Food Delivery Makeover: How to Order a Healthy Italian Lunch

Posted by on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 with 2 Comments

Trying to eat healthy at work can be challenging enough when you have total control over the food in front of you… but when it’s a group takeout day, or a catered lunch is provided, making smart choices gets even trickier. And no cuisine prevents more temptations than Italian: hearty portions of pastas, savory meat dishes piled with cheese, and creamy sauces make it seem like there’s no possible way to eat healthy on Italian food delivery day.


Bruschetta is a fantastic choice for an Italian appetizer.
Image source: Flickr user naotakem

But that’s ignoring the inherent health benefits of many authentic Italian ingredients: fresh green vegetables, juicy tomatoes, simple olive oil, and flavorful herbs. There are definitely healthy choices to make when it’s time to order Italian, and we’ve compiled a few basic guidelines to help steer you toward a meal that won’t derail your diet — along with sample dishes to keep an eye out for on the menu:

Basic guidelines for ordering healthy Italian food delivery

Choose a smart sauce

When it comes to sauces, red means go! Marinara sauces tend to be the healthiest, both in terms of low calorie content and high levels of the antioxidant lycopene from the cooked tomatoes. Second, think green: pesto sauces may be higher-cal, but since most pestos are made from fresh herbs, pine nuts or walnuts, and olive oil, those calories at least come with healthy unsaturated fats. And finally, in this instance, white means no: alfredo sauce is essentially butter, cheese, and cream, offering a lot of saturated fat and tons of calories.

Avoid “Parmigiana”

While “Parmigiana” means “parmesan” in Italian, when you see this word on most American menus, it indicates that the item will be breaded, likely fried, and covered in cheese and sauce. Even on harmless-sounding eggplant, eating “Parmigiana” style can add hundreds of calories to your meal. Go for simply grilled chicken or vegetables instead.

Think family-style

Many Italian dishes began as family-style entrees, meant to be shared with a group. Now, most American restaurants just plop a pound of pasta loaded with meatballs and covered in Parmesan down in front of one person, making portion control incredibly difficult. Suggest sharing family-style with your coworkers, so you can try a few bites of indulgent dishes and make most of your meal from the lighter options.

Stick with sides

Many Italian menus will feature a healthy selection of side dishes, including a side-sized portion of simple pastas, like spaghetti and marinara. Order one of those, along with a green vegetable (see below), to wind up with enough food to satisfy you without leaving you feeling unpleasantly overstuffed.

Just say yes to these healthy Italian dishes


Bresaola is salted, air-dried beef usually served as an antipasti: very lean, it’s an excellent way to include some high-quality protein in your food delivery order.

Bruschetta are slices of crusty bread topped with diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, and usually drizzled with olive oil. Refreshing and vegetable-forward, this is a much better start to your meal than stuffed mushrooms, usually slathered with cheese.


Choose a simple garden salad instead of a chopped salad, which often comes with more cured meats than vegetables.


Spaghetti with marinara is a classic, and usually one of the lowest-cal options on the pasta menu. If you can’t do without meat, go for a meat sauces instead of meatballs, which will carry significantly more saturated fat and salt.

Polenta (ground cornmeal) is a good pasta alternative, and naturally gluten-free if you’re on a restricted diet. When prepared traditionally — boiled with a little Parmesan on top — it’s a fairly healthy alternative to heavily sauced pastas.


Chicken paillard is the perfect example of a simple, straightforward, and healthy Italian entree: a flat portion of pounded, grilled chicken is usually seasoned with lemon and olive oil instead of a heavy sauce, and is beautiful when paired with a green vegetable along the side (double-check with the specific restaurant to make sure they don’t bread the meat before grilling; it’s not common, but not unheard of either).


Think green! Many Italian restaurants will feature at least a few fresh vegetables as side dishes: sautéed spinach, broccoli rabe, and asparagus are all wonderful choices, as they’re typically prepared with olive oil instead of butter.


Go for cannoli instead of tiramisu — the traditional variety are stuffed with ricotta cheese, providing some calcium and protein instead of empty calories.

Looking for your new favorite Italian menu? You’re sure to find something deliciously healthy in the wide selection of restaurants available for food delivery from! From takeout lunches to catered affairs, there’s no better spot to find the perfect Italian office meals.

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

2 responses to “Food Delivery Makeover: How to Order a Healthy Italian Lunch”

  1. Liz says:

    Great article, dining on healthy Italian food can be a challenge, but this article provides great guidelines to get people off to a healthy start! And dessert was included!

    • Sara says:

      Thanks Liz! Sometimes the biggest challenge to eating healthier from our favorite restaurants is just switching up our usual orders. It can be so easy to develop tunnel vision about what a cuisine actually is, and lose sight of the fresh vegetables on the menu!