Six Healthy Foods To Order At An Italian Restaurant

Posted on: 15 April 2015


Italian restaurants are known for their piles of pasta, meat-laden pizzas and baskets of garlic bread. However, if you're trying to eat a healthy diet, you don't have to bypass your favorite Italian eatery. There are quite a few healthy--and delicious--things to order on most Italian menus. You just have to know where to look.

Health menu choices at an Italian restaurant

1. Soups. Instead of loading up on garlic bread and salads with a lot of dressing and cheese while you wait for your entree to arrive, opt instead for a cup or bowl of soup. Italian soups, such as minestrone and pasta fagioli (pasta and bean), are loaded with vegetables and beans that will help to fill you up without adding empty calories.

2. Try piccata. Veal or chicken piccata is prepared by lightly sauteeing the meat and serving it with a lemon, olive oil and caper sauce. This type of preparation has a lot less fat than heavy red or cream sauces.

3. Opt for simple tomatoes rather than sauce. Diced tomatoes and basil are a traditional Italian topping and a much healthier alternative to a red sauce. Look for "al pomodoro" on the menu or ask your server if you can substitute.

4. Ask about whole wheat pastas. Whole wheat spaghetti, ziti and penne are making an increasingly frequent appearance on Italian restaurant menus. These pastas contain more complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest (making you feel full longer and helping to prevent blood sugar spikes.) These pastas also contain fiber, for good digestive health. Even if you don't see whole wheat pasta on the menu, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes the restaurant can make a substitution.

5. Choose olive oil over butter sauces. Butter sauces, like alfredo, contain enough calories to wreck your diet for the entire day. Choose healthier olive oil-based sauces, like puttanesca, instead.

6. Go grilled instead of fried. Many Italian restaurants offer grilled alternatives to traditional fried foods. For example, if you enjoy seafood, order the grilled octopus as an appetizer instead of the more common fried calamari. For a lighter entree, choose grilled lemon chicken instead of fried and cheese-laden chicken parmesan.

Maintaining a healthy diet doesn't have to mean skipping your favorite Italian eateries. Just be careful with ordering and opt for healthy items like soups, foods prepared with olive oil not butter, and grilled, not fried, foods.