How to make healthy choices from an Italian menu

There is no doubt that Italian food is extremely delicious, or that the stereotypical image of this nation’s cuisine features carb-laden doughy treats, cheese galore, and rich creamy sauces – and this is before you get to the dessert menu offering fat and sugar-loaded delights galore!

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This is unfortunate for those looking to lose weight or who choose to avoid eating too much high-calorie food; however, with a little thought and research, it is entirely possible to visit an Italian restaurant in Dublin secure in the knowledge that you can choose from dishes that are both delicious and healthy.

The most obvious way to stick to a healthy eating plan is to avoid the extras, such as bread and dipping oils; more than one glass of wine; high-fat side dishes; and after-dinner liquors.

Starting well

If you fancy a starter, choose something vegetable-based, such as minestrone soup, or a healthy protein, such as grilled sardines or avocado with prawns (no sauces), rather than fatty dried meats or fried seafood.

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Mains are easy

Main meals in authentic venues, such as Italian Restaurant in the heart of Dublin Toscana, offer plenty beyond pasta smothered in cheese and cream. Look for dishes with tomato-based sauces instead, such as balotelli – which also features chicken, chilli, garlic and herbs – or alla siciliana or alla arrabbiata (spicier). The latter both have a vegetable-based sauce
Risotto is not a bad choice, while most restaurants will also have a couple of fresh fish and steak dishes on offer. If you really love pizza, this is also possible – those with seafood toppings (marinara or pescatora) often omit the cheese.

If self-serve salad is available, it is easier to avoid oils and dressings; if ordering from the menu, simply asking for these to be left off or served separately is fine.

Sweet treats are possible

If dessert is on the cards, look for macedonia di frutta fresca, (fresh fruit salad) – without cream, of course – or a small scoop of gelato, which has less sugar and calories than sorbet or ice cream.

Now you have the information necessary to make healthier choices, there is no need to miss out on parties, get together and celebrations for fear of a seriously limiting menu.

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