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12 Healthiest Dishes To Order at Olive Garden

In the mood for Italian but want something nutritious? Try one of these dietitian-recommended Olive Garden menu items.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Creamy chicken alfredo; unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks; and a handful of Andes mints before you head home—these are some of the staples of the Olive Garden experience. For years, this famous Italian chain restaurant has continued to serve up comforting, hearty dishes at a decently affordable price. Even though a large majority of their menu is full of creamy, calorie-dense pastas and indulgent desserts, there are still some healthier menu items at Olive Garden to choose from.

Like most chain restaurants, most of the "healthier" options on the menu are still higher in calories, sodium, and saturated fat than what you might make for yourself at home. And while home-cooked meals will almost always be superior to restaurant food when it comes to nutritional value because of your ability to control and monitor your ingredients, there are nights when you just want to forget about cooking and treat yourself to a comfort meal that someone else prepares.

For those moments when you're itching to eat out but still want to have the option of not derailing your health goals, we talked with three registered dietitians about healthier Olive Garden dishes to choose next time you head to the famous Italian-style restaurant.

Read on, then, check out the 8 Unhealthiest Olive Garden Orders to find out which dishes you may want to skip next time you're there.

Minestrone Soup

bowl of Olive Garden minestrone
Olive Garden/Facebook
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 110
Fat: 1 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 810 mg
Carbs: 17 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 11 g

Another signature item at Olive Garden is a bowl of their soup. You can choose from options like Zuppa Toscana, Chicken and Gnocchi, and Pasta Fagioli, but Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN suggests the Minestrone if you want something on the healthier side.

"This soup is higher on the sodium side, but it is low in fat, contains fiber, and is chock-full of vegetables," says Manaker. "Bonus? Soups can be quite hydrating, thanks to the liquid used to make them."

Round out your meal with a salad and some grilled chicken for more nutrients and protein. Craving some of their breadsticks to go with your hot bowl of soup? Certainly don't deprive yourself, just be aware that they are about 140 calories each.

 The #1 Healthiest Order at Olive Garden, According to a Dietitian

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Olive garden soup
Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 150
Fat: 6 g (Saturated Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 710 mg
Carbs: 16 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 8 g

For another nutritious soup option at Olive Garden, try their Pasta Fagioli Soup.

"This soup stands out as one of the healthiest choices on their menu for several reasons," says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD. "Firstly, it offers a balanced macronutrient profile, providing a good amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, essential for sustained energy and satiety. With 8 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrates (including 5 grams of fiber), and only 7 grams of fat, it offers a filling and nutritious option without excessive calories."

Sabat adds that "the presence of red and white beans contributes to the soup's fiber and protein content, promoting digestive health and muscle maintenance, and the inclusion of fresh tomatoes adds a dose of antioxidants and vitamins, enhancing its nutritional value."

Herb-Grilled Salmon

herbed salmon olive garden
Courtesy of Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 610
Fat: 45 g (Saturated Fat: 11 g)
Sodium: 1,360 mg
Carbs: 9 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 45 g

At first glance, the fat content of this dish may not seem ideal, but when you take into consideration where the fat is coming from, it changes the nutritional value entirely.

"While it is higher in fat than other dishes on the list, it is high in omega-3's, an essential fatty acid we can only obtain from our diet that supports brain and overall health," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD. Omega-3s—which are a type of polyunsaturated fat—have been found to also aid in heart health, fight against inflammation, and even reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Like most dishes on the Olive Garden menu, this one is quite high in sodium, so we recommend monitoring your salt intake for the rest of the day.

 The #1 Unhealthiest Olive Garden Order, According to a Dietitian

Spaghetti With Marinara

spaghetti with marinara
Courtesy of Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 490
Fat: 12 g (Saturated Fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 1,290 mg
Carbs: 83 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 13 g)
Protein: 15 g

According to Goodson, a classic bowl of Spaghetti With Marina is one of the healthiest pasta options you can get at Olive Garden.

"It may be lower in calories and fat than some of the above options, but there is very little protein or vegetables," says Goodson. "So, if you are craving pasta, I recommend this dish and a side of grilled chicken."

Grilled Chicken Margherita

Chicken Margarita Olive Garden
Courtesy of Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 650
Fat: 39 g (Saturated Fat: 11 g)
Sodium: 2,120 mg
Carbs: 15 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 65 g

"This dish is a fantastic light option featuring grilled chicken and a side of broccoli with no additional carbohydrates, for those looking to cut back," says Goodson. "It's also high in protein, which will help you stay full longer after eating this meal."

One thing to watch for when eating at Olive Garden (as well as many other chain restaurants) is the amount of saturated fat in each meal. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day, which means you won't have much wiggle room after eating this meal. However, this meal is still lower than many options on their menu, and you'll get a boost of nutrients from the chicken, tomatoes, and broccoli.

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Create Your Own Pasta: Angel Hair With Marinara

create your own pasta
Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per Angel Hair Pasta & Marinara):
Calories: 400
Fat: 11.5 g (Saturated Fat: 0.5 g)
Sodium: 1,290 mg
Carbs: 84 g (Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 12 g)
Protein: 16 g

Olive Garden has a "Create Your Own Pasta" option on the menu, which works well for people with specific dietary restrictions or health goals. If this appeals to you, Manaker suggests going for the Angel Hair Pasta With Marina Sauce.

