

                                                                    Good idea to bake it...the place I get my falafel now offers it in home-baked pitette pockets (like Tofouyan's) and they put fresh greens in there with whichever sauce you want: tzatziki or tahini. The place I used to buy it only offers it in a big bready wrap with side of either (get this) French Fries or Black Beans and rice--I kept asking them, why not a side of Greek salad???hmm? How come??? huh?? NOBODY needs all those carbs & calories!!!! ugh! New place=much better (and cheaper...$4.95)

                                                                    1. re: Val
                                                                      HillJ Mar 10, 2010 09:22 AM


                                                                      I just had these for lunch at a friends house. Oh my, perfection!

                                                                      1. re: HillJ
                                                                        Val Mar 10, 2010 10:14 AM

                                                                        Now...aren't they CUTE????!!!! And talk about gilding the lily...crabmeat and falafel...hmm...never would have thought of combining the two...

                                                                        1. re: Val
                                                                          HillJ Mar 10, 2010 11:22 AM

                                                                          Me either and it was delicious!

                                                                  2. j
                                                                    julesrules Aug 14, 2010 01:18 PM

                                                                    Falafel vs Big Mac


                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: julesrules
                                                                      piccola Aug 14, 2010 07:01 PM

                                                                      Honestly: I wasn't surprised at all. Falafel is delicious, partly because it's deep-fried and wrapped in deliciousness.

                                                                      1. re: piccola
                                                                        julesrules Aug 15, 2010 05:44 AM

                                                                        Yes I think we discussed the caloric potential upthread; I'm not surprised either. I still maintain that a falafel is probably "healthier" than a Big Mac, on some counts anyway.
                                                                        The funny thing about my continued defense of the falafel on this thread is that I don't even like them that much. I'll generally go for chicken shwarma instead, preferrably with hummus and tabouleh, rather than pickles and garlic mayo... ok now I know what I'm getting for lunch!

                                                                        1. re: julesrules
                                                                          piccola Aug 15, 2010 05:59 PM

                                                                          I'm sure it has way more fibre and nutrients than a Big Mac. And the fat is probably a healthier type.

                                                                          I love falafel, but I'm not sold on the whole pita sandwich thing. Would rather get the plate, which includes a couple salads.

                                                                    2. Tripeler Aug 15, 2010 07:05 AM

                                                                      Felafel is certainly healthy. IF the rest of your lifestyle is healthy. That includes regular exercise and laying off truly unhealthy foods. What makes felafel unhealthy is a sedentary lazy lifestyle.

                                                                      1. m
                                                                        muskokagirl Dec 12, 2010 04:25 PM

                                                                        IMO, it would be a pretty healthy food if it weren't for the PITA. I agree that cooked properly the falafel shouldn't have a whole lot of fat, and I wouldn't worry much about the tahini or tzatziki. Yes, I know, you eat whole wheat pitas. Well, the bran and germ do have some small amounts of nutrients and fibre, but essentially you're still getting a whole lot of not-so-great carbohydrate, and gluten. I believe many people are not aware wheat may be having an adverse affect on their health, whether it's whole grain or not. I do not have celiac disease, but how good my digestive system feels is directly related to how much wheat I've been eating! I finally learned this (or rather, admitted this), and it was quite a sad day indeed because I love my wheat products. So, as wonderful as it is to bite into that gorgeous and tasty pita-wrapped falafel, perhaps your body would thank you to just sit down to a nice big salad with some falafel balls on top instead.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: muskokagirl
                                                                          NicoleFriedman Dec 12, 2010 05:03 PM

                                                                          I'm glad that you discovered your gluten intolerance. I've known people who are gluten intolerant and I know how tough it can be. However, if you are not gluten sensitive, there is nothing wrong with eating bread or wheat products in moderation. I'm not a nutritionist, but it doesn't make sense to me to avoid entire food groups unless there is a real medical reason for it.

                                                                          1. re: NicoleFriedman
                                                                            scubadoo97 Jan 16, 2012 05:24 PM

                                                                            agreed and pita is actually lower in calories than other breads. They are pretty thin

                                                                            1. re: scubadoo97
                                                                              julesrules Jan 18, 2012 09:03 AM

                                                                              Thin, but dense (compared to sandwich bread). When I look at the calorie counts on a bag of whole pita it seems about the same as two slices of bread (200 calories or so?). I guess it depends whether you eat a whole or half pita. Always down to portion size :)
                                                                              Another nutrition columnist's take on the Falafel:

                                                                              1. re: julesrules
                                                                                scubadoo97 Jan 18, 2012 11:45 AM

                                                                                I guess the ones I purchase from the middle eastern markets near me are quite thin with a lower calorie count than sandwich bread for the whole pita and that's 12 inch in diam.

                                                                        2. n
                                                                          NicoleFriedman Dec 12, 2010 05:06 PM

                                                                          Healthy? Yes, in moderation. "Lite eating"? Hell, no! I must say that falafel in NYC is a lot less caloric than in Israel. The falafel I got in Israel was enough to feed a 6"5 athlete- but I walked it off exploring Jerusalem. But the more "modest" falafel in NY is still quite high in calories. Yes, you can hold the tahini but why would you unless you don't like sesame? If you're going to eat fried food, go for it- just don't kid yourself that it's diet food.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: NicoleFriedman
                                                                            tatamagouche Dec 13, 2010 03:55 PM

                                                                            NF, could you elaborate on the differences between Israeli & American falafel?

