In today’s health-conscious world, it is increasingly difficult to eat out without feeling like the whole diet has been blown. The good news is that this does not always have to be the case. With the right approach, anyone can enjoy a great meal at an Italian restaurant without the guilt. Knowing what things to avoid and what foods are healthy, even those on strict or restricted food diets can enjoy eating out and stay within most eating plans.
Italian Food for Dieters
Before looking for something on the menu that is acceptable, there are a few things to understand that can help everyone make the best choices possible:
Italian Food Can Be Healthy – In actuality, traditional Italian cuisine outside of a restaurant and prepared the original way is very healthy. In the modern world, our biggest issue is poor ingredients and excessive portions. If those two things are addressed, an Italian meal does not have to mean an unhealthy meal. Keep portion sizes down and look for options made with fresh and healthy ingredients.
Variety is The Spice of Italian Eating – There is much more to Italian cuisine than just pasta and pizza, which is great news for anyone dieting! A vast selection of meat and vegetable-based dishes exist, so cutting down on carbohydrates and dairy is not as difficult as it may seem.
What to Avoid
Following are some of the things that should be avoided when eating at an Italian restaurant and trying to cut down on calories:
Cream Sauces – Because of the calories and fat content, dieters should avoid cream-based sauces. While this may mean passing on the Fettuccine Alfredo, the Pasta Primavera made with vegetables and a lighter, olive oil sauce is much healthier and just as tasty.
Excessive Cheese – Cheese is one of the best things about Italian food that dieters can still enjoy in moderation. Inquire about low-fat versions, ask that less be used in the dish, and pass on any extra. Finding a restaurant willing to adjust by request should not be difficult.
Fried Anything – Traditionally, there is not much frying done in Italian cooking. Avoid foods altogether that are fried and splurge instead on baked and roasted dishes.
Wheat – The wheat in bread and pasta accounts for most of the calories and carbohydrates in the food we eat today. To improve Italian meals, skip the rolls and other bread; fill up on salad instead. Try bread-free and pasta-free dishes if available and if not, keep the portion size small and add other, healthier ingredients to balance out the carbohydrates.
What to Seek
Following are some of the more hearty things to look for when dieting:
Salads – Whether eating a garden salad, cold vegetable salad, or antipasto, filling up on vegetables before a main course is recommended as it is a much healthier option that is lower in carbohydrates and fats. Be careful about adding cheese and meat, since both can undo the good of a big bowl of salad. Stick to vinaigrette and lighter dressings rather than heavier ones.
Tomato-Based Sauces – Anything made with a tomato base will likely be healthier and lower in fat and calories than any heavier preparation with cheese and cream. Oil and garlic makes a good sauce for some dishes as well and is a healthier option.
Healthy Pizza – Sometimes cravings cannot be ignored for a slice of pizza. It is possible to have that pizza and remain on that diet. Choose a thin, traditional, single crust; ask for less cheese and add healthy toppings like vegetables and lean meat while skipping the fat-laden meats.
Most diets do provide for an occasional splurge, which leaves many ways to eat at an Italian restaurant and not feel like it is the end of the diet. Many restaurants are willing to adjust a dish to better fit the needs of their patrons, so it never hurts to ask; just plan ahead of time to allow for a few extra fats and carbohydrates that day. Make common sense choices, don’t consider the dishes that should be limited, and enjoy the meal – buon appetito!