Regional Cuisine Series: Eating Healthy, Italian Style

by | Read time: 3 minutes

Healthy Italian food sounds like an oxymoron. After all, everyone knows the three Ps of Italian cooking are pizza, pasta and Parmigiana. The Paleo diet doesn’t come anywhere close…or does it? While you’ll find these staples on the menu at any Italian restaurant, they’re far from being your only options.

Every good Italian cookbook includes dozens of recipes for fish, poultry and veggies, as well as desserts. And many of these can be easily prepared in a healthy, Paleo-friendly manner. There’s no reason you can’t stick to your regular eating habits while exploring other cuisines.

Is Spaghetti & Meatballs on Wood With Fresh Basil Healthy Italian Food? These 5 Tips Can Help |

5 tips for making & choosing healthy Italian food

The key to making healthy Italian food – or choosing the best option on a restaurant menu – is to carefully read the names of dishes and know their ingredients. For more easy ways to navigate an Italian kitchen, keep reading…

1. Learn the language. Look for recipes and dishes that feature the following words: grilled, roasted, sautéed or even braised. Flip past anything breaded or fried.

2. Keep it local. If it’s the middle of May and you live in Montana, an Italian recipe featuring branzino could easily be recreated with wild trout and the same vegetables, seasonings and spices. Swaps like this can be made for almost any Italian dish. Just consider your climate and use whatever is freshest – and readily available from a local source.

3. Get creative with vegetables. Rapini (aka broccoli rabe) is a popular Italian side. If you can’t find it at your local farmer’s market, that’s okay. Any hearty green vegetable tastes great when it’s sautéed with garlic. Try kale, asparagus, spinach or even escarole – you can’t go wrong!

4. Start with a salad. Wild arugula with shaved artichoke, tossed in lemon, organic olive oil and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt gets the palate prepped for the main meal.

5. Enjoy protein in moderation. Treat protein almost as though it’s a garnish to all the lovely veggies and nourishing fats that come with healthy Italian food. Try pasture-fed prosciutto from your local butcher and wrap it around a slice of seasonal melon. Enjoy this as your first course – even before the salad.

Need more inspiration?

Try one of these delicious, Italian-inspired dinners at home:

  • Wild-caught shrimp scampi with the shell on
  • Grilled wild salmon with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic spinach
  • Pollo al Mattone (or chicken al mattone, meaning under a brick)

Healthy Italian food includes dessert, too!

Who doesn’t love finishing a good meal with something sweet? Italians are known for their gelato and cannoli, but there are lighter alternatives. Go for homemade sorbet, or simply toss fresh berries with basil and serve with a splash of balsamic for a surprising flavor pairing.

At first, it may seem hard to pass up focaccia and fettuccine. But you’ll feel much better when you finish dinner and don’t feel bloated. Not to mention, exploring different veggies, fats and proteins revives your taste buds.

Buon appetito!