Eating Healthy at…Italian Restaurants

If you’re trying to lose weight, or eat healthier in general, there’s no need to avoid your favorite restaurants or takeout places completely.  It’s absolutely possible to enjoy a healthy, satisfying meal when you eat out, as long as you come prepared to make the right choices.  For the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on healthy (and not-so-healthy) menu items at different types of restaurants.  This week’s cuisine of choice is Italian, which isn’t just limited to dishes smothered in cheese and sauce!

Italian food, in the traditional sense of the word, can be extremely healthy.  In fact, the popular and effective Mediterranean diet includes foods that heart-healthy Italians have been eating for centuries!  The next time you’re dining out at an Italian restaurant, follow these tips to create a meal that would make any Italian grandmother proud:

  • The bread basket can be tempting. Stick to one piece, and avoid dipping your bread in olive oil.  Even though it’s heart-healthy, olive oil is high in calories that can add up fast when you’re not paying attention to how much you’re actually putting on your bread.
  • If you order a pasta dish, ask for whole wheat pasta to add fiber and protein to your meal.
  • Meatballs are typically fried and made from ground beef; see if the restaurant offers a lighter alternative, like baked turkey meatballs, instead.
  • Opt for marinara sauce or garlic and olive oil on top of your dish rather than alfredo sauce or pesto – both are made with high-fat and high-calorie ingredients like cheese and cream.
  • Choose a dish that includes lots of grilled or roasted veggies – there should be plenty of them on the menu!
  • For flavor, top your meal with parmesan cheese – a little goes a long way, and the cheese’s strong flavor will help you feel more full and satisfied.

Next week, I’ll share some strategies for making healthier choices at Chinese restaurants.  If you have a favorite cuisine you’d like to see featured in an upcoming post, send me an email.

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