Even though creamy pasta sauces and overloaded wood-fired pizzas can dominate the menus, Italian food can actually be a great cuisine choice when you're trying to eat light – if you're smart about what you order.
Nutracheck's Nutritionist Emma Brown takes a look at what's on offer at some of the UK's leading restaurant chains.
“Who doesn't love a good Italian meal out? Ordering a lighter option at an Italian restaurant is possible if you look for the dishes that include healthy ingredients like tomatoes, olive oil, herbs and veggies, and opt for lean proteins like chicken and seafood.
“As long as you keep an eye on the calorie and fat content, you can totally get away with eating Italian without wrecking your diet – and enjoy a glass of wine as well” (small wine 125ml is 95 cals)
If you're watching your weight or just want a lighter option, Emma recommends…
Leggera Pollo ad Astra
(486 calories & 14.1g fat)
“All the Leggera pizzas are under 600 cals; the Pollo ad Astra is a great choice with lean chicken, light mozzarella, sweet peppadew peppers, tomatoes and red onion.”
Beef Brisket Bolognese
(630 calories & 20g fat)
“This is a classic rich ragu which uses slow-cooked brisket and Chianti for an authentic Italian sauce – a great choice to help you feel full for longer.”
Chicken Delight Flatbread
(443 calories & 12.8g fat)
“Flatbreads are the thinnest base on offer, and they all clock in at under 550 calories. This one offers lean chicken breast with mushrooms and red onions, topped with peppery rocket – heaps of flavour.”
(526 calories & 10g fat)
“A classic, simple Neopolitan dish of spaghetti with clams, it has a light sauce which gets its flavour from the white wine, garlic and chilli.”
Skinny King Prawn Diavola Pizza
(488 calories & 13g fat)
“Prawns are a great source of lean protein; these are prepared butterfly style on a choice of wholemeal, white and spelt bases, topped with mozzarella, punchy chillies and oregano.”
Chargrilled Chicken Breast
Calabrese (456 calories & 16g fat)
“Chargrilling meat cuts down on fat which makes this a good choice; this dish is full of flavour from the Calabrese sausage, sweet roquito chillies, peppers, red onion and herbs in a tomato sauce.”
The Nutracheck App and website has the calorie counts for many more dishes on these restaurant menus. As well as information for around 40 other eating out places and takeaways.
Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.