Is Italian on the menu for tonight? If it is, you may want to take note of the following tips if you’re keeping an eye on your kilojoule intake. Italian food is loved by most people, but there is no denying that there are many energy dense ingredients in Italian, like breads, pasta, oils and sauces. The following tips will help you to make better choices when dining out.
√ Avoid creamy sauces (sorry, that does include carbonara and alfredo). Albeit delicious, these are high in fat and high in energy. Adding to this is the fact that they are served with pasta – another energy dense ingredient. This means that the dish will pack a punch in terms of calories.
√ Watch the cheese! If ordering a pasta dish, you can ask them not to put any additional cheese on top.
Anything that has cheese as one of the main components (e.g. parmigiana, lasagne, cheesy risotto) will be contributing a significant amount of kilojoules and fat to the dish.
√ Avoid fried foods. This is ‘frito’ in Italian. Fried mozzarella is a popular starter – this is a VERY energy dense way to start your meal. Others include fried calamari.
√ Swap creamy and cheesy sauces for tomato based sauces (Napoletana, marinara) – this will significantly reduce the fat and kilojoule content of your meal!
√ Ask for pasta or risotto dishes in an entree size
√ Choose grilled options like grilled fish, chicken, beef
√ Choose a vegetable or tomato risotto opposed to a creamy risotto
√ Pizza: limit yourself to only 2 pieces and accompany it with a side salad to fill up on. Avoid the fatty meats as toppings (e.g. peperoni) and opt for lean meats. Vegetarian or seafood toppings are ideal. Ask for less cheese to be added to the pizza! They always use much more than is necessary anyway. Choose a small size and a thin base – definitely not a base that is stuffed with cheese.
√ Avoid the antipasto platter. The cheeses and highly processed meats (pastrami, chorizo, salami, etc) are high in fat/calories and can be a meal itself. Even the vegetables have been marinated or drenched in oil, making them higher in fat, salt and calories.
√ Order a side salad with pasta or risotto dishes. You do not need to eat the huge portion of pasta/risotto that they serve you and this way you will be receiving some vegetables as well.
√ If you want to be really good, just stick to a salad. Ask for the dressing on the side so that they don’t smother it. Avoid the caprese salad – so much cheese! A chicken caesar salad with dressing on the side is a good option – even better if you ask for it without the bacon and fried croutons.
√ Consider Italian soups like minestrone – these are good options. Avoid any creamy soups. However, if you are watching your sodium intake, soup may not be for you.
√ Avoid desserts and opt for a coffee or tea. However, gelato, sorbet and biscotti are better options than tiramisu. As always, sharing is also a good idea.
√ Avoid garlic/herb breads. If complimentary bread is brought to your table, you do not need to eat it. Have bruschetta as a main instead of a starter.
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This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have any questions about healthier eating out or nutrition related issues, make an appointment with Belinda today. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!