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I’m a dietitian — here’s what to order at the Olive Garden when you’re trying to eat healthy – New York Post

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Cancel the Tour of Italy — and nix those unlimited breadsticks.

Dining out at the Olive Garden has been a relatively affordable favorite for more than thirty years — with nearly 900 restaurants, most of us are familiar with its unabashedly American-Italian menu, brimming with cheesy pastabilities. But could a meal here actually be healthy?

While bowls of creamy alfredo and plates of chocolate lasagna might be the last thing you’d want to get near while trying to eat right, The O.G. harbors more than a few feel-good secrets for those on their best eating behavior, experts say.

You don’t have to be in the mood to blow your diet to enjoy a night out at The O.G., an expert explained. M. Suhail

Toby Amidor is an award winning dietitian; on behalf of Eat This, Not That!, the bestselling cookbook author analyzed the chain restaurant’s familiar menu, coming up with a list of the absolute best-for-you — all things being relative — pasta dishes, making sticking to your guns una passegiata nel parco. Or, close enough.

One of the first obstacles do-good diners face at the Olive Garden, Amidor notes, is portion size. The plates of pasta here — never mind never-ending — are massive, she says, leading to inflated calorie counts, no matter what. Add in all that cream, cheese and sodium, and your diet is already wearing a set of cement shoes.

Or is it? An in-depth analysis reveals that some of the restaurant’s pasta dishes are downright saintly, compared to their reputation.

Based on total calories, saturated fat content, sodium and carb count, there are two dishes you should be looking at, according to Amidor.

The first one — drum roll, please — is the spaghetti marinara. An obvious choice, perhaps, but it’s also downright healthy compared to its menu buddies at the bottom of the list.

The restaurant’s big portion of spaghetti marinara is the healthiest pasta dish on the menu. Olive Garden

One dinner entree of this staple dish contains 490 calories, and just 1 gram of saturated fat, or 5% of the daily recommend, less than any other pasta on the menu. Besides a lot of salt, the only other major downer is that 68% of those calories come from carbohydrates.

“To better balance it, order grilled chicken or veggies on the side,” Amidor suggested.

And if that’s too boring to consider leaving the house for, get a boatload of this — the second healthiest pasta dish on the menu is, surprise, the shrimp scampi, with just 7 grams of saturated fat and only 490 calories, plus an energy-giving 29 grams of protein.

“This classic dish is made with sautéed shrimp in garlic sauce, tossed with asparagus, tomatoes, and angel hair pasta,” Amidor said.

“It’s second on the better-for-you side as the calories, saturated fat, and even carbs are more reasonable than most other options,” the pro explained.

For more excitement — and definitely more protein — there’s the equally virtuous shrimp scampi. Olive Garden

Worst on the list was the Chicken Tortollini Alfredo — cheesy pasta pockets baked in Alfredo sauce with loads more cheese, toasted breadcrumbs and some grilled chicken.

With a stonking 1,890 calories and 76 grams of saturated fat, a dieter’s night will be ruined by ordering this culinary catastrophe.

“The calories for this dish alone are the amount recommended for an entire day!” said Amidor.

“It provides 380% and 162% of the recommended daily max for saturated fat and sodium, respectively. It’s just too much in terms of portions of each of the ingredients, especially when slathered in a creamy sauce,” she explained.

Pair your healthy choices with some of the restaurant’s famous salad, or even a bowl of one of their healthier soups, and you’ll leave feeling full — and, possibly a first for Olive Garden — just a little bit virtuous.

In an earlier article for Eat This, Not That!, a set of medical professionals analyzed the remainder of the restaurant’s menu, finding the minestrone to be the most holier-than-thou of the soups, with 110 calories per serving and 1 measly gram of saturated fat.

Take the salad — leave the breadsticks, the pros suggest. Also, a bowl of soup — the right soup — makes for a nicely well-rounded meal.

And what of the salad? Have at it, the experts say, calling it “on the lower side when it comes to saturated fat, and packed with refreshing vegetables that help people meet their fiber needs.”

But it’s not considered the healthiest thing on the menu, possibly because, as noted in the article, you have to eat a lot of it to feel full.

Instead, the all-around award goes to the herb-grilled salmon entree, packing in 490 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat and 45 grams of protein.

“While it is higher in fat than other dishes on the list, it is high in omega-3’s, an essential fatty acid we can only obtain from our diet that supports brain and overall health,” dietitian Amy Goodson said at the time. .

“In fact, omega-3s — which are a type of polyunsaturated fat — have been found to also aid in heart health, inflammation, and even reducing the risk of certain cancers,” she continued.

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