At the end of a long day, hitting up your favorite Italian restaurant can be a comforting treat. But it's easy to find yourself famished, hit the speed dial, and order whatever pops to mind. Making conscious choices to lighten up your favorites can make all the difference in your standard Italian routine — and your waistline.
- Pass on fried apps: A dish like mozzarella sticks may sound a great idea when you're hungry, but it's best to just pass on anything deep-fried, especially with cheese. If you dream in gooey cheese, relish its texture and flavor on your pizza or pasta. There's no reason to give it up altogether.
- Start with soup or salad: Instead of garlic bread, arancini, or shrimp scampi, kick off your meal with a hearty soup or salad. Classic recipes for minestrone and pasta e fagioli are both packed full of beans and veggies — two healthy and fiber-rich ways to fill you up. When choosing salads, the house green with a balsamic vinaigrette is the way to go. Be sure to pass on extra salt; no need to overload on unnecessary sodium.
- Choose breads wisely: Many Italian restaurants have taken notice of healthy food trends, and they have options for their clientele. Whole wheat dough or pasta may be available at your go-to spot, so be sure to ask. And always go for thin crust over deep dish. It's an easy way to enjoy pizza while substantially slimming things down.
- Don't be afraid to dab: Blotting grease off your pizza may not have been your move in the past, but it's time to welcome this healthy habit. Sometimes it really makes a difference! If you see extra oil sitting atop your pie, don't be afraid to blot it off. Those are empty calories that aren't adding any extra flavor.
Keep reading for three more ways to healthier Italian takeout.
- Bring on the veggies: Eating your colors is easy with Italian food. Forget the dishes that are heavy in the meat department and opt for delicious veggies instead. A pizza covered in vegetables can be just as filling and satisfying as a meat lover's pie: hearty veggies like mushroom and eggplant make great stand-ins for salami and sausage. Instead of a side of pasta, grab some garlicky spinach or broccoli to round out the meal.
- Go for red sauce: Creamy and calorie-laden pasta sauce is just not worth it. A low-calorie pomodoro or marinara sauce is the way to go if you're planning on enjoying some pasta. If you can't imagine giving up fettucine alfredo or penne ala vodka, don't fret. Just be sure to enjoy a kiddie-sized portion.
- Share dessert: Cannolis, tiramisu, and Italian cheesecake are all decadent treats, and we're all about balance over here! There's no reason to deprive yourself of the occasional sweet treat, but just be sure to share your favorite with a friend. This way you won't have the option of finishing off an entire piece yourself.