When you think of Italian dining in America, you think of pasta, pizza, and other dishes high in carbs and high in calories. Yes, pasta is central to Italian cuisine.
The truth is, Italians eat pasta very differently than we do in America. Learning about how Italians prepare and eat their food is key to learning how to eat healthy when dining out at an Italian restaurant in America.
Eating healthy Italian food at home or in a restaurant is not as hard as you think it is. You simply need to know how to. Check out these 5 recommendations for healthy Italian eating.
1. Aglio e Olio
Pasta isn’t your enemy. Sure you want to lose weight in 2021, but you don’t have to avoid pasta completely. Rather than mourn the loss of the food you love, learn how to eat it.
In America, we often conceive of pasta as the main course. These dishes come with rich, heavy sauces high in calories like Alfredo and ragu. In Italy, pasta is often served in small portions in between the salad and main course.
These smaller pasta portions are dressed with a light, fresh sauce. One of the most common Italian recipes is Aglio e Olio, which translates to olive oil and garlic.
It’s a sauce with a few, simple ingredients that serve as a healthy alternative to other sauces. It’s extra virgin olive oil, garlic, a pinch of salt, red pepper flake, and fresh parsley.
This dish is so simple to make that even if an Italian restaurant doesn’t feature it on its menu, they can prepare it. It’s so easy to prepare, you can prepare it for a quick lunch or a late-night snack and not fret about your calorie count.
2. Pasta e Fagioli
Mediterranean diet habits are some of the healthiest in the world. Italians eat fresh foods that are high in protein. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans make up a considerable portion of the Italian diet.
Did you know many dieticians and doctors recommend eating legumes to aid weight loss and maintain a healthy diet? There are so many great recipes that feature beans.
When you’re out at your favorite Italian restaurant, one of the ways you can eat healthily is to swap out appetizers for a soup. Many great restaurants feature minestrone, escarole, and white bean soup, or pasta e fagioli on their menu.
Rather than a plate of fried calamari or fried artichokes, opt for a fresh bowl of soup rich in tomato, garlic, and beans. The best thing about this recipe, like all great healthy Italian food ideas, is that it’s so simple to make.
You can whip up a pot of pasta e fagioli on a busy weeknight in less than an hour.
Seafood is a huge part of the Italian Mediterranean diet. Surrounded by the ocean, Italy features some of the best fish, mollusks, and shellfish in the world.
Like pasta dishes, enjoying healthy Italian food is all about how it is prepared. Italians enjoy their fish poached or broiled. There are many variations of seafood stew and seafood pasta dishes to prepare and enjoy.
If you enjoy your fish breaded and fried, consider poaching as the Italians do. If you’re dining out, seafood options on an Italian restaurant’s menu tend to be the healthier option.
Look for menu items like broiled Branzino or Sea Bass. If they aren’t already, these seafood dishes will become your favorite Italian food.
4. Wine-Based Sauces
Here’s the truth when it comes to dining out in America. Everything is loaded with butter. All the sauces, most of the vegetables, and much of the proteins (meats) we enjoy have either been sauteed, baked, or broiled with it.
Traditional Italian cooking, unlike French cuisine or American cuisine, skips cooking with butter or animal fats for olive oil. If dining out, be wary of all the butter that could be in your favorite Italian food.
Look for dishes that feature a wine or olive oil-based sauce like marsala dishes or linguine alla vongole (linguine with clam sauce).
While it might be impossible for chefs to accommodate no butter modifications in many of their sauces or dishes, you should feel free to ask. Any talented server can guide you through a menu to get the healthy options you want.
Pizza delivery is an American staple. It’s communal party food. It’s a delicious, quick alternative to cooking.
It’s also the last resort for you when you’re not sure what to eat for dinner. Though you may think pizza is off the list for your 2021 healthy eating resolution, think again.
There are many ways to eat healthy take-out, especially pizza. What you need to do when ordering pizza is to think about how you order pizza.
Are you a big fan of pepperoni, sausage, and bacon? Is your go-to a large, meat-lovers? Eliminate the greasy, calorie-loaded toppings.
Traditional Italian pizza is light on the cheese and heavy on the tomatoes and garlic. Though some restaurants serve traditional pizzas, many take-out pizza shops don’t offer them.
The best way to navigate pizza in America is to control your pizza portions. Are you ordering for yourself? Rather than opt for a large or extra-large that will sit in your fridge for days, order a small with a salad.
Pizza chains offer many great money-saving deals that you can still take advantage of while trying to eat healthily. This Dominos 50% off deal is fantastic for your healthier pizza nights.
There is Healthy Italian Food
When it comes to healthy Italian food, simple is better. When dining out at your favorite Italian restaurant this year, skip the fried foods and creamy sauces and order items with more traditional preparation.
When cooking at home, rely on ingredients like garlic, high-quality olive oil, and fresh herbs to carry the flavor for your pasta sauces. Avoid animal fats and butter.
Don’t be afraid of pizza. A pizza can be part of a healthy Italian diet if you change the way you order it.
Do you need more healthy diet tips? Check out our other lifestyle articles.