Italian-American food chain Olive Garden has been hitting headlines lately as they have recently opened their first restaurant in Chicago and plan to implement online ordering chain-wide by August. Among the high points of visiting Olive Garden, which include never-ending salad, is the chain’s devotion to family friendliness – their slogan, as a matter of fact,was once “When you’re here, you’re family” – the tagline now has been replaced with the simple “Go Olive Garden,” among other not-so-well-received modernizations. Just how nutritional is Olive Garden for the average eater, though, or for those hoping to get fit? While some studies don’t give those mouthwatering breadsticks much credit, other less formal ones tell you there are still smart ways to eat at Olive Garden.
The Olive Garden menu can be a great resource when browsing for healthier options. According to their website, Olive Garden boasts a “Garden Fare” menu, which boasts 575 calories or less per entree. LiveStrong suggests asking servers about alternative cooking methods to make your meal even healthier, as well as substituting ingredients for healthier ones; for example, chicken and seafood contain less fat and fewer calories than sausage and meatballs. Olive Garden’s website also suggests trading in their regular salad dressing for low-fat dressing, at half the calories, as well as recommending Dolcinis, small desserts with less than 300 calories.
According to The Healthy Eating Guide, a healthy eater also will want to avoid certain items when dining at Olive Garden. Appetizers you’ll want to avoid include the Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta, Lasagna Fritta, and Calamari with Parmesan-Peppercorn Sauce, which weighs in at 1190 calories, 84 grams of fat, and 2680 milligrams of sodium – which is well above a day’s worth of sodium, all in one appetizer! (But it tastes so good…) FitDay reports that you may be better off just sticking to the breadsticks. As far as entrees, cross off the Spaghetti & Italian Sausage, Steak Gorgonzo-Alfredo, and Chicken Alfredo. The website says to “remember Olive Garden’s portion sizes are usually enough for two meals, so ask your server to immediately box half your meal up before it comes out.” The most nutritious entrees at Olive Garden are reportedly the Apricot Chicken, Herb-Grilled Salmon, and Penne Rigate Pomodoro.
A complete guide with Olive Garden’s available nutritional information can be found on their website.
If you have had an experience either satisfactory or not with the healthiness of Olive Garden’s menu offerings, we would love to hear about it.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]