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The Best & Worst Menu Items at Maggiano's

A registered dietitian shares the best and worst picks at this homestyle Italian restaurant.

Maggiano's Little Italy got its start in the heart of downtown Chicago, but it's now serving up classic Italian dishes across 24 states and Washington, D.C. With an array of appetizers, soups, pasta, desserts, and more, it's easy to see why this has become a family favorite. We spoke to a registered dietitian to find out exactly what on each section of the Maggiano's menu are the best options and what are the worst. Kelli McGrane MS, RD for Lost It!, breaks it all down.

Appetizers/Starters

Best: Tomato, Balsamic & Garlic Bruschetta

80 calories, 5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein

"Your best bet is getting one or two pieces of the Tomato, Balsamic, and Garlic Bruschetta, as it's low in saturated fat and sodium with just 80 calories per piece," says McGrane. By sticking to a few pieces you'll save some carbs for the main course.

Worst: Mozzarella Marinara

1,480 calories, 96 g fat (44 g saturated fat, 2 g trans-fat), 3,720 mg sodium, 79 g carbs (7 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 78 g protein

Steer clear of this starter, which has almost 19 times the number of calories as the Tomato, Balsamic & Garlic Bruschetta. "The second highest calorie appetizer option, at 1,480 calories, is the Mozzarella Marinara, which is the highest in sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol," says McGrane. "It even has twice the amount of saturated fat and sodium as Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion."

Salads & Soups

Best: Cup of Manhattan Clam Chowder

70 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 560 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 5 g protein

Choosing a cup of the Manhattan Clam Chowder on the Maggiano's menu is the best of the soups and salads with a small amount of fat and sugars. Clams are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which support the heart and lungs. "Plus, in addition to the protein from the clams, the soup also has tomatoes, celery, and potatoes to help add extra nutrition and filling-power," says McGrane.

Worst: Side Chopped Salad

480 calories, 43 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans-fat), 870 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (5 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 9 g protein

It's hard to think ordering a salad can be a bad choice, but you're better off skipping this one. "Steer clear of the side Chopped Salad, which has 480 calories (as much as an entree), and twice as much saturated fat as a McDonald's hamburger," McGrane says. "Plus with 870 mg of sodium, you'll be at nearly 40 percent of your daily sodium needs before you even get to your main dish."

Pasta

Best: Spaghetti with Marinara

840 calories, 26 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 2,220 mg sodium, 133 g carbs (8 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 23 g protein

Although the Spaghetti with Marinara is fewer calories, McGrane would consider this category a tie with the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce on Maggiano's menu. "While the marinara option is slightly lower in calories and fat, the meat sauce will give you an extra 14 grams of filling protein," says McGrane. The marinara is also vegetarian and has less sodium, although it is still enough to fill your quota for the day.

Worst: Braised Beef al Forno

1,760 calories, 116 g fat (41 g saturated fat, 2 g trans-fat), 2,990 mg sodium, 132 g carbs (7 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 57 g protein

We have another tie! "It's a close call between the Braised Beef al Forno with 1,760 calories and the Famous Rigatoni 'D' at 1,610 calories," says McGrane. "Both have nearly a days-worth of calories and more than your daily sodium needs—and as many carbs as three bagels."

RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.

Chicken/Seafood/Steak & Veal

Best: Lighter Take Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp dish at Maggiano's Courtesy of Maggiano's
370 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 1,950 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 30 g protein

"The Lighter Take Shrimp Fra Diavolo has a reasonable 370 calories and three and a half grams of saturated fat," says McGrane says. Even with 30 grams of lean protein, though, this option comes with a downside. "However, with almost 2,000 mg of sodium, you'll want to go easy on the salt the rest of the day."

Worst: Braised Beef Contadina

Braised beef dish from Maggiano's Courtesy of Maggiano's
1,900 calories, 127 g fat (50 g saturated fat, 2 g trans-fat), 3,920 mg sodium, 70 g carbs (11 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 120 g protein

Steer clear of this entrée, as it hits almost 2,000 calories—enough for a whole day of eating. "It also has almost twice your daily sodium needs, two grams of trans fats, and 50 grams of saturated fat—the same as four Whoppers from Burger King," says McGrane.

Sides

Best: Fresh Grilled Asparagus

70 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 5 g protein

Add some green to your plate with this side, as it's low in calories, fat, and carbs and can help keep bones strong. "Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K," says McGrane, "which is essential for blood clotting and bone health."

Worst: Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Side of garlic mashed potatoes with medallions at Maggiano's Courtesy of Maggiano's
520 calories, 35 g fat (21 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans-fat), 1,010 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 9 g protein

"A side of Garlic Mashed Potatoes provides over 500 calories, the same as an entree, and almost half your daily sodium needs," says McGrane. "It also has nearly as much saturated fat as KFC's Chicken Pot Pie." So save the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.

Sandwiches

Best: Half of the Chicken Parm

830 calories, 43 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,750 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (8 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 32 g protein

It's hard to choose the best of the sandwich options, according to McGrane. "If you have to choose," she says, "go with a half order of the Chicken Parm, as it's the lowest in calories, sodium, and saturated fat."

Worst: Full Meatball Sandwich

1,990 calories, 122 g fat (49 g saturated fat, 3 g trans-fat), 4,190 mg sodium, 129 g carbs (12 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 97 g protein

Order the full Meatball sub and it's like you're eating nearly 20 pieces of Tomato, Balsamic & Garlic Bruschetta. "It's also high in carbs, about the same as two and a half bagels," says McGrane says, "and has as much saturated fat as three and a half orders of Taco Bell's XXL Grilled Stuft Beef Burrito."

Desserts

Best: Mini Crème Brulee

240 calories, 18 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 30 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (0 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 3 g protein

Not counting the desserts on the kid's Maggiano's menu, the best pick is the Mini Crème Brulee since it has the lowest amount of calories and sugar, according to McGrane. Split this one and you reduce the calories and fat even more.

Worst: Chocolate Zuccotto Cake

1,810 calories, 115 g fat (61 g saturated fat, 1 g trans-fat), 840 mg sodium, 177 g carbs (13 g fiber, 120 g sugar), 21 g protein

For McGrane, this one is a no-brainer, even though it is a Maggiano's menu classic plucked from Tuscany. "There's no competition, the Chocolate Zuccotto Cake is the worst dessert option on the menu with as many calories as most of us eat in a day and more saturated fat than an order of the Rigatoni," she says. "But what's even more shocking is its 120 grams of sugar—the same as 11 glazed donuts."

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Amanda McDonald
Amanda McDonald is a health and food writer and a certified yoga instructor. Read more
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