Following a few of these ways to eat healthfully at an Italian restaurant will not derail your healthy eating goals. While most Italian meals are full of creams, cheese and carbohydrates, it's absolutely possible to eat healthy at an Italian restaurant too! It all comes down to ordering the right way if you want to eat a nutritious Italian meal. Italian food is savory, filling and a staple enjoyed by many families - and it can actually be healthy too! Follow a few of these ways to eat healthfully at an Italian restaurant and you won't ever feel guilty again when you leave the restaurant.
1. Skip the Bread Basket
One of the first ways to eat healthfully at an Italian restaurant is to pass on the bread basket right at the beginning of the meal. Italian bread is made from white flour which has been stripped of all of its nutritional quality. It is low in fiber and will cause your blood sugar to rise and drop before your meal even comes. If you just can't pass on the bread basket, limit yourself to one serving of bread dipped in a delicious olive oil to slow down your digestion. Order a salad at the start of your meal and soon you won't even miss the bread basket.
2. Choose a Healthy App
Many Italian appetizers are served fried or soaked in cream, providing far too many calories before you have even taken one bite of your meal. Instead, choose appetizers like minestrone, bruschetta or a green salad and you will save on calories without skipping on vitamins, minerals and flavor. Choose dishes made with olive oil which is high in heart healthy fats, instead of cream which is high in unhealthy saturated fat. Choose something light enough to hold you over until your meal comes.
3. Choose a Lighter Dinner
Often, Italian meals are full of creams and full fat cheeses which really add up bite after bite. While they might be tasty, these dishes are very high in calories and fat which can be very damaging to your health over time. Instead of creamy casseroles and cheese-filled pastas, order dishes with a red based sauce that are tossed in olive oil instead of cream. Another way to order healthfully is to order items baked, broiled, grilled or steamed - order double veggies for another added health bonus!
4. Go Light on the Cheese
Cheese is one of those foods that sometimes less really is more. Too much cheese not only takes over the entire taste of the dish, but it also adds a lot of fat and calories too! Ask the kitchen to go easy on the cheese and you probably won’t even notice the difference but your waistline sure will! Request only a little bit of a high quality cheese to really enjoy the creamy taste for much fewer calories.
5. Don't Pick up the Salt Shaker
Unfortunately, nearly all Italian dishes are very high in sodium due to the sauces, creams and added salt. As I’ve mentioned before, sodium acts like a sponge in your body causing your body to retain water, leaving you feeling bloated and stuffed. This can be very damaging to your heart as your veins and arteries have to work much harder to pump the blood throughout your body. While there is very little that you can do at a restaurant to reduce the sodium content, there is at least one thing that you can do - leave the salt shaker on the table. Most Italian dishes do not need any added salt since they are usually cooked in water and sauces that are already high in added salt.
It’s no secret that restaurant portions are growing larger and larger every single day. Most dishes at an Italian restaurant are easily enough for two if not three people to share! Start your meal with a salad and then split an entrée with someone at the table, and instead of leaving stuffed and in a “food coma” you will feel satisfied and content! If there isn’t anyone there to share with you, simply request that half be placed in a to-go box before it even arrives at the table. That way, you aren’t tempted to overeat and you will have a delicious lunch for tomorrow too!
7. Choose Whole Grain
Most Italian restaurants now offer whole grain pasta substitutions right on the menu. Whole grains are much higher in vitamins, minerals and fiber than pastas made out of white flour; because of this, whole grain pastas are a much healthier alternative! I have noticed that some restaurants don’t list that they offer whole grain pastas anywhere on their menu, but if you ask them for it, they often have a stash in the back somewhere and are happy to serve it right up! Many restaurants even offer gluten-free options for those who choose to omit gluten from their diet. You don’t have to feel bad about eating a little bit of pasta when it is whole grain pasta!
As you can see, with a few good choices, enjoying an Italian meal can actually be quite healthy. Start with a green salad and share a dish made with whole grain pasta with a red sauce and a grilled piece of lean poultry or fish and an Italian meal can be not only delicious but healthy too! What is your favorite healthy Italian dish?