While many people think of Italian food as heavy and loaded with calories, fat and sodium, it can actually be very healthy. Italian staples are nutrition superstars and include whole foods like tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, whole grains, leafy greens and herbs, such as basil and oregano.
When dining out, look for menu choices that are loaded with vegetables and emphasize lean meats and whole grains. Steer clear of heavy cream sauces, which can add a lot of extra fat, calories, and sodium to your meal. Instead, opt for tomato based sauces like marinara. Olive oil or pesto can provide a source of healthy fat but can quickly add calories to your meal, so use these in moderation. Speaking of moderation, many Italian restaurants feature “never ending” pasta or serve it family style. A good size portion of pasta is one cup, about the size of your fist.
For an appetizer, try bruschetta, minestrone soup or a house salad with oil and vinegar or a low fat Italian dressing. When available, choose whole grain pasta, which provides extra fiber and B vitamins. Many Italian restaurants are featuring whole grains like faro and whole wheat pastas and breads.
Source: healthydining.net 6.19.2012