The Unhealthiest Pasta Dishes At Olive Garden

The menu at Olive Garden is one of the most sprawling collections of Italian-American fare among worldwide restaurant chains. Its combination of intensely cheesy meal options, unlimited complimentary breadsticks, and homey feel certainly makes it popular among diners. With the chain making over $3.5 billion in 2021 alone according to Statista, the Italian kitchen has thrived since its start in 1982 (via Nation's Restaurant News).

With its reputation for hearty satisfaction and association with words like "unlimited" and "bottomless," it's safe to say that going to Olive Garden on a diet could be a huge mistake. Despite their name (and the availability of salads), most people are not going to the popular restaurant for olives — or any other freshly picked vegetable. Most people go for huge plates of delicious pasta. Still, if you're trying to avoid consuming upwards of 2,000 calories in one sitting, consider skipping some of Olive Garden's unhealthiest pasta dishes.

The trio of decadence

True to its name, Olive Garden's Tour of Italy is close to giving you a taste of a little bit of everything on the menu. Made up of a piece of fried chicken parmigiana, a slice of the ever-classic lasagna, and fettuccine alfredo as the cherry on top, this decadent three-piece sampler is enough to feed the whole family. With a whopping 3,220 milligrams of sodium, and ringing in at over 1,500 calories, this dish is way over the recommended daily limit of sodium-intake (via Olive Garden's nutritional guide). After all that, how are you going to have room for breadsticks?

Another less-than-healthy option is one of Olive Garden's most filling alfredo dishes. At 15 syllables, the name itself is already a mouthful. Olive Garden's Asiago Tortellini Alfredo with Grilled Chicken is a (delicious) mound of carbs. With cheesy tortellini baked in alfredo sauce and topped with slices of protein-packed grilled chicken, this dish will have you napping for days after eating all 1,980 of its calories. With 1,180 of those calories coming from fat, and 95 carbs per dish, this alfredo dish packs a serious punch to the stomach and has earned its spot as one of the unhealthiest pasta dishes on this menu (via Olive Garden).

Considering your pasta options

Now, Olive Garden is far from being the only restaurant chain with unhealthy options. Popular fast food options like Chick-Fil-A have their fair share of high-calorie meals that might want to make you plug your ears at the mention of their makeup. 

Still, if you're craving a piece of the Italian kitchen but are wary of going overboard, health coaches like Lynn Grieger recommended letting yourself indulge while keeping your plate colorful. "I would order the chicken giardino because it features three things I look for in meals when I eat out," Grieger told Everyday Health. According to Grieger, this dish has protein, multiple vegetables, and a lighter sauce, making it a better option. Coming in at only 530 calories, the chicken giardino is a healthy balance between the cheesiness you love with the veggies that keep you going.

Other healthier pasta choices include lunch-sized portions of favorites like the shrimp scampi, which comes in at only 480 calories (via Olive Garden nutritional guide). But let's be honest, every once in a while you just have to order the unhealthiest pasta dish on the menu and hope for the best.