20 Ways to Cut Calories at Italian Restaurants

Ready to eat tasty Italian food with a healthy twist? Before you sit down for a meal at your favorite Italian restaurant, think about how much food and how many calories you plan to eat.

With a variety of choices like soup, salad, bread, pasta and maybe dessert, it would be easy to meet or exceed your daily recommended allowance for calories, saturated fat and sodium at just one lunch or dinner.

Just focusing on calories, here are some ways you can cut your calories the next time you eat Italian.

1. Forget the formaggio! Cheese tastes good, but all those calories add up fast. Limit the amount of cheese in your entrée, like the popular mozzarella, Gorgonzola and fontina. Be careful, too, about adding a sprinkle or two (or more) of Parmesan cheese. One tablespoon of Parmesan has about 20 calories. And who uses just one tablespoon?

2. Skip the breadsticks and rolls. Pass on the breadbasket, and you’ll save lots of unwanted calories.

3. Don’t butter your bread! If you do have bread, opt for oil, not butter as a topping. According to a Cornell University Study of 341 diners about oil vs. butter, olive oil users ate 23 percent less bread at their meal than those using butter.

4. Order Italian soup instead of an entrée. You’ll still get major Mediterranean flavor without all the guilt.

5. Avoid heavy, creamy salad dressings. Top your salads with low-calorie and low-fat dressings, like a splash of olive oil and vinegar, instead of heavy ones like Caesar salad dressing or Creamy Italian.

6. Say “Ciao” to carbonara. This fattening style of food prep involves cooking the pasta with pork fat, cheese and eggs. All of those carbonara calories add up fast.

7. Substitute veggies whenever possible. Replace hefty pasta sides such as penne with fresh vegetables like broccoli, zucchini or squash.

8. Stay away from lunchmeats in your meal. Italian lunchmeats like prosciutto and mortadella are loaded with fat and sodium and are high in calories, too.

9. Order whole wheat pasta.  Whole grain pasta may or may not have fewer calories than the refined white variety, but the extra fiber will fill you up and offer more satisfaction in a smaller portion size.

10. Order beans. Fill up on traditional Italian-style beans such as cannellini and fava. Even ordering pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans) is a good choice since you’re filling up on pasta and beans, not noodles alone.

11.Say no to fettuccine Alfredo. It’s not the pasta that’s so rich in this recipe; it’s the heavy Alfredo sauce made of butter, Parmesan cheese and sometimes eggs or starch.

12. Choose fish. Many Italian dishes have good-for-you, low-cal seafood like shrimp and clams.

13. Don’t order dishes that are “frito,” a.k.a fried. Keep extra calories off your plate by not ordering any “frito” foods.

14. Order hot and spicy! Rev up your appetite and your metabolism with Italian entrées served “fra diavolo.” The term, which is Italian for “devil” refers to foods that have a fire-y taste, typically from spicy red peppers. Another tasty and spicy choice? Foods served “arrabbiata,” the Italian word for angry. That means the dish has good heat.

15. Stay away from stuffed pastas. Eat them and you’ll be stuffed with extra calories and extra fat from cheeses and other fillers.

16.Order pizza but make it healthy. Who says you can’t eat pizza and still stay on track? Choose whole wheat, thin-crust pizza and opt for veggies over meats as toppings. Don’t eat the whole pizza, either.

Let a dietitian do the work for you!  Order one of our dietitian hand-picked choices next time you’re in the mood for Italian!