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What to Order at an Italian Restaurant

When you're trying to eat healthy and track your caloric or macronutrient intake, Italian food can be a great option for dining out. Here are some tips and tricks to ordering off the menu at your local Italian restaurant.

First check to see if you can find a nutritional menu online. If not, keep your order as simple as possible. Less ingredients = easier to track. Use this infographic to help you estimate portion sizes and make healthier choices that match your plan.


Pizza / Flatbread

  • Thin crust is the way to go.
  • Stick with red pizza sauce over white.
  • Request less, half or no cheese! Cheeses like ricotta and parmesan have less fat than other cheeses.
  • Choose relatively lean meats such as chicken, shrimp, Canadian bacon or ham.
  • Load up on the veggies like peppers, spinach, mushrooms to pack in flavor without packing in too many calories.
  • Stay away from traditional Italian meats like pepporoni, salami, and sausage, which are processed and high in sodium.


  • Order pasta with the sauce and meat on the side. This will help you guage how much pasta you're having, and you can control the amount of sauce and protein.
  • Opt for marinara sauce over alfredo or cream/butter sauce.
  • Swap the pasta for veggies for more volume.
  • Stay away from stuffed pastas.


  • Tracking macros and/or calories is easy if you keep it simple.
  • Take apart the sandwich to weigh or estimate ingredients. For example, slices of cheese are easy to count.
  • Ask for sauces/condiments on the side.
  • Ask the waiter how many ounces of meat come on the sandwich — they can usually tell you. Or just open it up and take a look!
  • Skip the grilled paninis or hot sandwiches — they usually have lots of butter and cheese.


  • If you track your food intake, ask for everything on the side so you can better estimate portion size.
  • Ask for dressing on the side or request simple balsamic vinegar instead.
  • Don't try to find an option in your food tracking app unless it is explicitly from the restaurant; otherwise they are too general to use.

Side Dishes

  • If your main dish has a lot of carbs, then go for grilled veggies as your side, but be sure to ask how it’s prepared and what it’s cooked in to avoid too much butter.
  • If you are having a salad and need some carbs, order some plain pasta or bread.
  • Bruschetta is a good carb option but ask about any added oil or cheese when ordering

Specialty Dishes

  • Soups — check out the soup options. Italian soups can be macro-friendly.
  • Create your own dish of grilled chicken and vegetables.
  • Create your own off-menu combinations using lean meats and low-fat sauces.
  • Stay away from:
    • Lasagna — it is difficult to estimate the amount of meat and cheese in this dish. Stick to making this at home for yourself!
    • Anything breaded or fried. This one is pretty obvious — you don’t know how much breading or oil is used. If you are in a rush, then just pull the breading or fried crust right off!
    • Some classic Italian dishes like chicken parmesan and carbonara are best avoided altogether.

For more tips on ordering at a restaurant, check out this article.