6 Secrets to Eating Italian Food on a Diet

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
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    6 Secrets to Eating Italian Food on a Diet
    Whichever grain-free, gluten-free, low carb, Paleo, Primal, GAPS, SCD, or bariatric diet you follow, if you think that means giving up Italian food then I have good news for you. Sure, you will have to forgo the carb-heavy pasta dishes, but Italian cuisine offers so many more delicious possibilities. With a passion for the flavors of the Mediterranean, such as fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and espresso, it's possible to live large on Italian food without growing large. Here's what to order - and what to avoid:

    Main Course
    First and foremost, lean proteins and lightly-cooked fresh vegetables should be at the center of your meal. Choose from a variety of main courses of freshly prepared broiled, poached, baked, grilled, or roasted poultry, meat, and seafood, accompanied by unbelievably good farm-fresh-to-table vegetables that are lightly steamed and dressed with fresh lemon and herbs. 


    First Course

    Share a small plate with your guest and just nibble! Good choices here include caponata, almonds, olives, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, roasted vegetables, clams on the half shell, oysters Rockefeller, and mussels marinara. What to avoid: Ask your waiter to remove the bread basket and olive oil dipping; steer clear of anything breaded and fried or bathe in cream sauce, butter, or oil.

    Pasta is the quintessential Italian food, so you certainly don't want to avoid it altogether. Fortunately, you can choose a delicious alternative called quinoa. Quinoa(pronounced KEEN-wah) acts like a grain in most ways, although it is not technically a grain but rather a seed. It is gluten-free, has a low glycemic load, is low-fat and cholesterol-free, and high in fiber. According to CalorieCount, 1/3 cup of cooked quinoa has 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. What to avoid: Pasta made from white flour, whole wheat, or corn. 



    Authentic Italian cooking does not overload dishes with sauce. The real Italian way is fresh food, light on the sauce and small portions. Red sauces - I can and preserve my garden tomatoes for the most nutrition-dense, sugar-free and chemical-free version - are often loaded with other herbs and vegetables, making them a nutrient powerhouse that is low in fat and calories. What to avoid: Cream sauces are off-the-chart high in fat and cholesterol; read the nutrition label on jarred red sauces as some can be high in sugar and/or sodium.


    Try the sorbet. It is made from only fruit, water and sugar. It is fat-free and only 100 calories per serving. Your best bet is to go organic because popular sorbet fruits like strawberries are on the dirty dozen list of foods contaminated with pesticides. Alternately, order the Zabaglione, a custard-based dessert made with an emulsion of eggs, sugar and wine, with only 100 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving. What to avoid: Tiramisu, the end-all-be-all of Italian desserts, can contain up to 600 calories and 45 grams of fat per serving.


    Pass on the latte and cappuccino, and opt instead for a macchiato, which is an espresso with just a dollop of foam on top. A rich and satisfying Italian espresso contains almost no calories at all. Of course, the more sugar you add, the more of an indulgence it is. To keep the calories in check, I carry packets of stevia in my purse. Stevia is nature's low calorie sweetener. Read Aspartame: Sweet or Misery. Be aware that not all stevia products are created equal – read your ingredient list to make sure it states "stevia” or “stevia extract" and make sure there aren’t artificial ingredients present.

    Living life well-fed,
    My Bariatric Life

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Published On: March 21, 2013