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The #1 Best Italian Takeout Order, Says Dietitian

This nutrient-rich option is nourishing for the body—and the soul.

Italian is a staple cuisine for so many. No matter where you are located in the country, there is likely a friendly, comforting Italian joint around the corner. There is nothing better than a bowl of pasta or cheesy, saucy chicken parmesan. However, those dishes might not always leave you feeling vibrant and well-nourished.

Don't get me wrong, so many items on an Italian menu can be nourishing for the soul but if you are looking for a nutrient-rich option, you will need to adjust your order.

Finding a healthy option on an Italian takeout menu is fairly easy for pescatarians and meat-eaters. For vegetarians, it is slightly harder to find a filling option. Menu choices will also vary based on the type of Italian food offered, there is a big difference between traditional Italian dishes from the northern and southern parts of the country and Italian-American recipes.

For meat-eaters, stick to options that are grilled (ala griglia), baked, broiled, or steamed. Skip options that are breaded, fried or coated in cheese.

When choosing seafood, raw or grilled options are best. If a dish comes with pasta, ask to swap it for a roasted or sauteed vegetable.

Vegetarian options rich in protein are harder to find on an Italian takeout menu. The best order in this category is a classic pasta primavera with a salad to start. Look for salads that have nuts, cheese, and/or beans for a protein boost.

pasta primavera

Portion sizes will vary based on the restaurant. As a general suggestion, plate your takeout and serve yourself half of what is in the container. You can always come back for seconds.

Another way to moderate the size of meals is to order two appetizers. Vegetable minestrone soup, meatballs, grilled calamari, mussels, and salads featuring a variety of vegetables dressed in an olive oil-based dressing are all fabulous options.

Remember, if the pasta is calling your name, it is absolutely okay to order it, in fact, Spaghetti alle vongole ("spaghetti with clams") is a dish loaded with important nutrients like vitamin B12, zinc, protein, and iron. A pro move is ordering one of the dishes mentioned above and splitting a pasta with your dining companions. Happy eating!

Sydney Greene, MS, RD
Sydney Greene is a registered dietitian specializing in nutrition for addiction recovery, disordered eating, and body image, as well as chronic digestive issues. Read more about Sydney