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How to Eat Healthy at Olive Garden

By Sara Ipatenco

Olive Garden is a popular restaurant chain that offers a variety of traditional Italian meals and appetizers. Many Italian dishes are high in fat and calories, which may make it more challenging for you to eat healthy while at Olive Garden. The restaurant offers a Garden Fare menu, which includes healthier alternatives containing fewer calories and grams of fat than the more traditional menu choices. Ask your server to help you choose the healthiest meal so you can enjoy eating out without compromising your health.

Browse the Garden Fare menu for healthier options. Look for the olive branch logo next to the healthier menu choices you have, recommends the Olive Garden. Glance at the calorie count and fat content to help guide your selection between the chicken, steak, pasta or soup choices.

Customize your Garden Fare meal to meet your needs. Ask your server about alternative cooking methods, such as sauteeing or grilling, to make your meal even healthier. Substitute ingredients you do not like for other healthy choices, such as asparagus, tomatoes or extra virgin olive oil, recommends Olive Garden.

Look for ways to reduce calories and fat in appetizers and side dishes. Ask for the dressing on the side when you order your salad, since a serving of the house dressing has 26 g of fat. Pass on the bread sticks, which have 150 calories and 2 grams of fat each.

Choose pasta dishes that do not include creamy or buttery sauces. Olive Garden's Fettuccini Alfredo has 1,220 calories and 75 grams of fat per serving, while Shrimp Primavera has only 730 calories and 12 grams of fat, says Joanne V. Lichten, author of "Dining Lean--How to Eat Healthy When You're Not at Home." Select an entree with a tomato-based sauce instead to cut fat and calories from your meal.

Make your meat selections carefully to make your meal healthier. Chicken or seafood have fewer grams of fat and fewer calories than sausage or meatballs. Add roasted chicken to your meal for only 130 calories and 3.5 grams of fat as opposed to sausage, which adds 280 calories and 23 grams of fat.

Tips

If you want to enjoy an appetizer before your meal, choose minestrone soup for only 70 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving or Zuppa Toscana for only 170 calories and 4 grams of fat. Choose low-calorie and low-fat beverages, such as iced tea or hot tea for 0 calories and 0 grams of fat. Pass on the sangria, which has as many as 250 calories per glass, and the frozen margaritas, which can have close to 500 calories per glass.

Warnings

Pass on dessert after your meal at Olive Garden, as the restaurant chain does not offer low-calorie or low-fat options. Steer clear of the Black Tie Mousse Cake, which has 760 calories and 48 grams of fat per serving, and the White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, which has 890 calories and 62 grams of fat per serving.

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