Eating out isn't usually very healthy, and while an Italian restaurant may sound like a better choice than a fast food restaurant, this isn't always the case. These restaurants typically have very large portion sizes, so the calories can really add up. However, there are a few steps you can take to make your meal a healthier one when eating at Italian restaurants.
The first thing to do is watch the portion size. This may be easier if you ask the server to bring you a take-home box along with your meal and place half of the meal in the box before even starting to eat. Some menus also make this easier by marking the lower-calorie options on the menu, such as those that are 500 calories or less. A standard portion of pasta is about a cup. You can also follow the USDA's ChooseMyPlate guideline, which suggests that half of your plate should be split between fruits and vegetables and the other half should be split between proteins and grains.
Healthier Food Choices
When eating at Italian restaurants, opt for dishes that aren't fried and opt for the marinara sauce or clam sauce instead of the creamy sauces or meat sauces. If choosing pizza, choose one with lots of vegetables and a thin crust. Primavera and marsala dishes tend to be good choices, as long as the recipe the restaurant uses doesn't include cream. Avoid the lasagna, alfredo, and parmesan dishes, which tend to be among those highest in calories on the menu. Soup is a better choice for a starter than bread with olive oil or fried calamari, as is a salad as long as you get the dressing on the side. Chicken and fish are lower in calories and more healthy than beef or pork dishes, unless the chicken is fried and the beef is grilled.
Other Tips for Ordering Dishes
Avoid dishes that are described as fried, creamy, battered, crispy, or made with butter or cheese. A simple dish with a piece of meat with two sides is usually a more nutritious choice than a casserole dish. For a smaller meal, consider ordering an appetizer as a main dish, ordering a lunch-size portion or splitting a meal with a friend. Make healthy trade-offs, such as choosing to have only one higher-calorie item during the meal. For example, if you want to have dessert, skip the bread at the beginning and choose a noncaloric beverage.
Now that you know what to avoid if you're watching your calories, feel free to visit an Italian restaurant like Tony & Joe's Pizzeria.