Did you know that despite all the carbohydrates present in pizzas, pasta, and risottos, that Italian cuisine is one of the healthiest cuisines around? That’s because Italian dishes are mostly centered around fish, nuts, and plant-based ingredients that help improve metabolism. Indeed, many of those who follow this kind of diet report not even needing to count calories. Who wouldn’t want that?
So, why not try some of their healthier dishes out? You’d be surprised at just how tasty eating healthily can be. All of these should be found on most Italian restaurant menus or can even be made from scratch at home. Buon appetito!
Minestrone (pronounced min-eh-strow-nee) soup is a staple in traditional Italian cuisine. Made with tons of vegetables depending on the season, minestrone soup fills you right up with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and other healthy stuff that’ll keep you looking younger and healthier for longer. It’s the perfect dish for people looking to lose weight!
The great thing about minestrone soup is that it’s so versatile. You can add any vegetable under the sun depending on your needs and wants. Red veggies like tomatoes and radishes are rich in lycopene, which promotes a healthy heart. Orange veggies like carrots and squash are rich in beta-carotene, which leads to healthy eyes and skin. Greens like spinach have chlorophyll that strengthens your immune system. Meanwhile, white veggies like cauliflower prevent diseases while purple veggies like eggplant decrease cholesterol in the body.
As you may have guessed, the star of clams Italiano is clams! Steamed with a mixture of white wine, garlic, and aromatic herbs, this is a dish that will have you gobbling it up to the very last drop of that delectable seafood broth.
Clams and all other types of shellfish are loaded with zinc, which boosts the immune system and protects you from diseases. They are also a great source of protein and healthy fats like omega-3, which improves the cardiovascular system. Just make sure to give all the clams a good, thorough scrub before adding them to the pot to get rid of any dirt.
Aglio e Olio
Made with a humble mixture of olive oil, garlic, and pepper, Aglio e olio is one of the simplest yet tastiest authentic Italian pasta dishes ever. A dish that falls under the famed Mediterranean diet, its fresh, plant-based ingredients reduce inflammation, protect you from chronic illnesses, boost brain activity, and aid in weight loss. It also takes less than 30 minutes to make, which is a plus for any busy bee who wants to try it at home!
Just remember that if you’re trying to lay off the carbohydrates, replacing your pasta with whole wheat might be better for you. This way, you can add unrefined carbs to your diet too.
Cacciatore means hunter in Italian, so chicken cacciatore literally translates to hunter-style chicken! According to folklore, chicken cacciatore was what hunters used to eat after long periods of hunting—on their way home, they’d gather mushrooms and herbs to stew with the chicken (or rabbit or pheasant).
Nowadays, chicken cacciatore usually involves cooking juicy chicken thighs with bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, and a handful of herbs. It has a good mix of macronutrients we need for the day and will leave you feeling full and satiated for hours—perfect for the hunter in us who just wants a yummy yet healthy dish in our tummies!
Named after Queen Margherita of Savoy who had instantly fallen in love with it, the pizza Margherita is topped with a few choice ingredients: cheese, basil, and tomato sauce. Don’t be fooled by the lack of glitz and glamor though—it packs a scrumptious punch! Interestingly, the white of the cheese, the green of the basil, and the red of the tomato sauce look just like the Italian flag too.
Admittedly, while pizza Margherita is packed with carbohydrates from the dough, protein from the cheese, and fats from the olive oil, it lacks quite a bit in the veggie department. So, it would be a good idea to add some additional toppings like bell peppers and mushrooms to compensate. This can be a fun activity for the whole family!
Risi e Bisi
Risi e bisi, which translates to rice and peas, is a classic dish from Venice that is as hearty as it is healthy. Traditionally made with medium-grain rice, fresh peas, chicken stock, and cubed prosciutto, you can easily make this vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock and omitting the prosciutto.
Peas are an amazing source of vitamins and minerals. It strengthens your immune system and reduces your risk of debilitating chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Keep in mind, however, that peas are heavy on carbohydrates. If you’re on a low carbohydrate diet or are looking to lose weight, then risi e bisi might not be the best option for you.