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3 Ways To Eat Healthier When Eating Italian

by Peppi Hautala

For a celebration or family get-together, there's nothing like a big Italian meal to feed everyone. Visiting or getting catering from your favorite Italian restaurant works well for big gatherings, because there's usually something to suit every palate. However, Italian food is also known for being heavy on the fat and calories, so if you're watching your weight or trying to stick to a healthier diet, you might be hesitant to join in on an Italian meal. But if you know what to order, you can enjoy yourself without ruining your diet. Take a look at some ways that you can eat healthier while eating Italian food.

Opt for Whole Grain Pasta

Whole grain pasta can help you stick to your diet without giving up your favorite pasta dish. One cup of whole grain spaghetti has 174 calories – 47 calories less than the 221 calories found in a cup of regular spaghetti. What's more, you'll also get more nutrients from the whole grain pasta, including B vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium. And because whole-grain pasta is higher in fiber, it will fill you up faster, which means that you'll be satisfied with a smaller portion size.

Even when you're eating whole grain pasta, it's best to make sure that it's only one part of your meal. If you order a pasta entrée, then you should avoid sides and appetizers that also contain pasta. Roasted peppers, sautéed garden vegetables, and minestrone soup are all tasty and healthy sides to a pasta entrée.

Bypass the Bread (Or At Least Skip the Butter)

It may seem like it wouldn't be an Italian meal with garlic bread, breadsticks, or rolls, but the truth is, all that bread can fill you up before your meal arrives, ensuring that either you won't enjoy your entrée as much, or you'll end up overeating because you're full from the bread, but don't want to miss the rest of the meal. You're better off skipping the bread and saving the calories.

If you really can't say no to the bread, then at least opt for olive oil instead of butter. A study of olive oil and butter users found that olive oil users used more oil than butter users used butter, but that the olive oil users also ate less bread. The result? Oil users ate 17% fewer bread calories. Plus, olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which is good for your heart.

Try the Seafood

Are you American? Then chances are good that you're not getting enough seafood – the USDA estimates that 80%-90% of Americans aren't. An easy way to choose an Italian dish that will probably be good for you is to order off of the seafood menu.

If you're skittish about seafood, try something familiar, like shrimp risotto or garlic sea scallops. Feeling adventurous? Try snails in marinara or swordfish steaks.

Italian food can be as healthy as any other type of cuisine. It's just a matter of choosing the right dishes and knowing what to avoid. Keep these tips in mind next time you visit an Italian restaurant or enjoy Italian catering.

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