"Pasta is a unique carbohydrate because it is made with only two ingredients, and when made, it creates a lower glycemic matrix that provides protein, energizing carbs, and other nutrients. So as long as you are keeping your portion size under control, pasta with marinara sauce is okay," says Manaker.

"The marinara sauce is packed with lycopene, thanks to the cooked tomato it is made with, and lycopene is a plant compound that is linked to a slew of health benefits," she adds. Lycopene has strong antioxidant properties known to help your body fight free radicals. It has been found to help heart health and lower cholesterol as well.

Gluten-Free Rotini Pasta with Marinara

plate of Olive Garden gluten-free rotini
Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 380
Fat: 3.5 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 260 mg
Carbs: 77 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 9 g

Fear not—you can still enjoy some pasta at Olive Garden even if you can't have gluten. For those needing a gluten-free meal, Sabat suggests the Gluten-Free Rotini with Marinara.

"This dish offers 9 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, which is significantly higher than traditional pasta varieties, making it a more filling and satisfying option," she says.

This dish comes "as is," but if you go the route of using their "Create Your Own Pasta" menu, Sabat says you can choose their Gluten-Free Rotini as your base and add Marinara Sauce and Grilled Chicken to round out your meal. "This combination provides a balanced meal of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein," she says, "which is essential for sustaining energy levels and promoting satiety."

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Cheese Ravioli With Marinara Sauce

Cheese ravioli olive garden
Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 750
Fat: 38 g (Saturated Fat: 19 g)
Sodium: 2,370 mg
Carbs: 63 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 8 g)
Protein: 41 g

Although this dish is loaded with sodium and should maybe be avoided if you're someone watching your salt intake, there is a lot of protein to help keep you full longer.

"If you want another pasta option with more protein, the cheese ravioli is your dish, although it does have a higher calorie and fat content than the other dishes," says Goodson. "I recommend adding a side of broccoli to make this a more balanced meal."

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi Olive Garden
Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 490
Fat: 18 g (Saturated Fat: 7 g)
Sodium: 1,120 mg
Carbs: 52 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 29 g

Opting for a healthier choice at this Italian kitchen doesn't mean you have to steer clear of pasta. For a healthier yet still hearty and comforting pasta meal, try the Shrimp Scampi.

"This dish does have a higher carbohydrate value compared to menu items like the salmon and chicken Margherita dish, but it provides a balance of vegetables, protein, and carbs—which we like to see," says Goodson. "However, it could include a better ratio of vegetables to carbohydrates—but if you exercise a lot, the higher-carb count can be a helpful option for you."

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Lunch Sized Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

bowl of Olive garden lunch-sized spaghetti
Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 360
Fat: 12 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 530 mg
Carbs: 51 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 9 g)
Protein: 14 g

If you take a trip to Olive Garden during your lunch break, you can treat yourself to their lunch portions, which are a bit smaller and more manageable in terms of nutritional value. Take their Lunch-Sized Spaghetti, for example, which you can order with either their Meat Sauce or Marinara.

Both sauce options provide lighter levels of fat, calories, and sodium, while still providing some protein and healthy fats. Overall, this dish is a great choice for your lunch break, and you can add a side salad or soup to round out your meal even more.

Salad With Signature Italian Dressing

Olive garden signature salad
Courtesy of Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 150
Fat: 10 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 770 mg
Carbs: 13 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 3 g

It's almost impossible to think about Olive Garden without picturing their Signature Salad next to a warm plate of breadsticks. Thankfully, Manaker says this salad option is a great choice because "it is on the lower side when it comes to saturated fat and is packed with refreshing vegetables that help people meet their fiber needs." However, this salad likely won't be filling enough on its own, so you might want to consider ordering a side of grilled chicken.

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Sides of Grilled Chicken, Parmesan Broccoli, and a Salad

bowl of broccoli from Olive Garden
Olive Garden
Nutrition (Per Parmesan Broccoli Side):
Calories: 150
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 450 mg
Carbs: 8 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 5 g
Nutrition (Per Grilled Chicken Side):
Calories: 130
Fat: 2.5 g (Saturated Fat: 0.5 g)
Sodium: 540 mg
Carbs: <1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 26 g
Nutrition (Per Signature House Salad):
Calories: 150
Fat: 10 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 770 mg
Carbs: 13 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 3 g

A more "non-traditional" path you can choose when dining at Olive Garden is ordering a few sides to create a meal. Sabat suggests options for sides like Grilled Chicken, Parmesan Broccoli, and their House Salad, which she says is a great choice "for those mindful of their calorie intake."

"The Grilled Chicken stands out as a low-calorie, high-protein option, offering a substantial 26 grams of lean protein while containing minimal fat at just 2.5 grams. Pairing it with Parmesan Broccoli adds essential nutrients and fiber, contributing to feelings of fullness and satiety despite its modest 150 calories," says Sabat. "This combination provides a well-rounded, satisfying, and nutrient-dense meal that aligns with health-conscious goals, making it one of the healthiest choices available at Olive Garden."

This story has been updated to include new information, fact-checking, and copyedits.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha
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