Tips for eating healthy when ordering Italian food

Believe it or not, you can eat well and still be health-conscious when dining at an Italian restaurant. Try these tips and tricks for satisfying that comfort food craving without busting your calorie budget.

Start light
An Italian meal is not complete without pasta and sauce. To offset your initial hunger, start with a salad and skip the garlic bread. A caprese salad provides antioxidants from the tomatoes or opt for a small dinner salad with oil and vinegar on the side. Another healthier choice is a cup of pasta e fagioli or minestrone soup, both of which are broth-based and typically loaded with beans and vegetables.

Portion before you eat
Being careful about how much you eat is a great way to maintain a healthy diet without feeling deprived. The majority of pasta dishes can be close to two servings. Ask for a to-go box right away, in order to portion out the meal before you begin eating. This will leave you feeling satisfied but not stuffed.

Look for healthier options
Many popular dishes offered at Italian restaurants are ones that are traditionally reserved for holidays and special occasions in Italy — and they tend to be very high in fat and calories. Fortunately, you can still find plenty of healthy and tasty options on most Italian menus.

Because Italy is surrounded by the sea on three sides, nearly every Italian restaurant offers one or more seafood dishes. Try the grilled fish. It is often prepared with olives, capers and a variety of vegetables — and even cannellini beans — making it super flavorful and satisfying.

Choose either a tomato sauce or an olive oil-based sauce instead of a high-fat cream sauce.

At home, skip the pasta and make zucchini ribbons by using a spiral cutter. Add tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, bell peppers, onion, cheese and your favorite pasta sauce. You won’t miss the pasta because the dish has so much flavor.

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