Foods You Should Never Order at an Italian Restaurant

Heading out to an Italian restaurant? Eating out can be expensive. It can also destroy your diet and put your health at risk. If you’re going to splurge, do so wisely. Here are the high-salt, high-fat foods you should avoid at all costs.

Spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti alla carbonara

Make this tasty dish at home. | iStock.com

Carbonara is a pasta sauce made with whole eggs, pecorino and parmesan cheese, and cured meat. In other words, it’s one of the saltiest, heaviest, least healthy sauces you could add to your plate of refined-flour spaghetti.

You’d be much better off sticking with a tomato-based sauce and meatballs made with lean ground beef, which would reduce your salt and saturated fat intake without taking away your beloved pasta.

Fettuccini Alfredo

Fettuccini Alfredo

You wouldn’t believe how much salt is in this pasta dish. | iStock.com/MSPhotographic

Unfortunately, Alfredo sauce isn’t a much better option. Olive Garden’s Alfredo sauce includes butter, two different types of cheese, and heavy cream, making it a fatty and salty pasta additive you could probably do without.

You might want to consider ordering a pasta with an olive oil-based sauce, a lighter option with more healthy fats and fewer calories.

A caesar salad

Caesar salad with homemade bacon.

Caesar salad is everything but healthy. | iStock.com/SQUAMISH

Think you’re safe ordering a salad? Be careful which one you choose. A caesar salad begins with an iceberg lettuce base instead of spinach, with thick, calorie-dense dressing and large portions of cheese.

A medium-size caesar salad with grilled chicken typically provides anywhere between 500 and 600 calories, which is what you should typically consume in a meal. However, caesar dressing, buttered croutons, and parmesan cheese add large amounts of saturated fat and sodium. You really don’t need any more of that.

Manicotti

Manicotti

The cheese and salt content of this dish is through the roof. | iStock.com

Usually stuffed with high-fat cheese and highly processed meat, manicotti joints ravioli among the many pastas you should leave behind.

The reason processed meats like sausages aren’t good for you has a lot to do with the salt content. Foods high in sodium eaten frequently over time can wreck your blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your disease risk and can endanger your life.

Breadsticks

Breadsticks and sauce

The breadstick basket should remain off limits. | Stock.com

Not all carbs are off limits, but the bread you’re served at restaurants usually isn’t the healthiest. Chefs also often brush bread sticks with extra butter to enhance the flavor and texture. They’re also often salted, even though your entree will probably give you enough salt to last you awhile (and then some).

If you can’t stop after eating just one breadstick, you might consider skipping them. You can ask your server not to bring them to your table if they’re just too tempting to resist.

Shrimp scampi

Shrimp scampi

You wouldn’t usually consume this much butter in one sitting. | iStock.com

Sometimes it isn’t the food itself, but the way it’s prepared in a restaurant kitchen, that diminishes the health of a menu item.

Shrimp and other shellfish actually benefit your health. The problem with this pasta dish is the amount of butter chefs use to create the creamy texture you’re expecting. Too much butter just isn’t good for your heart, especially if you consume a lot of it often.

Mozzarella sticks

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

These are even worse than the breadsticks. | iStock.com

They’re impossible to resist, but only if you actually give in and order a basket. It’s not the mozzarella that gets you, but the crispy, breaded exterior. You can’t eat just one. So you might have to forgo them entirely.

Fried foods pretty much cancel out any nutrition you might otherwise get from the food doused in hot oil. It isn’t just the saturated fat, salt, and calories, but the lack of health benefits, that makes mozzarella sticks a poor appetizer choice. You’re endangering your diet before you’ve even gotten your main course.  You can do better than that.

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