The 15 Healthiest Olive Garden Meals You Can Order

Eating out isn’t easy when you’re on a diet. It’s not just fast food that makes eating healthy on the go a challenge, either. Chain restaurants are notorious for their out-of-control portions, which can throw you off track even if you order something healthy. But you don’t have to order a soup and salad every time you sit down in front of a menu. Some of the healthiest Olive Garden options, for example, are full entrées.

If you’re in the mood for Italian cuisine, here are the healthiest options you’ll find on the menu. All these meals have no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium, fewer than 1,500 calories, and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat. Get ready to dig in.

1. Eggplant Parmesan Breadstick Sandwich

One of the healthiest Olive Garden meals on the menu includes breadsticks.

A sandwich made with breadsticks is healthier than you think. | iStock.com/harikarn

You read that right: a sandwich made with breadsticks. This lunch combo features everything you love about eggplant Parmesan and Olive Garden breadsticks, but with only 610 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat, and 64 carbs in one sandwich. This is much healthier than the Eggplant Parmigiana entrée, which packs in over 1,000 calories, 12 grams of saturated fat, and more than 100 carbs. This lighter option offers a similar taste to something you love — but less of it.

2. Herb-Grilled Salmon

Seafood dishes are some of the healthiest Olive Garden meals.

Salmon is full of protein and healthy fats. | iStock.com/jaroszpilewski

Looking for something light and healthy to eat tonight? You can’t go wrong with fish. Olive Garden’s grilled salmon is high in protein and healthy fats, and it’s also low in calories and carbohydrates. The garlic-herb butter doesn’t add too many calories or too much sodium, either. You’ll only consume 460 calories and 8 grams of saturated fat for the whole meal. The dish also comes with broccoli, which adds some fiber to the mix. And bonus: it’s gluten-free.

3. Stuffed Mushrooms Appetizer

Choose an appetizer or an entree -- not both.

Hungry for an appetizer? Make it your meal. | iStock.com/Maria_Lapina

If you’re not sure a traditional entrée is the best option for you, order an appetizer as your main course. The Stuffed Mushrooms are filled with clams, three types of cheese, and topped with herbed breadcrumbs. It’s less than 400 calories, only has 13 grams of carbs, and offers 15 total grams of protein for the whole plate. This is an excellent option if you love appetizers but don’t want to follow up with more food.

4. Fettuccini Alfredo Mini Pasta Bowl

This is much healthier than a full plate of the same meal.

Choose a smaller version of your favorite meal. | iStock.com/lauraag

If you don’t want to order several meals’ worth of pasta over your lunch break, you can downsize and enjoy a mini version of a classic. The fettuccine Alfredo mini pasta bowl, only has 500 calories and just under 500 milligrams of sodium compared to its full-sized relative. That monster has more than 1,000 calories and 850 milligrams of sodium.

5. Grilled Chicken Parmigiana

There are two versions of this entree on Olive Garden's menu.

When choosing between friend and grilled chicken, always choose grilled. | iStock.com/EzumeImages

When you have a choice between fried chicken and grilled chicken, always go for the latter. The restaurant’s Grilled Chicken Parmigiana features cheese and marinara sauce, along with a side of spaghetti. At 760 calories, this meal is 400 calories less than a traditional breaded preparation. The grilled option actually has more protein than the fried version, along with smaller amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and carbs. You can hardly tell this isn’t friend chicken when it’s covered in sauce and cheese anyway. Save yourself the calories (and everything else).

6. Gluten-Free Rotini with Marinara Sauce

Gluten-free pasta can still be healthy.

Pasta connoisseurs have yet to decide if rotini differs in taste from other noodle shapes. | iStock.com/~UserGI15633745

Gluten-free foods on grocery store shelves and hidden deep within restaurant menus get a bad rap. Most of them are no healthier, sometimes even worse, than versions containing gluten. However, Olive Garden’s Rotini with Marinara is one of the healthiest pasta dishes you can order. Unlike a gluten-free brownie or breakfast cereal, these noodles are a little healthier than similar pasta, providing just 370 calories per serving. You can add chicken, shrimp, or Italian sausage to your plate as well. However, doing this will add more fat and sodium to an already salty entrée. The choice is up to you.

7. Linguine di Mare

Pasta made from whole grains is slightly healthier.

Whole grain pasta > all other pasta. | iStock.com/Ravsky

With just 2 grams of saturated fat contributing to its total fat content, this entrée has the most healthy fat of all the meals on this list. All ingredients are mixed into a bowl of whole-grain linguine noodles — even the pasta is healthier. Everything is covered in pomodoro sauce — a light tomato topping often mixed with basil and similar fresh ingredients. It’s intended to accompany a lighter pasta dish, so it works well with this shrimp and mussel combo.

8. Shrimp Scampi

Lighter sauces are almost always healthier than heavier, creamier sauces.

