Which Is Worse? Italian Food Favorites By Cynthia Ramnarace
From penne pesto to chicken parmigiana, how do you choose the healthiest Italian foods? And avoid the worst?
1. Bruschetta vs. Fried Zucchini
It's appetizer time, and you want to stick with a vegetable. Do you go for bruschetta's zesty combination of tomatoes, olive oil and garlic on bread or the crunchy, savory satisfaction of fried zucchini? Which is worse?
2. Worse: Fried Zucchini
Anytime a food is fried, odds are it's going to be a loser, says Brooke Schantz, R.D., outpatient dietitian at Loyola University Medical Center. "Frying, even when it's vegetables, makes them higher in saturated fat and trans fat," she says. Bruschetta, with its lycopene-rich tomatoes, are a good option but don't eat too much of the white bread it comes with. "It'll pack on calories without filling you up," Schantz says.
3. Steamed Mussels in Red Sauce vs. Stuffed Artichoke
For your first course, should you opt for mussels in a garlicky tomato sauce, or artichokes stuffed with breadcrumbs, parmesan and olive oil? Which is worse?
4. Worse: Stuffed Artichoke
The vegetable is not always the healthiest option. "The stuffed artichoke is the worst by far," says Hope Warshaw, R.D., author of Guide to Healthier Restaurant Eating. The breadcrumbs and oil are higher in calories and fat than the red sauce, and one large mussel has only 17 calories. Just resist the urge to raid the bread basket to soak up that sauce!
5.Caesar Salad vs. Antipasto Salad
You're in the mood for a salad, but do you choose the Caesar, with its parmesan, eggs and anchovies, or the antipasto and its cheese and cured meats? Which is worse?
6. Worse: Antipasto Salad
The Caesar salad is far from a winner when it comes to salad, with its creamy dressing, cheese and croutons. "But it's the better choice than the antipasto," says Warshaw, which is loaded with high-fat cheese and meat. To make the Caesar healthier, ask your waiter to go light on the parmesan and croutons and put the dressing on the side. And don't hold the anchovies - they're rich in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
7. Fried Calamari vs. Baked Clams
How do you like your seafood? Squid that's deep fried and crispy, with some marinara sauce for dipping? Or clams baked with breadcrumbs and butter? Which is worse?
8. Worse: Fried Calamari
Again, frying turns a perfectly fine fish into a perfectly bad choice. "Always look for the words steamed, grilled or broiled when ordering out," says Schantz. If you really love calamari, Schantz recommends making a boiled or steamed version yourself at home.
9. Garlic Bread vs. Mozzarella Sticks
Which is worse: mozzarella cheese that is breaded and fried, or garlic bread brushed with olive oil, butter, garlic and maybe cheese?
10. Worse: Mozzarella Sticks
"Most versions of mozzarella sticks are very artery clogging," says Schantz. An order of mozzarella sticks from Romano's Macaroni Grill delivers 800 calories and 22 grams of fat. Garlic bread is a slightly better choice, but you can save calories and fat by asking the waiter to hold the cheese and go light on the oil. One tablespoon of olive oil packs 120 calories.
11. Stuffed Mushrooms vs. Tomato Caprese
Do you order a salad of fresh tomato, mozzarella, basil and olive oil or the mushrooms stuffed with bread crumbs and butter? Which is worse?
12. Worse: Stuffed Mushrooms
You need only take a glance at the stuffed mushrooms to know they are the worse choice. "Most of the time, stuffed mushrooms look like they are served floating in a tub of melted butter or olive oil," says Schantz. The better choice is the caprese salad, but watch your portion size.
13. Minestrone vs. Pasta Fagioli
Minestrone is a broth-based soup rich with tomatoes, beans and vegetables. The pasta fagioli is similar except is also has pasta. Which is worse?
14. Worse: Neither
"Eat what you like" says Warshaw. Both soups are broth-based, vegetable-rich and low in calories. The only difference would be if the pasta fagioli was made with beef, in which case the minestrone would be lower in calories. If in doubt, ask your waiter. But if you are opting for a first course, soup is a good way to go. "A cup of soup can be so helpful in reducing hunger," says Warshaw. "It will help to quell those hunger pangs so you consume less once the entree comes."
15. Penne Arrabiata vs. Penne Pesto
Pasta in a spicy tomato sauce or pasta with an olive oil, basil, parmesan and garlic sauce? Which is worse?
16. Worse: Penne Pesto
Compare the ingredients, says Warshaw: pesto has high-fat olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Arrabiata is mostly tomatoes, garlic and red chilies. If you're not sure of the ingredients in a dish, asking before ordering can help you make healthier choices.
17. Meat Lasagna vs. Chicken Parmigiana with Spaghetti
How does lasagna's meat, cheese, sauce and pasta fare against fried chicken cutlets, pasta, cheese and sauce? Which is worse?
18. Worse: Meat Lasagna
The combination of cheese, meat and pasta is going to pack more calories and fat than chicken parmigiana -- even if you lighten it up by using low-fat cheeses. Chicken parmigiana is easier to adapt with healthy cooking techniques. "Use a corn flake crust instead of bread crumbs to save a few extra calories," says Schantz. Bake the chicken instead of frying it to save fat as well as calories. If you're ordering in a restaurant, the chicken parmigiana is still the better option as long as you watch your portion size -- one chicken breast is about the size of your fist. This will generally have fewer calories than a 4-inch square of lasagna. (Keep in mind that most restaurant servings are larger than this.)
19. Vegetable Lasagna vs. Linguini di Mare
Should you pair your pasta with vegetables or with seafood? Which is worse?
20. Worse: Vegetable Lasagna
"Lasagna typically contains ricotta and parmesan cheese, and the vegetables are often sauteed," says Warshaw, all of which add up to more calories and fat. The linguini is likely in a light tomato sauce, and the seafood isn't breaded or fried, which brings the calories down.
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Which Is Worse? Italian Food Favorites By Cynthia Ramnarace