The Mediterranean diet is said to be one of the world’s healthiest cuisines, considerably cutting the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease. Although pizza, pasta and gelato might be some of the first things that come to mind when you think of Italy, there’s much more to Italian food than these famous dishes!
If you’re having an entree, fill up on protein and salad items. That way, you’ve got your greens and veggies in and can enjoy a little more carbs later on in the meal. You’ll often find you’ll eat a little less too because the protein and fibre help to fill you up!
If you’re drinking stick to a glass of white or red wine. Getting tipsy reduces your ability to regulate your appetite, as your self-control towards food is reduced. It also increases the likelihood that your body will store your meal as fat. This is because your body focuses on ridding the body of the toxin produced by alcohol first (and burning off the calories in the alcohol) before properly digesting and absorbing your meal.
Find out which other options I recommend below.
- Antipasto board
Olives and semi-sundried tomatoes are great. Just limit your intake of capsicum, eggplant and other veggies drenched in oil, these veggies soak up a lot and can end up being really energy dense!
- Cheese board
A serve is 30g, which is not much larger than the size of a few dice. Stick to a serve or pass if your main dish is cheesy too!
- Prosciutto, pastrami and pepperoni
These guys are unfortunately linked to an increased risk of cancer due to their processing. Have a thin slice if you must, but keep it to a minimum. They’re also packed full of sodium and fat, which can contribute to bloating.
A tomato or vegetable-based soup such as minestrone will help fill you up with water, nutrients and fibre.
- Protein-rich starters
Tuna tartare, octopus, grilled fish, chicken in white wine and other protein-rich starters are good, filling choices. Opt for these as your main by getting a larger size, if the mains on offer are all heavy pasta and pizza dishes.
They typically contain balsamic vinegar, cold-pressed olive oil, fresh tomato and fresh herbs which make them a great choice. A little healthy fat and a serve of veggies always wins in my book! Caprese salad is great too as bocconcini is rich in calcium and a good source of vitamin A and vitamin B-12. Just keep in mind that cheese portion size mentioned above!
If you must here’s how to make the best choices…
- Make sure it’s loaded with veggies and uses a tomato-based sauce. pasta Primavera or Napoletana.
- Stick to a fistful of pasta. Pasta is a nutrient poor carb, hit that’s very easy to overeat. Sleeping off the resulting food coma isn’t going to help burn off the calories either!
- Seafood and lean chicken options are good choices. Just avoid the creamy sauces
Again if you must…
- Opt for a small one with a thin crust. And ask for extra veggies on top!
- Lean chicken and beef, vegetarian or seafood are better choices. But if you’re going to order pizza, split a regular-sized one between at least three people. Limit yourself to two regular slices and enjoy salads as sides. The amount of carbs and fat you get from pizza, plus sodium from the sauces, aren’t going to get you any closer to a flat tummy!
- Lasagna is usually a high-fat, calorie-bomb filled with cheese, oily meat, pasta sheets and a creamy white sauce. Definitely not a health conscious choice!
- Tiramisu, panna cotta, dessert cannoli and other creamy, sugary desserts can pack the energy equivalent of a decent lunch! So steer away from these.