Eating Healthy When Dining Out: Italian Cuisine

bowl of minestrone soup with bread

Taking the family out for Italian food on a Sunday has become as common as watching the football game together, or taking a trip to your grandmother's house.

There is the grossly indulgent way to eat Italian food, and then there is the healthy way. Here are some examples of ways to enjoy Italian cuisine with a health-conscious mind.

Opt For The Tomato Sauce

The classic tomato ingredient can be used in pizza or pasta sauce. This beloved vegetable is full of lycopene, known to protect against multiple forms of cancer.

It's always better to select a sauce with a tomato base than a cheese base, such as alfredo or carbonara. These are heavy with saturated fats. Parmesan dishes are fried and breaded. If you stick with the family of tomato-related products, you can avoid many of the heavier fat options on the menu. 

It's also important to note that even with the lighter sauces, a little bit goes a long way in terms of flavor. Ask your waiter if the order can be prepared with less sauce. Or you can just ask for the sauce on the side, and then you can use your spoon to drizzle it onto your dish so that your meal isn’t drowning in it.

Split Your Favorite Dishes

You don't want to go to an Italian restaurant and sit there sad and disappointed with a plate of lettuce in front of you. If you want to still taste your favorite dishes while being mindful of your calorie intake, a great idea is to share an appetizer together as a table—or to order an appetizer-sized version of a pasta dish you like. 

Appetizer options you want to go for could include soup, like minestrone, or grilled fish, like calamari. Italian cuisine offers a delicious array of grilled vegetable dishes, like peppers, eggplants and green beans. Those make fabulous side dishes, and will keep you full for longer than just a slice or two of pizza.

Cut Calories, Without Missing Out

Be sure to keep your vegetables plain, they don't need a sauce. If you want to spruce up your vegetables with a little bit of flavor, ask for a lemon or additional spices.

If you must have dessert, go for a skim milk coffee or cappuccino. There will also likely be a sorbet option on the menu, which you can split with your fellow diners.