                                                                            1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                              NicoleFriedman Dec 13, 2010 07:02 PM

                                                                              Mmmmmmm my mouth is watering. I'll admit that being in Israel for the first time in my life probably contributed to my love of the Israeli falafel, but then again I ate some not so great meals in Israel... but nothing beat this falafel! 1st, due to my starvation state (after walking pretty much the entirety of Jerusalem!), I ate it on laffa bread- which made the sandwich the size of a football. The bread also was homemade, which to me makes all the difference. Also, I got "the works"- tahini, hummus, babbaganoush, tabouli, roasted and marinated veggies, cabbage, pickles... I guess the big difference was the variety which I have never found in the US.

                                                                          2. m
                                                                            Morticia Dec 12, 2010 05:51 PM

                                                                            I just made some very healthy falafel sandwiches using my brand-new ecologically sound non-stick pan. I don't know the exact calorie count - but I shaped the falafel mix into patties and pan-fried them in a very tiny amount of oil (less than a teaspoon for each batch of 3 patties). Then I put them into 100% whole grain pita pockets, with chopped onion, parsley, chopped red bell pepper, some homemade hummus, and a little bit of tahini sauce (made with garlic, lemon juice & a little tahini). They were wonderful & I am willing to bet they would beat a Big Mac hands down for nutritional value!

                                                                            1. Midlife Jan 16, 2012 05:31 PM

                                                                              My first experience with falafel was in Israel, about 30 years ago and I loved it. Never gave the healthiness a second thought back then. Here in SoCal I've yet to find any I like, or that comes even close to the texture and taste of what I remember. This has made falafel pretty easy to stay away from.

                                                                              The Israeli falafel was from a food stand somewhere in Tel Aviv and I remember it as being rather soft in texture, though it WAS fried. Almost all falafel I've tried here is harder on the outside and pretty dry on the inside. Disappointing in comparison. What they serve as falafel at a chain like Daphne's is like hockey pucks...... not even deserving of the name.

                                                                              If I could find falafel like I remember I wouldn't care HOW fattening it was.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Midlife
                                                                                mucho gordo Jan 16, 2012 06:28 PM

                                                                                I'm with you, Midlife. My first experience was when I came to So CA 50 years ago. There was an Israeli cafe on Hollywood Blvd near La Brea. The falafel was delicious and I've not found it's equal since.

                                                                              2. westsidegal Jan 17, 2012 10:07 AM

                                                                                it depends on what kind of fat they are using:
                                                                                are they using trans-fat (hydrogenated) fat or pure vegetable oil?

                                                                                1. m
                                                                                  meinNYC Jan 18, 2012 03:54 PM

                                                                                  I buy my Thelma falafel in a box. Add the water, flatten them a bit, but a smidge of olive oil on a pan and bake till done. Really taste great. Don't know why the package doesn't give that option.
                                                                                  Dress salad with lemon, add a TBS of humus and you're good to go.

                                                                                  1. iL Divo Apr 1, 2012 07:19 AM

                                                                                    about the question of how unhealthy it is, don't know.
                                                                                    but do know that soon enough I'll be visiting here to taste something delicious

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: iL Divo
                                                                                      sandylc Apr 1, 2012 10:15 AM

                                                                                      One of the hits says it's closed?????

                                                                                    2. r
                                                                                      rer262 Apr 17, 2012 09:15 PM

                                                                                      To me, it's between healthy and unhealthy and is mislabeled as health food. It's not like a cheeseburger or french fries kind of crazy calorie indulgence - the average sandwich without white sauce (which is unpredictable place to place) will run you 600-700 calories, and you're getting from a ton of different food groups. That said, people say chickpea is loaded with protein, but compared to what? It's like any other bean - you're maybe getting 15g of protein per sandwich which is around 1 slice of pizza's worth, or one 50 cent pack of planter's peanuts and much less than a single can of tuna or one piece of grilled chicken. Per calorie, it is not a great way to build muscle. It's better than a big mac or gyro, but can't compare to even a turkey breast sandwich at subway or grilled chicken sandwich without mayo in terms of health.

                                                                                      1. a
                                                                                        APK_101 Feb 5, 2014 10:46 AM

                                                                                        I know this is a way old thread, but I was searching for nutritional data on falafel and this came up. I made falafel from scratch for the first time last night, and pan (not deep) fried them in olive oil. Then I added them to a Greek salad with lots of other veggies rather than putting them in a pita. Chickpeas are a legume so along with their decent amount of protein there are a decent amount of carbs. Seemed like chickpeas + pita would be carb overload. It was delicious and totally within my standards of healthy (vegetarian protein, veggies, healthy fats, easy on the carbs).

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: APK_101
                                                                                          Val Feb 5, 2014 12:33 PM


                                                                                          1. re: APK_101
                                                                                            cresyd Feb 6, 2014 04:53 AM

                                                                                            I think like many many other things in life - when we make it at home, it'll always end up being healthier. When I'd get falafel out, it would always come deep fried, I'd always get lots of tahina and sauces, and always seek out the places that have fried veggies for topping.

                                                                                            May not be fried chicken and fries unhealthy - but hardly ranks in my book as a light or healthy meal.

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