Looking for some fool-proof ways to make Italian food healthier? Then you’ve come to the perfect spot. It might seem impossible that you can eat Italian food and still maintain a healthy lifestyle. But all it takes is tweaking a few recipes and ingredients to make your favorite Italian dishes more health-conscious. If you’re an Italiano at heart, keep reading for seven simple ways to make Italian food healthier.
Table of contents:
- bake instead of fry
- use part-skim or low-fat dairy products
- sneak vegetables into sauces and dishes
- substitute ground turkey for beef and ground chicken for pork
- make your own sauce
- enjoy insalata
- practice portion control
1 Bake Instead of Fry
One of the easiest ways to make Italian food healthier is to bake items you would normally fry. Are you an avid fan of eggplant or chicken Parmesan? You can still enjoy these foods without the fat. There are plenty of recipes online that allow you to bread the food but bake it instead of frying. Baking your eggplant or chicken will save you a ton of calories and lower the dish’s saturated fat content.
2 Use Part-Skim or Low-Fat Dairy Products
Here’s my rule of thumb for low/reduced-fat foods: if it doesn’t change the overall taste and composition of the dish, I’ll use it. I’ve made lasagna, baked ziti, and stuffed shells with both full-fat dairy as well as reduced or low fat dairy products and I haven’t really noticed that much of a difference. If you’re looking to reduce the calories of a dish, swapping full fat for light is a great start. Beware, however, of fat free products! Often they’re loaded with a ton of preservatives and artificial ingredients which in my opinion are worse than the full fat version.
3 Sneak Vegetables into Sauces and Dishes
Do you have children that can’t stand vegetables? Or do you struggle to meet the standard 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day? Try sneaking vegetables into sauces and other Italian foods. You can easily add green peppers and mushrooms to a savory tomato sauce. I’ve even substituted zucchini slices for lasagna noodles. Adding additional vegetables is a great way to get more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other nutrients which are essential to your health. Adding just one or two vegetables will make a huge difference!
4 Substitute Ground Turkey for Beef and Ground Chicken for Pork
One of the biggest culprits in Italian food is saturated fat. Between all the refined carbohydrates and fatty cuts of meat, Italian food unfortunately has a bad rap for being very fatty. If you’re looking for leaner sources of protein, try substituting ground turkey for ground beef and ground chicken for ground pork. Both substitutions in respect have similar flavor profiles to their counterpart. You don’t even have to make this change all at once. Slowly remove more beef/pork and add more turkey/chicken until your proteins are entirely turkey/chicken. Also remember to read the nutritional labels, making sure you’re buying the leanest cuts of turkey or chicken.
5 Make Your Own Sauce
Often traditional jarred sauces are loaded with sodium, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients. Gain more control by making your own sauce. There are plenty of online recipes to make a hearty tomato or alfredo sauce from scratch. If you’re worried that you won’t have enough time, do what I do: Make large batches of sauce, then store and freeze for later use. The next time you need tomato sauce for a recipe, all you’ll need to do is pull some out from your freezer and quickly defrost it.
6 Enjoy Insalata
Insalata may be Italian for ‘salad,’ but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary. Traditional Italian cuisine isn’t as heavy as you would think. There are even some regions that *gasp* don’t really consume pasta. One part of the Italian diet that Americans often overlook is the incorporation of fresh salads and vegetables. Before you indulge in heavy Italian cuisine, have a large salad to curb your hunger. You’ll end up eating less of the main course but still feel full.
7 Practice Portion Control
The portions you get at typical Italian restaurants are by no means for one person! I did an analysis of the food at a local Italian eatery and found the portions were five times the recommended average! When eating out at an Italian restaurant, don’t feel compelled to finish the entire entrée. Eat half and save the rest for another meal. You’ll be just as full on fewer calories.
Eating healthy is still possible, even if you’re a sucker for Italian food. Being more mindful of the ingredients you use is key to making meals you can enjoy every night! What are some of your sworn-by techniques for making Italian food healthier?
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