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What to Eat/What Not To Eat: Italian Restaurants

By: Caley Walsh

The Mediterranean diet, which encompasses a great portion of Italian food, is famous as one of the healthiest in the world. A reliance on olive oil as the primary fat, abundant fruits and vegetables and low consumption of red meat are all factors in this healthy diet. While much of the food on offer at many Italian restaurants in American will hardly resemble this healthy diet, you can enjoy the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet with the right menu selections.

What to Eat

  • Minestrone- This broth-based vegetable soup is a great, healthy way to begin any meal. Filling though low in calories, you will eat less for the rest of the meal when you start with soup.
  • Tomato Sauce- Cooked tomato sauces, such as marinara, are full of cancer-fighting lycopene. Try spaghetti marinara or even better, arrabiata which has a bit of chili to boost your metabolism.
  • Marsala Sauce- Marsala is a kind of fortified red wine produced in Italy, similar to port. This is often used in Italian dishes, such as a reduction made with onions and shallots.
  • Grilled Fish- A common way to serve fish at Italian restaurants is grilled with lemon and capers. This is a great way to get a healthy meal.
  • Thin-Crust Pizza- If you order pizza, go for thin-crust and stick to vegetables. Avoid high-fat pepperoni or sausage.
  • Primavera- Literally meaning “spring,” these dishes are based on fresh produce such as peas, zucchini and broccoli.

What Not to Eat

  • Cream Sauce- Avoid alfredo or carbonora sauces or any other creamy sauce, as these are loaded with calories. Stick with tomato sauces, marsala or pesto (generally made with fresh basil).
  • Parmigiana- Veal, chicken or even eggplant parmigiana are breaded, fried and served under a heap of melted parmesan cheese.
  • Lasagna- Lasagna al forno combines a creamy white sauce with high-calorie egg pasta. Meat lasagna adds even more calories. If you love lasagna, go for a spinach or vegetable version with marinara sauce.
  • Dessert- Skip the fattening tiramisu or panna cotta. Stick to fresh fruit for dessert (even if you have to have it at home).


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