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Healthy Menu Navigator: Italian


What should you steer clear of besides the breadbasket? Nutritionist Heather Bauer explains how to order healthy dishes off any restaurant menu. First up, Italian!
Chicken scarpariello (Photo: Foodandwine.com)
Chicken scarpariello (Photo: Foodandwine.com)

 

We all know that restaurant dining is filled with land mines named butter, cheese, and bread basket. But what about the rest of the menu? Turns out, the average restaurant meal—including the one you think is pretty healthy—clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128. So it can be all-too-easy to feel like you’re eating well while eating out, when you’re not.

Enter renowned nutritionist-author Heather Bauer (author of Bread is the Devil and founder of the Bestowed box, the curated healthy-snack delivery service). She’s serving as our culinary compass, steering us toward the healthiest choices when presented with restaurant menus of any type.

Each week, we’ll bring you a Bauer-approved menu guide, making it super easy to make healthy decisions—whether you’re at a fine French bistro or a Japanese hotspot, and everything in between. First up, Italian! Buon appetito, everyone.

Heather Bauer’s Italian menu navigational nugget

Obviously you can order steamed veggies—Bauer often orders two or three healthy sides as her meal. But she also likes to ask for larger portions of her favorite starters. “You can always ask for an entrée portion of any healthy appetizer you like,” she says. “My favorite is a caprese salad.”

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinalWHAT TO ORDER

Appetizers:

1. Any salad with shaved parmesan, pecorino cheese, or sliced mozzarella is good in Bauer’s book. (A little formaggio is okay if you’re vigilant about carbs with the rest of your meal, she says.)

2. Minestrone soup, if you’re not salt-sensitive.

3. Protein-heavy starters, like tuna tartare, grilled octopus, or prosciutto and melon.

Entrées:

1. Shrimp marinara’s a good choice, as is chicken scarpariello (chicken with sweet peppers in a light wine sauce), grilled fish—or any other grilled protein.

2. If pasta’s a must (more on that below), choose something simple with olive oil and fish, or pasta primavera, with veggies and tomato sauce.

WHAT TO SKIP

1. Cream sauces! Steer clear of anything “alfredo.” The calorie intake is that of an entire day’s worth of food.

2. Pasta—it’s typically 50-plus grams of empty carbs. But if you’ve gotta do it, remember that your serving should be no bigger than two clenched fists. (And hit boot camp in the morning!)

Other no-nos: Eggplant parm (don’t be deceived; this veggie’s known for soaking up loads of oil), fried calamari (order your squid grilled, per favore), and pizza—even if you split it. Why? See pasta’s nutritional value, above.

Hungry for more? Next Wednesday, Bauer’s spilling her secrets to ordering healthy Thai food.

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