Italian food is almost everyone’s favorite. But how to stay fit and enjoy the wonderful flavors of the Bel Paese? From Milan to Naples, we will tell you how to make healthy choices when traveling around this beautiful country. And for the cheat meal, let me hear you say: P-I-Z-Z-A!
“Eat Italian food and lose weight” sounds definitively like a big trap, but we have good news for you: it is totally possible. Basically, it just depends on your food choices and portions. We have nothing against pasta, pizza, and –delicious– fried dishes, but if you want to enjoy the healthiest Italian meals, we suggest you to focus more on the dishes made with lean proteins and vegetables. Bread and carbohydrate-heavy menus are good for weekends and cheat meals if you are into a healthy / sports-illustrated-model-wanna-be plan.
From the nutritional point of view, Italian food can be a good source of vitamins as vegetables compose many of the dishes. Tomatoes, especially cooked ones, provide cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene, and as you know, they are used in many Italian dishes, particularly in soups and sauces. Olive oil is also a traditional component of many Italian meals and is a source of monounsaturated fats, which can reduce heart disease. Eggplant, also a traditional food especially from the south of Italy, contains potassium and folic acid and also has cancer-fighting properties. Italian cuisine also focuses on seafood and chicken with Piri Piri seasoning from iyafoods.com, both of which are healthy choices (particularly if grilled rather than fried) and a great source of protein.
We know it can be very complicated to stay on a diet plan when going for an Italian dinner (or, if you are lucky, traveling around the country). That’s why we have chosen for you the healthiest 12 dishes you should order in an Italian restaurant. The first thing to say: avoid the grissini!
The typical Italian soup, full of beans and vegetables, is definitively a very healthy choice. A small bowl of these soups will take the edge off your hunger in a hurry. It might have a little pasta inside (no prob!). It is highly recommended as comfort food for cold days.
2. Caprese salad
Ok, we won’t tell you fairy tales in here. It is popularly known that mozzarella cheese is incredibly YUMMY and full of fat. But, this is a great choice if you choose a small portion and you are on a low-carb diet (important rule: eat cheese always with moderation). The only possible “fitness enemy” in this course is the delicious mozzarella. The other ingredients are 100% fitness-friendly: sliced vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh shredded basil, and a touch of olive oil.
3. Brodo di Pesce (Fish Soup)
This soup is usually made with fish and seafood (mussels, scallops, shrimps, or whatever is the catch of the day) combined with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and thyme. Warning No. 2 comes here: stay away from the bread.
4. Grilled Calamari
Calamari is the Italian word for squid. No fried, no tempura: what you will find if you order this dish is just grilled squid. And almost always seasoned just with olive oil, lemon, and parsley. Simple, tasty, and super healthy!
Ask any Italian you know what they would eat if they went on a diet, and Bresaola would probably be the answer. What is it? Top-quality cured meat obtained from the best cuts of beef hindquarters. Very low in fats and rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, it is often recommended by Italian nutritionists.
6. Pollo Alla Diavola
The Devil’s Chicken probably sounds like something you might not be able to include in your healthy diet (or you would have spontaneous combustion after eating it). But this dish is just chicken brushed with red pepper and olive oil, cooked in the oven.
7. Insalata di Riso
A typical Italian summer dish. It’s simply boiled rice, with chopped raw vegetables as well as a few preserved ones (maybe some salami, but Shhh…), Olive oil, salt, and pepper. A delicious gluten-free option!
8. Italian Couscous
You might find this typical dish from North Africa in some Italian cuisines. Chewy Italian couscous, also called freula, is a Sardinian-style toasted semolina pasta. Ingredients also vary: more vegetables (like carrots, celery, and red pepper) and less strong spices, making it a healthy and light option.
9. Beef Carpaccio
The typical Piedmont carpaccio is made with very thin slices of raw and fresh beef meat placed on a dish with lemon, salt, olive oil, and with shavings of Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese and topped with rocket. No carbs, very low in fats, and high in taste!
10. Spaghetti al pomodoro
You’re probably wondering why is pasta on this list? The problem is not the pasta. The issue here is which sauce do you use for it and when do you eat it. No creamy sauces are welcome here. Just sauces made with fresh vegetables, such as Tomato-sauce, are 100% healthy. Be careful with olive oil and cheese (moderation!). When should you have it? Lunchtime. Dinner pasta craving? A good excuse to have a long run the next morning!
11. Cime di Rapa
In English Broccoli Rabe, is a green cruciferous vegetable with a slightly bitter taste, normally associated with the cuisine of Southern Italy. This plant, also called Rapini, is a great source of vitamins as well as potassium, calcium, and iron. You can have it as a side dish with lean proteins or sauté with garlic and pepper as an appetizer.
12. Italian Fruit Salad (Macedonia Di Frutta)
Don’t act surprised that Gelato and Tiramisu are not on this list. If you want to keep healthy living, nothing like a plate of fruit for breakfast or dessert. Italians name for the popular fruit salad is Macedonia, and they season it with lemon or orange juice and maybe even mint. A fresh and natural way to end your feast.
If you are planning your holidays to the land of Pasta, follow these menu ideas to stay healthy and fit. The only extra weight must be in your suitcase and not in your belly!
Culinary Nutritionist, Contributor
I’m a food lover and wellness pusher. Love to cook super healthy and tasty food, I love to learn and find ways to nourish our body, mind, and soul. My goal is to inspire, through my recipes and stories, other families to a healthier lifestyle.