1. Watch out for unhealthy appetizers.
When dining out… Avoid the bread basket. Garlic bread, white rolls, or breadsticks are off-limits on all Phases. Other foods to avoid are the salami and other fatty meats and cheeses often served as part of an antipasto. Fried calamari and other fried appetizers are also off-limits.
When at home… Serve whole-grain bread or start with a homemade minestrone soup, a broth-based soup, or a fresh green salad. Another healthy appetizer? Reduced-fat mozzarella and vine-ripened tomatoes drizzled with a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Enjoy a mixed green salad.
When dining out…Ask for a basic house salad with veggies and request salad dressing on the side (be sure to stick with two tablespoons). If you prefer a classic Caesar salad, skip the croutons.
When at home… Start off your meal with mixed greens, such as arugula, endive, escarole, and/or spinach. Prepare a lemon or balsamic vinaigrette, using extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and herbs. Grate a very small amount of Parmesan cheese over the salad to contribute added flavor, and sprinkle with a few walnuts, slivered almonds, or pine nuts.
When dining out… Stick with 1/2 cup of whole-wheat pasta and be sure to avoid cream-based sauces like Alfredo. Choose pasta dishes that are made with tomato- or seafood-based sauces.
When at home… Prepare homemade pasta using whole-wheat flour instead of white flour, or purchase 100 percent whole-wheat pasta at the grocery store. Instead of high-fat cheese sauces, make a baked pasta dish, such as lasagna and ziti, with lots of vegetables and/or lean ground meat or turkey. Top your pasta with a small amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese or reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, or reduced-fat ricotta cheese.
When dining out… Be sure to avoid parmigiana dishes as they are typically breaded and fried. Veal, which is commonly served in Italian restaurants. Be sure to choose veal chop, cutlet, leg, or top round, rather than veal breast, which is a fattier cut.
When at home… Choose a lean meat such as sirloin or poultry, or seafood like halibut or shrimp for the main course, and top it with a tomato sauce. Grill, bake, or roast for a healthy Italian dinner.
When dining out… Avoid all fried or breaded side dishes, including fried zucchini. Skip the starchy sides and ask for a double serving of fresh vegetables.
When at home… Roast or grill eggplant and peppers or serve sautéed broccoli or spinach with garlic, lemon and extra-virgin olive oil.
6. Go for a healthy dessert.
When dining out… Skip the rich and decadent traditional Italian sweets like tiramisu, cannolis, and full-fat cheesecake. Instead, choose fresh fruit as a healthy dessert.
When at home…Enjoy a homemade ricotta cheesecake, using part-skim ricotta cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar substitutes, eggs, and vanilla or almond extract.