Italian Best Food Picks

Eggplant parmesan. Lasagna. Spaghetti and meatballs. Mmmm. Who doesn't love a big plate of flavorful, rich Italian pasta? Unfortunately, if you're trying to lose weight, a heaping plate of pasta may not help the cause. On the bright side, there's always a healthier choice somewhere on that menu. Here's how to find it.

Check out these red and green flag words to look for from nutrition expert Hope Warshaw's book Eat Out, Eat Right: The Guide to Healthier Restaurant Eating and enjoy your Italian meal without worries!

Green Flag Words


  • onions, peppers, mushrooms
  • artichoke hearts (not marinated in oil)
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • capers
  • spinach and other greens
  • marinated vegetables (not in oil)
  • grilled chicken, fish, seafood
  • herbs—basil and oregano
  • tomatoes (raw or cooked)
  • pasta—all types other than those stuffed with cheese and/
  • or butter
  • olives, olive oil

  • Cooking Methods/Menu Descriptions/Names
  • lightly sautéed with onions and shallots
  • tomato-based sauces—marinara, bolognese, cacciatore, pomodoro, and puttanesca
  • tomato sauce and meatballs
  • white or red clam sauce
  • light red- or white-wine sauce
  • light mushroom and wine sauce
  • primavera (without cream)
  • piccata (a lemon sauce)

  • Red Flag Words

  • eggplant or zucchini (if fried)
  • pancetta, prosciutto, or bacon
  • sausage, veal, or pork
  • butter
  • cheese—mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, provolone
  • Italian cold cuts

  • Cooking Methods/Menu Descriptions/Names

  • Alfredo
  • carbonara
  • saltimbocca
  • parmigiana—veal, chicken, and eggplant
  • stuffed with cheese
  • creamy sauces—wine, mushroom, and cheese
  • fried or deep-fried
  • manicotti
  • lasagna
  • cannelloni
  • stuffed shells

  • At the Table

  • butter
  • salad dressing
  • grated cheese

  • Excerpted from Eat Out, Eat Right by Hope S. Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE. Copyright © 2008 by Hope S. Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE. Excerpted by permission of Surrey Books, a division of Agate Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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