All Things in Moderation: Lighter Italian Food Options

It’s hard to imagine an Italian dinner without mountains of pasta covered in marinara dotted with meatballs and smothered with rich, gooey cheese with baskets of juicy garlic bread on the side. It is usually refereed to as a feast after all. A dinner like that can make you feel gluttonous, guilty for shunning your diet, and making conditional promises to run a few extra miles at the gym that week. If you want be mindful of your diet and your health but still want to enjoy those Italian flavors, here’s how to indulge without increasing the girth of your waistline.




Olive oil is full of healthy fats, and who doesn’t love the rich, warm taste of fresh Italian bread dipped in olive oil? It’s delicious and olive oil is healthy. Before you go dipping away, keep in mind that 1 tbsp of olive oil has 100 calories. So if you indulge in the bread, watch your servings of olive oil carefully. Instead of drippy, greasy garlic bread make bruschetta; a lightly toasted bread topped with tomato, fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil.

See also: 4 Things You Should Know About Olive Oil


Set the tone of your Italian feast by partaking in a small plate of antipasto, before the meal which includes a variety of vegetables, beans and lean proteins. Choose high quality fresh ingredients to savor the flavor instead of adding more of the cheap stuff to compensate! Instead of dinner salad, try a low calorie Italian soup like Minestrone that are heavy in food such as tomatoes, beans, and garlic.


A twirl of pasta is ready for the special marinara at Jim Alesci's Place in Solon, Ohio, photographed Friday April 17, 2015. (Peggy Turbett Photography)

The Main Dish

There are many flavorful and light ways to make over pasta recipes by swapping in whole-grain pasta, using reduced-fat cheese, and replacing heavy meats with vegetables or seafood. Pasta is naturally low in fat and calories many dishes are tossed with vegetables – especially tomatoes, which are high in the antioxidant lycopene. Pasta primavera is a great dish that features a variety of roasted vegetables and light parmesan.

Steer clear of cream based sauces and pick white wine sauces and those made with a tomato base, garlic, onions, olive oil, and spices. Tomatoes, onions, and garlic contain antioxidants, and can be part of a well-balanced diet. Also, cut the amount of cheese in half and focus on flavor not what might ‘look’ good.

                Savor the flavor and practice portion control!

When making pizza, consider a thin, crispy crust instead of deep dish or a doughy variety. Thin crusts typically have far less carbohydrates, sugars, and fats. Top with basil and spices, choose vegetables, and use meat and cheese sparingly to make your pizza healthy, interesting, and packed with flavor. Experiment with different combinations like tomatoes, broccoli, jalapenos, mushrooms, olives, artichokes, spinach, onion, garlic or peppers – the sky is the limit!



Finishing Touch

Those rich creamy desserts often start out decadent but can leave you feeling heavy and weighed down. Avoid the I can’t finish another bite bloat, and partake instead, in some refreshing gelato or an icy, low-fat sorbet. With a feast like this you’ll walk away from the dinner table feeling light but fully satisfied!