Last Updated on December 3, 2017 by Jen Kristensen
When people mention Italian food they think of the delicious stuff served at Carrabba’s Italian Grill and other restaurants, such as bread, pizza, and pasta. However, you don’t need to despair if you’re looking for some low carb food as there are a lot of healthy, low-fat alternatives if you know where to look.
Things You Should Do
The first thing you need to do is skip the pasta and pizza that are on the menu. If you can do this, you might be pleasantly surprised to find several low carb and healthy food treats available. What you need to remember is that Italian restaurants use only the freshest meats and seafood, plus they don’t use a lot of artificial flavors so the original taste is retained, meaning you should think like an Italian when dining in these restaurants.
When ordering Italian food, take note of the fact that olive oil is almost always used and the food is often drizzled with it. Olive oil doesn’t just add to the taste as it is also rich in antioxidants that are good for your health. The good news is that many Italian restaurants have websites that list the menu so you’ll know if it has olive oil or not.
Things to Avoid
If you’re serious about eating healthy foods in Italian restaurants, reduce or avoid crostini, bruschetta, and polenta. You should also avoid eating risotto, bread, and pasta as they are high in calories and carbs. Now if you’re on a low carb diet you should also minimize your consumption of meatballs as they have a lot of breadcrumbs, and remember that appetizers like calamari are breaded as is eggplant parmesan.
The majority of Italian appetizers are made of vegetables, seafood, and little meat, so you have a lot of options. A typical “antipasto platter” (appetizer) has marinated vegetables like peppers and artichokes as well as cheese and salami. You can also try Carpaccio, thinly sliced, raw, aged raw fish or beef served with vegetables and olive oil dressing. If you’re into seafood, there’s Gamberoni (shrimp), usually sautéed with wine and garlic and served cold or hot.
Aside from those appetizers, Italian restaurants also serve a variety of vegetables, sometimes marinated, roasted or grilled, and any of those are good for your health. You can also order some mussels or steamed clams as they’re very popular in American Italian restaurants.
Healthy Italian Soups
Although there are some Italian soups with bread, most of them are actually low in carbohydrates and are served more often than pasta. In fact, even the soups with pasta or beans have very little in the way of carbs. Of course restaurants serve different kinds of soups but generally thin soups are the healthiest. As a rule, soups with plenty of vegetables such as Stracciatella, an eggdrop soup, are healthy choices.
As long as you avoid bread and croutons you’ll be fine as most Italian salads consist of basil, tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil. While salads may have other ingredients, the ones mentioned are used in the traditional Caprese salad.
How to Deal with Pasta, Meat, and Seafood
If you find yourself longing for one of the pasta dishes on the menu, just order the pasta toppings over vegetables, or you can ask for the toppings and have it as a side dish. This isn’t as strange as it sounds, and pesto with vegetables and chicken is sumptuous.
Now if you really want some “secondi”, or meat and seafood, you can have some since the majority of Italian seafood and meat have very little sugar and starch. The important thing here is you should not eat any breaded meat or veal Milanese or parmesan as they have a high level of carb. As long as you eat genuine Italian tomato sauce you needn’t worry about sugar since there’s very little of it. However, you need to check the restaurant since some of them add artificial ingredients in their tomato sauce to add more flavor.
While you’re deciding what to order, don’t hesitate to tell the waiter you don’t want any bacon and cheese. And if you really can’t help ordering a pizza, choose one with healthy toppings like roasted peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and spinach. They’re still tasty but have a low carb count and less saturated fat.
One of the most persistent myths is that restaurants like Romano’s Macaroni Grill only serve up pasta. That’s not true at all as many Italian restaurants and grills now offer a wide array of foods, so if you’re looking for healthy treats, there are a lot of menu options available.