It’s OK to judge a pasta by its sauce. | iStock.com/EzumeImages

A meal made with fish and vegetables is just as good as — sometimes even better than — a salad. Sautéed in a light garlic sauce, the shrimp in this pasta dish joins fresh asparagus and tomatoes on top of thin angel hair pasta noodles. Enjoy all this for just 500 calories and 9 grams of saturated fat, plus 26 total grams of protein.

This entrée is even low in sodium compared to other pasta dishes on Olive Garden’s menu, mostly because of its sauce. Thicker, creamier toppings like Alfredo or cheesy marinara raise the sodium to dangerously high levels. Even if they’re relatively healthy, the salt content disqualifies them from this list.

9. Grilled Vegetable & Cheese Piadina

Grilled vegetables are excellent sources of fiber.

Piadina is an Italian flatbread, a.k.a., a fancier sandwich. | iStock.com/ALLEKO

Paidinas are flatbread sandwiches usually made with flour, olive oil, salt, and water. Olive Garden’s grilled vegetable and cheese version contains fresh red peppers, mushrooms, spinach, and a light cheese sauce. So, not only is it filling, it’s only 630 calories and provides 52 grams of carbs, but the majority of those carbs come from the fiber in this sandwich’s medley of fresh veggies. If you’re going to order a sandwich, order one that tastes great and is good for you, too.

10. Dinner Cucina Mia: Angel Hair Marinara Pasta with Grilled Chicken

The nutritional value of a pasta is all in the sauce.

Pasta, why so salty? | iStock.com/gkrphoto

If you needed proof that sauces are what make pasta dishes at restaurants so salty, look at the components of a Cucina Mia meal. Angel hair pasta only has 10 milligrams of sodium per serving, but a basic meat sauce would add 1,000 milligrams to that total. Marinara sauce, however, adds only 140 additional calories to angel hair’s 350. It also offers only 720 milligrams of additional salt — the lowest of the five available pasta sauces. This is the perfect way to enjoy a pasta meal without accidentally eating a day’s worth of calories or sodium.

11. Dinner Cucina Mia: Parmesan Pesto Spaghetti with Sautéed Shrimp

This pasta is healthier than most traditional pasta bowls on the menu.

Take control of your pasta bowl. | iStock.com/bhofack2

If you want a slight variation of a more traditional shrimp and pasta combo, you can also use the Cucina Mia meal options to your advantage. Olive Garden’s Parmesan pesto sauce is both gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly. It’s also only 530 calories per serving, adding on 7 grams of saturated fat and 760 milligrams of sodium. Throwing some sautéed shrimp on top only adds an additional 60 calories to your meal. This means, choosing these options, you still get a full-size pasta bowl for less than 1,000 calories — which is pretty miraculous compared to the restaurant’s more traditional pasta selections.

12. Kids’ Cheese Pizza

The key to smaller potions: the kids' menu.

You might look like an adult, but you’re really just a kid hungry for a pizza that’s not bigger than your face. | iStock.com/erkanatbas

Here’s one way to get a handle on your portion sizes: order from the kids’ menu. The portion size is much smaller, meaning there are fewer calories and less salt than a meal made for adults. A tiny cheese pizza satisfies your craving for something cheesy without taking things too far. It’s only 400 calories, and has less salt than a massive plate of pasta. Whether or not you’re actually allowed to order a kids’ meal over the age of 12 depends on the restaurant, but you’ll never know unless you try.

13. Tilapia Piccata

Baked or grilled fish is much healthier than fried fish.

When in doubt, order fish. | iStock.com/peredniankina

You’ll love this dish if you’re in the mood for seafood but want something besides shrimp. Tilapia is loaded with healthy fats and is relatively low in carbs, which makes it the perfect heart-healthy meal, especially if you’re counting calories. You’ll only put away 420 calories from this entrée, and the protein from the fish and the side of zucchini will keep you feeling full until your next meal.

14. Tuscan Sirloin

You really can't go wrong with grilled meat.

Meat lovers, rejoice! | iStock.com/Magone

This 11-ounce sirloin and its companions, surprisingly, don’t have as many calories as you’d think. The meal does have about 1,700 milligrams of sodium, however, the majority of the salt comes from the garlic mashed potatoes and the garlic-herb butter coating the meat. You still get plenty of protein from the sirloin and fiber from the broccoli. This meal also only has 9 grams of saturated fat, too — impressive for a 620-calorie meat-and-potatoes dinner.

15. Chicken Margherita

This dish is full of veggies and healthy protein.

Once again, grilled chicken wins the prize. | iStock.com/AVNphotolab

Full of veggies and healthy protein, this meal will leave you feeling full — even though it’s only 590 calories. The dish features grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, pesto, and a light lemon-garlic sauce. It also comes with Parmesan-crusted zucchini. This comes out to about 70 total grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates, and just over 1,000 milligrams of sodium. We’ll admit 11 grams of saturated fat is a little high, but it’s nothing compared to the 48 grams of saturated fat in a Tour of Italy.