Eating Out Series: Italian

An authentic Italian meal is not easy to turn down. Well good news, we can enjoy our favorite cuisines while adhering to our nutrition goals by a little planning and mindfulness. Consider the following ideas when dining out at an Italian restaurant:

  1. Order a salad to start with the dressing on the side. If you begin the meal loaded with vegetables, you will feel satiated sooner when eating your entrée. If you have leftovers for a to-go box, this allows for another Italian meal the next day

  2. Be selective with which carbohydrates take priority. Italian cuisine is rooted in carbohydrates…pasta, pizza, and bread. For example, if we want both bread and pasta, we should reduce the serving size of each. When the bread comes, put half a piece/roll on your plate and move the basket out of reach. Ordering the pasta as a side (not main course) can be helpful in reducing portions. Portion a smaller serving to eat, and box the rest to enjoy for another meal. If ordering pizza, you can ask for thin crust to decrease the carb content.

  3. Choose red sauce over rich butter or cream sauce. A tomato-based sauce has approximately 400 calories and 45 grams of fat less than a cream sauce. Be cognizant of dishes with “al forno”, as this means topped with extra cheese, oil, and breadcrumbs. If you do happen to order a creamy sauce, ask for the sauce on the side so that you have full control over how much of the sauce is eaten.

  4. Look for and select grilled meat. This might be listed as “al mattone.” This a more nutritious choice than breaded chicken (e.g., chicken cacciatore or parmesan), as it reduces the fat and carbohydrate content. You can identify fried dishes by looking out for the word “fritto.” Fish is another healthy option compared to beef, sausage, or veal-based entrees. Again, if ordering a higher-fat meat, portion control is a game changer.

  5. Wine (why) not have a glass? Red wine has heart-related benefits due to its antioxidants. Dry wines such as Pinot Noir and Merlot are low in sugar and calories. No matter which wine you choose, sip slowly and drink several sips of water to 1 sip of wine. You may feel satisfied with a half of glass, while still enjoying the flavor paired with the Italian food.

And as the Italians say, “Buon appetito!”


Co Authors: Katelyn Greenleaf & Ciana Bonfiglio

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Hi, my name is Katelyn Greenleaf, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist

NuLeaf Nutrition strives to...

1. Provide scientifically-backed information to help athletes find a nutrition plan that fits their individual health/fitness goals.

2. Educate people in achieving optimal nutrition in attempts to prevent the development of chronic diseases. 

3. Improve total health by emphasizing balance in the diet and physical activity.

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