The 13 Healthiest Things to Eat at an Italian Restaurant Slideshow

Dining all'Italiano doesn't have to mean melted cheese or heavy cream sauce
Mussels in White Wine

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Bruschetta

Bruschetta

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The commonly mispronounced bruschetta incorporates the best flavors of Italian cuisine. Lightly toasted slices of bread are topped with fresh tomato, garlic, and oregano, making this low-calorie appetizer a great start to a meal.    

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

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The classic Italian appetizer represents the colors and flavors of Italy with thick slices of white mozzarella, blush-red tomatoes, and a spattering of roughly torn green basil. A drizzle of olive oil finishes off this light appetizer. 

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore

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Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. The rustic dish is most often made with braised chicken and usually includes ingredients like onion, tomato, bell peppers, red wine, and aromatic herbs. The chicken is seared and braised but not deep-fried. 

Grilled Calamari

Grilled Calamari

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Squid can be healthy as long as it’s kept out of the fryer. Grilled calamari with olive oil, lemon, and seasoning is a great alternative. 

Mussels in White Wine

Mussels in White Wine

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Mussels are rich in minerals and long-chain fatty acids, and are low in calories. Do your best to slurp up the delicious broth out of the mussel shells rather than sopping it up with a hefty chunk of bread. 

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Pasta Fagioli Soup

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The foundation of any authentic pasta fagioli soup is pasta and beans, but this popular Italian dish is subject to many different regional interpretations. The soup is usually made with a light chicken or tomato-based broth and is a healthier way to start a meal than with thick slices of Italian bread.   

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

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This dish is a modern addition to Italian restaurants, with its origins traced back to the renowned New York City restaurant Le Cirque. But now, this bright pasta dish, featuring lemon, garlic, chives, and a variety of seasonal vegetables, can be found all over. Though some recipes call for a spoonful of crème fraîche, the dish is traditionally low in fat, and the lightly cooked vegetables makes it even more substantial.   

Polenta

Polenta

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In seventeenth-century Italy, this ground cornmeal porridge used to be considered peasant food, but it has become a stylish canvas that allows chefs to showcase flavorful sauces, exotic mushrooms, and specialty cheeses. On its own, polenta is low in calories and fat, making it a healthy alternative to pasta.

Risotto

Risotto

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There’s no doubt that risotto is creamy and indulgent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unhealthy. Risotto’s luscious texture comes from the starch of Arborio rice. This short-grain rice is packed with more fiber than traditional pasta, and it doesn’t need a heavy, dairy-based sauce. The flavor from risotto is derived from the stock it cooks in. 

Shrimp Pomodoro

Shrimp Pomodoro

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Shrimp is high in cholesterol, but it’s also low in calories. Sweet and tender shrimp pair perfectly with spicy, tomato-based pomodoro sauce, which derives its flavor from dry white wine, basil, tomato, and red pepper flakes. 

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

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The Italian translation of this dish is “spaghetti prostitute style,” but we won’t go into that. The tomato-based pasta sauce develops deep flavor from the addition of sautéed garlic, anchovies, olives, chile flakes, and capers. It’s a healthier (and, in my opinion, more flavorful) alternative to cream-based sauces.  

Spaghetti With Pesto

Spaghetti With Pesto

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Some of the fat and calories in traditional pesto come from olive oil and pine nuts, but these ingredients contain polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce “bad” cholesterol. A basil pesto is a better alternative than cream-based sauces, which are high in saturated fat and calories. 

Tuscan Seafood Stew (Cacciucco)

Tuscan Seafood Stew (Cacciucco)

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A rich, well-seasoned stew  can represent the beloved tastes of Italian cuisine without the help of pasta. This seafood stews utilizes the offerings of the Mediterranean Sea, such as octopus, squid, and shrimp, and develops a richness from being cooked with wine, garlic, and sage.