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How to Dine Out: Italian Food

italian foodNavigating the menu at an Italian restaurant can pose many challenges and if you are the type to shy away from carbs then it can become that much harder. I am a big supporter of well-balanced meals, which entails a mixture of protein, carbohydrates and fat. These types of meal combinations can be found in many areas on the menu at an Italian restaurant, but it’s easy to get tripped up with all cheesy goodness that is woven throughout as well.

From pizza to parmesan and even baked ziti there are some pitfalls that if avoided will help keep your dining experience a yummy, but healthy one, too.

Italian entrée recommendations:

  • Pasta Primavera – a nice pasta dish loaded with vegetables in a tomato sauce
  • Linguini Aglio e Olio – in place of tomato sauce this pasta dish relies on olive oil (healthy fat), garlic and hot pepper for a great kick in flavoring
  • Penne Puttanesca – a great pasta dish based again on tomato sauce with the addition of olives, capers and anchovies
  • Chicken Picatta – is a dish made of chicken cutlets with capers, lemon, and white wine

Italian menu tips:

  • Appetizers – A great option to begin your meal is with a nice salad or antipasto that can be split with the table. Avoid any of the fried options such as calamari, mozzarella sticks or even the garlic bread loaded with cheese.
  • Pizza – A staple in many Italian restaurants, but also heavy in the calorie and fat category with all that cheese. An average slice with just cheese can run upwards of 300 calories and 10 grams of fat. Try opting for low-fat mozzarella cheese and be selective on your toppings. The more veggies you can add and the less pepperoni, ground beef and sausage the better.
  • Parmesan – When a meal is listed as chicken parmesan or any variety of parmesan, immediately the meal entails breading, frying, and of course cheese. This type of meal can run you upwards of 900-1000 calories alone. Try instead for a chicken breast sautéed in white wine with garlic, rosemary and yummy spices.
  • Pasta – The list of pasta dishes can sometimes be overwhelming with the variation of sauces and noodles. Start with a whole grain noodle option if possible, not all restaurants have them but it can’t hurt to ask. Cream sauces will also add up quickly in the calorie and fat count, but a marinara sauce brings that down significantly.

Buon Appetito and stay tuned next week as the How to Dine Out Series continues with “How to Dine out: Chinese.”pasta and veggies

Try these healthy Italian recipes at home:

Old Fashioned Macaroni and Cheese

Pasta with Zucchini and Fresh Tomatoes

Quinoa Pasta with Creamy Pesto and Tomatoes

Roasted Garlic and Onion Linguine

Angel Hair with Rockin’ Red Clam Sauce

October 31st, 2009

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