8 Best Dishes To Order At Olive Garden, According To Nutritionists
All the nutritionists we spoke to agree: This seafood entree is a dinner winner. “Salmon is rich in filling lean protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and it's also served with fiber-filled broccoli on the side,” says Julie Harrington, RD. Plus, compared to other menu choices, it’s lower in salt, too, which can make you feel bloated after a meal. “It has 570 mg of sodium, whereas most of the other dishes have more than 1,000, so it's a much better choice,” says Levinson.
If you feel like dinner at Olive Garden just isn’t complete without their famous breadsticks, Hoban has some savvy advice for you: “The trick to making this Olive Garden staple a better choice is to remove 'unlimited' from the beginning of the sentence—a single serving of soup, a salad, andonebreadstick comes in at about 500 calories, and allows you to still enjoy those mouthwatering processed carbs while balancing out your meal with veggies and protein.”
The pasta e fagioli soup is a smart pick, with 9 g of protein and 4 g of fiber per bowl. And ask for your salad dressing on the side. “The salad bowls tend to be doused in dressing, so this is a simple way to cut back on extra calories and sodium,” she says.
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Olive Garden’s Lighter Fare menu offers several entrees that house about half the calories of their classics, and Salter points to the Garlic Rosemary Chicken as a solid choice. “You're getting lean protein and vegetables, and since the chicken is roasted, not sautéed in butter or fried, it's not packed with excess calories,” he says.
This cod entrée has all the makings of a balanced plate—protein, healthy fats, and a veggie (zucchini) on the side. Plus, it’s less than 500 calories (470, to be exact). “It’s a really well-rounded meal,” says Hoban. “The garlic herb butter is indulgent and satisfying, so you won't feel like you're depriving yourself by picking this over a pasta dish.”
But if pasta is still calling your name, Cording recommends prioritizing seafood (for lean protein) and vegetables (for fiber and vitamins). “The shrimp scampi has a decent amount of shrimp and vegetables, and not a huge portion of pasta,” she says, which can often be a vehicle for sauces full of salt and fat. And you can lighten it up even more by asking for the garlic sauce on the side. “That way, you use only what you need.”
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