Sometimes foods that appear to be good for us are actually unhealthy. A Caesar salad, for instance, can run about 300 calories by itself. Italian is a popular type of food that can be wholesome but also has some ingredients that make them unhealthy foods. Here is a countdown to five of the worst offenders.
A staple of the American diet, pizza is commonplace in many households. Dairy, bread, vegetable sauce and protein: what could be a healthier Italian food?
The answer is most of the menu. Of course, pizzas vary tremendously depending upon the brand and the toppings, but it is not a particularly wholesome dish regardless of those choices. A single slice of pepperoni often adds up to 250-375 calories. Around 30 carbohydrates is typical, and each slice has approximately 15g of fat. Not so bad. But this is a single slice. Few people eat just one. The kicker is that each piece also contains nearly 500mg of sodium. The maximum recommended daily amount is 2300mg.
4. Eggplant Parmesan
Because it has “eggplant” in the name, many people believe Eggplant Parmesan to be a healthy choice. The eggplant, however, is battered, deep fried, and smothered with cheese. One serving adds up to 850 calories, nearly half of the recommended 2000-calorie diet for most adults. Almost 100 carbs make it unsuitable for diabetics or anyone else on a low-carbohydrate diet, and 800mg of sodium are a high amount for the size of the serving. This meal contains over 1/3 the recommended daily amount of salt.
Chicken Parmesan is also often available, but it is even more unhealthy. Chicken Parmesan has 20 fewer carbs, but it is far from a wholesome meal. Because the process and most ingredients are the same, the chicken dish typically has 150 more calories as well as half again the amount of salt and fat. Both parmesan dinners are unhealthy Italian choices.
3. Fettuccini Alfredo
Alfredo sauce is typically considered unhealthy, but few patrons realize how truly unhealthy it is. The pasta with white Alfredo sauce is often paired with chicken or shrimp in Italian restaurants and recipes. Butter and cheese are melted in heavy cream to create a rich sauce filled with 1200 calories, nearly 50g of fat and 99 carbs. In itself it also contains more than the suggested daily amount of sodium, nearly 2400mg.
The fettuccini dish isn’t the only unhealthy Alfredo option; most of the calories, fat and sodium come from the sauce. Avoid anything with “Alfredo” in the name.
2. Chicken Carbonara
Carbonara typically contains pancetta (an Italian cured pork, somewhat akin to ham), egg yolks, and an abundance of cheese. A serving of Carbonara runs about 1450 calories, 3000mg of sodium and 80g of fat. Although not typically fried, this popular Olive Garden dish contains enough calories for nearly an entire day, over the RDA for sodium, and four times the fat.
1. Pork Milanese
This dish is made of a pork cut breaded and deep fried, served covered with cheese. It weighs in at just over 1500 calories, ¾ the daily allowance for most adults. Add in 3100mg of sodium, 87g of fat and 118 carbs, and you have a dish not really fit for human consumption.
Italian food doesn’t have to be unhealthy, of course. Skip the fried, buttery breadsticks that may each have nearly 200 calories apiece, and then make good choices. Selecting a grilled chicken dish, a side of pasta with a tomato-based sauce, and a regular dinner salad with a reasonable amount of balsamic vinaigrette dressing makes a delicious and healthy Italian meal.
“Nutrient Data Laboratory.” US Department of Agriculture. Nutrition.gov.
“2005 Dietary Guidelines.” US Department of Agriculture. Usda.gov.
American Heart Association. Americanheart.org.
“Olive Garden Restaurant: Nutrition Information.” Olivegarden.com.