- As many restaurants nationwide switch to a takeout or delivery model, customers might be wondering how to make healthier choices while skipping cooking and supporting their local businesses.
- Choosing a side salad instead of pasta, ordering grilled meat or seafood, and managing your portions can allow you to eat healthier while ordering Italian takeout.
- Salads with lighter dressings and soups can also be great options if you’re trying to eat healthily.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories .
Italian food may get a bad reputation for being carb-heavy or smothered in cheese, but there are healthy options on most Italian takeout menus if you know where to look.
Insider spoke with Rachael Hartley, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and owner of Rachael Hartley Nutrition who specialises in promoting intuitive eating and non-diet approaches to eating and enjoying food.
When it comes to eating healthy meals during quarantine – or any other time – it’s less about taking out “unhealthy” ingredients and more about adding in as much fresh produce, healthy carbs, and protein as possible, she said. While it’s never a bad idea to lean towards healthier options when ordering takeout, Hartley also recommends that during this time, people don’t take themselves, or their diets, so seriously.
“The most important thing right now is that we’re getting food and eating what we have access to,” she told Insider.
Here are 10 healthier dinner options you can order from Italian takeout menus.
Whatever you order, it really comes down to portion control.
During this stressful time, where access to fresh food may be limited, it’s vital for people not to take their diets too seriously or feel guilt over ordering a cheese pizza now and again.
“Right now, it’s alright for nutrition to take a bit of a backseat,” Rachael Hartley said. “A lot of us don’t have access to a lot of our day-to-day pleasures right now, so if you find yourself getting more pleasure out of food, and it’s not super nutritious food, that’s OK. It’s what we might have to do to get through this moment.”
If you are ordering a pizza or an order of penne alla vodka, simply try to practice portion control and eat the recommended serving size. If you’re still hungry, add a salad or grilled vegetables to the side of your order.
“For a satisfying meal, our body generally needs fat, protein, carbohydrates, and produce. Pizza has many of those nutrients, it often just needs some produce. Whether you’re throwing some vegetables on as a topping or adding a side salad, it will give more of a balance to your meal,” Hartley said.
Chicken Parmesan with a salad on the side can be a filling and nutritious meal.
“When I think about nutrition, I oftentimes lean towards positive nutrition,” Rachael Hartley told Insider. “What can we add in instead of what should we take out?”
Chicken Parmesan may sound like an “unhealthy” menu item. However, chicken and cheese are both great sources of protein. To cut down on the carbs and calories, order this chicken dish with a side salad instead of pasta.
Mussels in a white wine sauce are delicious and can be on the healthier side.
Mussels are one of the healthiest – and most delicious – dishes to order from Italian restaurants. The shellfish are high in zinc, iron, vitamins A and B12, and other minerals, not to mention they’re packed with protein and high in healthy fats.
Served with a white wine sauce, some sautéed onion, and a sprinkle of Italian parsley, this seafood dish is a healthier alternative to something like fried calamari.
Minestrone soup contains healthy vegetables.
Minestrone soup is packed full of healthy vegetables and legumes like beans, making this soup a filling and nutritious choice.
Fresh seafood can be another great, healthy option — so long as it’s grilled or roasted, not fried.
Grilled fish like salmon, sea bass, or cod can is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats. Salmon is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, is high in vitamins like B12, and can be a great addition to any balanced, healthy diet.
Paired with some roasted vegetables or a side salad, grilled or roasted fish makes for a healthy, balanced meal.
Meatballs are packed with protein, and tomato sauce is a great source of nutrients.
Meatballs are another great source of protein and healthy fats. However, you may be surprised to find out that tomato sauce can also be a great addition to a healthy diet.
“Tomato-based sauces are a great way to add some produce into your meal,” Rachael Hartley told Insider.
Tomato sauce is also a good source of Vitamin C and potassium, which can improve blood pressure.
Grilled sirloin steak with potatoes or grilled vegetables is another great option.
Steak is a great way to add protein to your diet and, when paired with a vegetable side or salad, this filling meal can be both delicious and good for you. All cuts of steak provide a great deal of protein, but choosing leaner cuts like a T-bone steak, top sirloin, or beef tenderloin can cut down on saturated fats.
While many people may believe that chicken is more beneficial to dieting than steak, Rachael Hartley says that it’s less about which protein you choose and more about incorporating a variety of different meats into your diet.
“If you feel like you’ve been eating a lot of red meat, then it might be nice to have some chicken or seafood, or even incorporate some meatless or plant-based dishes into your routine,” she said. “With proteins, it’s not so much that one is better than the other, it’s thinking about incorporating variety into your diet.”
Pasta primavera comes filled with lots of healthy vegetables and protein.
If you’re craving pasta, you don’t have to swear off it completely. Choosing a pasta dish like pasta primavera will satisfy your tastes and get a healthy serving of vegetables into your diet.
This dish is often served with broccoli, tomatoes, peas, and tomatoes, but can also include roasted vegetables like squash or peppers.
Rachael Hartley explains that even if people are less active right now than they normally would be, carbohydrate foods should still be part of a balanced diet.
“Our bodies’ main source of fuel is carbohydrates, and even if you’re not doing anything other than sitting on the couch watching Netflix, your brain uses about 20% of the body’s energy,” Hartley said. “The brain’s main source of fuel is carbohydrates, so they’re still an important part of anyone’s diet.”
Chicken wings, which are offered at many Italian restaurants, are another good option, especially if they’re baked.
Though not technically a traditional Italian dish, chicken wings are a great source of protein and are extremely flavorful as an appetizer to share.
If the wings are baked in the oven instead of fried, chicken drumsticks and flats have less fat, fewer calories, and are an overall healthier choice.
A salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and grilled chicken can be a healthy and delicious choice.
A salad might be an obvious choice when it comes to eating healthy, but it’s a go-to for a reason. To make sure your salad is both healthy and tastes delicious, go for a salad with tasty toppings like fresh berries, grilled chicken, sardines, tomatoes, or mozzarella cheese.
A Caesar salad with either light dressing or the dressing on the side to allow portion control can also be a great choice.
- Read more:
- Experts explain how to safely order takeout and delivery food amid the coronavirus pandemic
- I tried to eat healthily while ordering all my meals from food delivery apps for a week – here’s what happened
- The 5 best and 5 worst foods to get delivered, according to chefs
- Chefs reveal the best and worst things to order at an Italian restaurant