Navigating restaurant menus to find healthy options can be quite difficult, especially at large Italian chain restaurants with their overly-indulgent pasta and meat dishes.
Here’s a sampling of entrées to avoid from Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Olive Garden, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and Maggiano’s Little Italy. The numbers—we took them from the companies’ Web sites—are likely to reflect what you’d get in similar dishes at similar restaurants.
Carrabba’s Veal Marsala with Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Saturated Fat: 28 grams
Sodium: 1,670 mg
“Sautéed and topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our housemade Lombardo Marsala wine sauce.” Chicken Marsala is similar. Roughly half of the calories and saturated fat come from the garlic mashed potatoes. Trade it for the vegetable of the day and you drop to around 620 calories and “only” 17 grams of saturated fat and 1,060 mg of sodium.
Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana
Saturated Fat: 10 grams
Sodium: 1,900 mg
Breaded, fried, topped with marinara, mozzarella, and parmesan and served with a side of pasta. That’s no way to treat a vegetable. But it still beats the chain’s Chicken Parmigiana, with 1,090 calories and almost twice the saturated fat (18 grams) and sodium (3,380 mg).
Maggiano’s Chicken Piccata
Saturated Fat: 23 grams
Sodium: 2,290 mg
Chicken breasts sautéed with capers and lemon butter, served with pasta with butter, olive oil, and garlic. Oh dear. The sauce gives this classic chicken dish as many calories as Maggiano’s Spaghetti & Meatball with meat sauce (and twice the saturated fat). The Veal Piccata ups the saturated fat to 30 grams.
Macaroni Grill Mama’s Trio
Saturated Fat: 30 grams
Sodium: 3,430 mg
Not sure which entrée to order? Why not get three: say, Chicken Parmesan, Lasagna Bolog¬nese, and Chicken & Mushroom Cannelloni? How sensible. Olive Garden swaps the cannel¬loni for Fettuccine Alfredo and calls it a Tour of Italy. The damage is similar.
Maggiano’s Prime New York Steak
Saturated Fat: 46 grams
Sodium: 3,030 mg
Maggiano’s serves its 1 lb. fatty steak with fried potatoes. And it serves your poor arteries more than enough sat fat for today and tomorrow. Would you sit down to two Pizza Hut Ultimate Cheese Lovers Personal Pan Pizzas topped with 7 pats of butter? You pretty much just did.
Maggiano’s Chicken Saltimbocca
Saturated Fat: 28 grams
Sodium: 3,370 mg
How to turn chicken breasts into belly fat? Bread them, then top with prosciutto and provolone and serve with buttered and oiled pasta.