Love Italian food but hate the calories? Take heart – there are ways to have some popular Italian food and eat it, too!

It is true that Italian foods can be very high in calories. Take garlic bread as a prime example. Most restaurants serve an eight-ounce piece of garlic bread with their dinners. This is the equivalent of seven slices of white bread and 40 grams of fat, which comes from the butter, olive oil and cheese.

Another example – antipasto. This tallies up a whopping 47 grams of fat and more sodium than is recommended for an entire day.

As stated, however, this doesn’t mean you have to give up Italian food all together. There is some healthy menu choices available to you. Put them into practice and enjoy!

Let’s begin with the bread and butter. If you can, pass on this entirely. If you just can’t pass it up, allow yourself one small slice and then move the breadbasket and the butter out of your reach.

Since you now know the calorie and fat content of garlic bread, skip this part of the meal. It may be hard the first few times, but eventually you’ll do so easily. Just remember that there are 40 grams of fat sitting there. That fact in itself should be reason enough to pass on it. Think of your heart and do it a huge favor!

Go ahead and enjoy pizza. The key here is in knowing how to eat it and/or prepare it. Start off with a thin crust pizza. The deeper a crust is the higher the calories and carbohydrates are.

Avoid stuffed crusts. They are stuffed all right – with fat and calories and furthermore, there is enough food on a pizza without sticking more in the crust of it. Instead of fatty pepperoni, spice up the pizza with red pepper flakes. You’ll save yourself oodles of fat and calories and still get the taste of a savory spice.

Here are some more pizza toppings that complement your pizza and keep it reasonable in calories, fat and flavor along with making it much healthier for you.

  • Black olives
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Grilled chicken
  • Feta cheese
  • Green Peppers
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Lean Ham
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Shrimp
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes

If you make a pizza at home, use low to non-fat cheeses. They’ve come a long way and the Mozzarella is excellent. A combination of low-fat or non-fat cheese is good on top of a homemade pizza, too. Cheddar and Mozzarella make an excellent pair atop a pizza. For the sauce on your pizza, use tomato sauce, or if ordering from a restaurant request it. Some good ones to try are:

  • Bolognese
  • Light wine
  • Mushroom sauce
  • Marinara
  • Primavera without the cream
  • Red or white clam sauce

Restaurants serve pasta and pizza dishes in a size that is equal to two servings. Either share one dish with someone, settle for a side order as your main meal, or ask for a container to put half in before the dinner comes and take the rest home with you. You’ll get two meals out of your order and a huge break in calories.

Unfortunately, Lasagna, manicotti, cannelloni, stuffed shells and ravioli are high in calories and fat and should be avoided in restaurants. What you can do, however, is learn to cook these dishes for yourself so you can control the ingredients, drastically reducing fat and calories while still getting the yummy taste. Learning how to do this isn’t too difficult and should be something you put into practice with all your cooking and baking to achieve permanent weight loss goals anyway.

Following are a few recipes to get you started and below that, some more recommended recipes. Enjoy!

Lazy Lasagna

Heat oven to 375-degrees. Combine two containers (15-ounces each) reduced fat ricotta cheese, four beaten egg whites, 1-cup (of 2 total) part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of (of 1/2-cup total) freshly grated Parmesan cheese; mix well. In 13-by-9-inch baking dish, spread 1-cup of (of 4 cups) store-bought red pasta sauce. Layer four (of 12 total) uncooked lasagna noodles, one more cup pasta sauce, noodles, 1/2 the ricotta cheese mixture. Repeat layers ending with the remaining four noodles and 1- cup sauce. Cover with foil; bake one hour. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining 1-cup mozzarella and 1/4-cup Parmesan cheese. Bake ten more minutes; let stand ten minutes. Serving Suggestions: Serve with a packaged Italian salad and garlic bread. How about fat-free ice cream or Rainbow sherbet for dessert?



Veal Gorgonzola

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 6-ounce veal cutlets
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Place flour on plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip veal in flour, coating both sides; shake off extra.

Heat small, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and spray with olive oil. Brown cutlets one at a time, two minutes on the first side, one minute on the second. Transfer to serving dish; season with salt and pepper. Add milk to skillet and scrape up brown bits on bottom, about 30 seconds. Add Gorgonzola and stir to melt. Taste; add pepper if desired. Spoon over cutlets and serve.

Notes: It is best to use a skillet that just fits the veal in one layer. If it is too big, the sauce will evaporate.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with the following recipe, Fresh Linguine with Sweet Pimentos. Creamy Gorgonzola calls for a big red wine such as Merlot.

Nutrition Information: Calories: 445; Fat: 20.5g; Saturated Fat: 12.2g; Carbohydrates: 12.9g; Protein: 46.6g; Cholesterol: 147mg; Fiber: 0; Sodium: 291mg



Fresh Linguine with Sweet Pimentos

  • 3 ounces spinach linguine
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup drained sweet pimento, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook linguine in boiling water, three minutes if fresh, nine minutes if dried. Drain and return to pot with about 2-tablespoons cooking water. Add oil and pimento; season to taste. Toss well. Yield: 2 servings

Nutrition Information: Calories: 161; Carbohydrates: 28.2g; Protein: 4.2g; Fat: 2.9g; Saturated Fat: 0.4g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Fiber: 1.5g



Italian Bean Burgers

A healthy alternative for a meatless burger or if you are a vegetarian. These are delicious.

  • 2 cans (15 oz) rinsed and drained cannellini beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dried bread crumbs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Mash two rinsed and drained cans cannellini beans; add egg, seasoned dried bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Mix well. Form into four 1/2-inch thick patties.

Cook in a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet three minutes per side or until hot and crusty. Place on toasted sandwich buns. Top with heated (store-bought) marinara sauce and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.

Serving suggestion: Serve with baked potato chips.

Note: Before cooking, cannellini beans must be thoroughly rinsed. When cooked, the cannellini bean is fluffy and creamy. They are typically known for their smooth texture and nutty flavor. In recipes that call for the beans, substitutions can be made with great northern or white navy beans.



Italian Beef Sandwiches

  • 4 split hoagie buns
  • 3 tablespoons salad dressing
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced deli beef
  • Sliced artichokes
  • Mozzarella cheese

Place four split hoagie buns on a cookie sheet and brush lightly with Italian salad dressing. Broil one to two minutes.

Heat 3-tablespoons of the salad dressing. Add thinly sliced deli beef to the dressing and coat; heat two minutes.

Divide meat mixture among bottoms of buns. Add roasted red pepper strips, sliced artichoke hearts (water packed) and sliced part-skim mozzarella cheese. Broil 2 or 3 minutes or until cheese

Add tops and cut in half. Serving suggestion: Serve with a mixed green salad.

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