Okay lets admit it, we all get excited when the server immediately greets us with a big basket of warm bread and butter. This is by far the hardest struggle for me because bread and butter is my all time weakness. However, just don’t go for it. You know that once you break a little piece off, you’ll go for another little piece… then before you know it you already had 3 rolls. Yikes, you may not even be hungry for dinner now!
When choosing a healthy appetizer, it may be difficult if the menu only has fried, greasy, finger foods.When choosing a restaurant, Mom and Pop family owned restaurants usually have healthier options that aren’t frozen in bags with preservatives (I love you Olive Garden, but I’m sorry, its the truth). Stay away from all things fried-chicken fingers, french fries, fried calamari, mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings etc. I know, it’s not easy.
Instead, go for a healthy salad with a lighter dressing or oil & vinegar (ceasar dressing is not light! It is typically very fattening).Other great appetizers are caprese salads, fresh bruschetta, mussels marinara, and clams in a white wine/marinara sauce. Another alternative is soup. Stay away from white creamy, cheesy, soups and go for vegetable, minestrone or other red and broth based soups.
So I have worked in an Italian restaurant for 5 years, and trying to be healthy is sometimes difficult, but… possible! Words to avoid- creamy, parm, alredo, cheesy, fried (fritti/frito). Many pasta dishes are loaded with carbs and fat. If your set on a pasta dish there is no way to avoid the high carbohydrates. Choose garlic and oil or marinara sauce IF you are going to choose pasta as your main meal, try to add vegetables or protein to it, such as chicken, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus etc. Also, ask to put your own parmesan cheese ontop. Many chefs will pile a mountain of cheese on top of pasta dishes.
•Grilled chicken with a side of vegetable medley (every restaurant should have this, if they don’t they are probably lying)
•Broiled seafood (shrimp, scallops etc.) Ask if they broil with butter, if so ask them not too or ask for light butter.
•Chicken Sorrento rather than Chicken Parm. Sorrento is pretty much the same dish but instead of it being breaded and fried, it is sautéed in a marinara sauce.
•Chicken Cacciatore. This dish comes on the bone, if it is done correctly. I usually ask for this dish off the bone, this way, I will be served chicken breasts which are much lower in fat than chicken on the bone (mostly due to the dark meet). This dish commonly comes with a slightly spicy marinara sauce, filled with peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
•Chicken Marsala & Chicken/seafood Picatta can range in carbs, fats, and calories. It all depends on how they make it. Often times the chicken is dredged in eggs and flour then sauted. Ask your server if they can make it with less butter and flour to avoid the extra calories.
•If ordering a pizza, be wary of creamy, cheese, fried versions. Make your pizza nutrient dense and add a bunch of colorful vegetables-mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, red peppers & green peppers, tomatoes and basically anything else they have that’s green.
•Fruit Sorbet or a biscotti
•Tea, expresso, & coffee
Unfortunatly, thats about it! Cannolies, tiramisu, chocolate mouse cakes, and gelatos are ridiculously delicious and all, but, in the end, it’s not worth it when trying to shed pounds. Hey, do you really want to be be full anyway? It is never a feel-good moment when you have to unlatch the buttons on your jeans…