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Foreign Fare: Viva Italian!

Foreign Fare: Viva Italian!

What's Italian cuisine?
Are some Italian foods healthier than others?
Tutta pasta!

When you think of Italian food, do you picture pepperoni pizza and spaghetti and meatballs? Well, if you go to Italy, you probably won't see these foods on a menu! Authentic Italian cuisine is about fresh vegetables and herbs like basil and oregano. It's zesty lemon sauce and chicken cutlets and briny olives and capers that bring out the taste of the sea in seafood. back to top

What's Italian cuisine?
There are many regional styles of cooking in Italy. Many Italian dishes are cooked using olive oil, which is high in heart-healthy unsaturated fat. And Italians eat lots of complex carbohydrates like chickpeas, fresh fruits, and a variety of vegetables. You may be surprised to learn that Italians eat only moderate amounts of meat and dairy products. In fact, the typical Italian diet looks a lot like the Food Guide Pyramid. Here are some tasty ingredients found in Italian cooking:
  • basil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • oregano
  • fresh tomatoes
  • pasta
  • olive oil and olives
  • red peppers
  • fresh figs
  • prosciutto
  • artichokes
  • eggplant
  • capers
  • greens like Swiss chard
  • pine nuts
  • fava beans back to top
Are some Italian foods healthier than others?
Ever go to an Italian restaurant and stuff yourself with buttered garlic bread, eggplant Parmesan, and a cannoli for dessert? That's one way of eating Italian—the high-fat way. If you want a healthy Italian meal, choose a simple sauce like marinara or lemon and white wine rather than pesto or creamy Alfredo. A single plate of fettuccine Alfredo contains as much fat as three pints of almond ice cream! Here are some other healthy Italian food choices:
  • Dress your green salad the way Italians do, with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • When it comes to heavy dishes, like veal or eggplant Parmesan and cheese manicotti, skim off the cheese topping, and you'll eliminate a good portion of the fat.
  • Skip the deep-fried calamari appetizer, which can contain more cholesterol than a four-egg omelette and salad drenched in dressing.
  • Choose regular pasta instead of high-calorie stuffed pastas, like ravioli and tortellini.
  • Think of the Italian flag: red tomatoes, green zucchini, and white beans are the beginning of a nutritious meal.
  • Ask to have the sauce served on the side so you can decide how much of it you want to eat. back to top
Tutta pasta!
Spaghetti, fettuccine, farfalle, penne, rigatoni, and cappelletti. Whatever the shape, pasta makes a quick and tasty meal. Pasta is a carbohydrate that is naturally low in fat unless you smother it in a cream sauce. To get more fiber and nutrients, look for whole-wheat pasta in most markets and health food stores. Pasta also comes in flavors like spinach, sun-dried tomato, and lemon pepper. These flavored pastas aren't any healthier than regular pasta, and they don't count as a vegetable serving. But those colors can liven up your plate! back to top

Last Modified Date: 12/8/2000
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