pepperoni pizza on a plate with text about picking the healthiest options in an Italian restaurant

So often a meal out means heading to an Italian restaurant. But what about if you’re trying to be good with your diet? What do you go for?

A lot of popular chain Italian restaurants will have the nutritional content of their meals available online, and others you can find on myfitnesspal.

What if your local Italian has neither?

I thought it would be useful to give you some pointers to look for that will flag up the higher calorie options and also give you some good, medium and bad options.

Things to look out for:

• Firstly the ingredients in whichever dish you go for will give you a pretty decent idea of how high the calories will be. If anything is overly fatty or carby then it’s likely to be higher calorie. For example meats like pepperoni and beef contain more calories than chicken. So right away you know that your meat feast or pepperoni pizza is probably going to contain more calories than a chicken pizza.
• In the same way that cream and cheese will add lots of calories so carbonara will usually be higher calorie than say a chicken arrabiata dish.
• Another thing to be aware of is the size of both the pizza and the type of crust used. Clearly a larger pizza will contain more calories but so will a thick crust and a stuffed crust definitely will!

Good, medium and bad Pasta Options

Obviously all restaurants will vary in terms of ingredients and quantities they use. I’ve used the information on the M&S ready meal pasta options which are all standard sizes to get an idea of whats in each popular pasta option. Here’s what I’d recommend:

Good
Chicken arrabiata

Tomato sauce rather than cream or cheese will keep the calories down, as will the chicken which is a leaner, lower calorie meat.

Medium
Bolognese

Likely to be a fair bit of cheese and mince isn’t the leanest of meats but lots of protein from all the meat, not the worst option.

Bad
Carbonara

Amazing as it might taste, just about every ingredient in this dish is high calorie. Often containing cream plus parmesan, fattier meats like pancetta or ham.

 

Good, medium and bad Pizza options

As with the pasta dishes it’s impossible to say exactly how many calories will be in the pizzas at whichever restaurant you go to but we can make an educated guess. I’ve used the calorie information on the Dominos website to come up with these recommendations:

Good
Ham and pineapple

At 172 calories per slice this is the lowest calorie pizza from the standard range available at Dominos and is likely to be at your restaurant. You might have expected it to be the plain margarita but often they will add extra cheese to this bringing the calories up so watch for that.

Medium
Chicken feast

At 184 calories this is also a decent option, lean meat in the chicken keeps the calories down.

Bad
Pepperoni

Unfortunately the pepperoni was always going to struggle here, 226 calories per slice. The pepperoni is a fatty meat and therefore high calorie, making this an indulgent choice.

You might think a few calories here and there don’t really matter but if you are having a whole pizza that’s say 8 or 10 slices that could be a difference of 2260 calories for the pepperoni to 1720 for the ham and pineapple, that’s 540 calories difference!

Obviously these recommendations are about damage limitation, consuming 1720 calories of pizza in one meal is not ideal, and definitely not something you’d want to do regularly.

Here are some further tips to limit the damage even more:
  • Drink water or diet drinks
  • Skip the starters and desserts (and the bread!)
  • Request a half portion with a side serving of salad
  • Check for lighter options, places like Zizzi’s and Pizza Express now do pizzas for around 500-600 calories.

If all this talk of delicious Italian food is making you hungry at least you now have a few ways to enjoy it without it being a complete disaster.

And as I always say, if you don’t eat out very often then sometimes it’s fine to just have what you want and enjoy it, life is for living! These tips and recommendations are things to use more regularly to stay on track.

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