Are you searching for delicious meals your kids will love that are also nutritious? Well, Italian food can provide the best of both worlds. Enjoy a delicious variety of dishes that have great health benefits. Incorporate the ingredients into recipes or use them to narrow down your selection at an Italian restaurant — because eating out can be healthy, too.
Keep reading to discover eight wholesome Italian foods that you won’t want to miss!
Beans are used frequently in Italian cooking in dishes like pasta e Fagioli, which was originally considered a peasant dish. They are a healthy substitute for meat because they provide protein and lower your saturated fat intake. Beans also offer nutrients and fiber, which are vital to a well-balanced diet. Research shows that they can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Add these healthy beans to pasta, soup, or whatever else inspires you. Get creative and combine cultural favorites by adding beans, garlic, and ricotta cheese to make a loaded mac and cheese that your family will love.
Enjoy the ingredient that inspired the classic southern Italian dish — eggplant parmesan. Eggplant is a low-calorie food that is high in fiber and offers extensive vitamins and minerals. You should eat this fruit in moderation since it’s part of the nightshade family, which may aggravate some digestive systems.
Ways to consume eggplant include:
- Cooked and pureed into a dip
Garlic tastes great and has antibiotic and antifungal properties. With numerous health benefits like lowering the risk of cancer, promoting heart health, and reducing inflammation, you’ll want to implement garlic in every meal. Plus — as your kids will surely tell you — it keeps the vampires away!
This versatile seasoning works well on a variety of dishes. It’s an excellent addition to soups, stews, pasta, or pizza. Before adding it to your meal, chop or crush the garlic to release healthy compounds. In Italy, garlic is used to make pestos and foods like chicken frittata. Ironically, many traditional Italians do not mix onion and garlic into their tomato sauces because they prefer simplicity.
These brightly colored fruits are delicious raw or cooked. Tomatoes can be a healthy addition to any meal, with vitamins like A and C as well as antioxidants. Lycopene — an antioxidant found in tomatoes — is theorized to reduce the risk of strokes and prostate cancer.
Try ordering pasta with a salsa di pomodoro to experience authentic Italian flavors. Or, enjoy Caprese Insalata for a fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad. You can sneak this hearty ingredient into sandwiches, soups, casseroles, and even pastries.
5. Olive Oil
Decrease your butter consumption by using more olive oil. It’s considered a monosaturated fat, which is healthier for your body. Implementing it into your diet will help cut back on your bad cholesterol and reduce your use of animal by-products, which is great if you have a dairy intolerance.
Extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants, which has been linked to good heart health. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
This aromatic and flavorful oil can be used in salad dressings, cooking, or baking. Incorporate it into a luscious homemade pesto to enjoy over whole wheat pasta or on sandwiches. Your kids will be begging for more!
6. Red Wine
Did you know that a glass of red wine can be good for your health? In moderation, it’s considered heart-healthy because it’s high in antioxidants, which boost the good cholesterol in your body. It can also help reduce the formation of blood clots and prevent artery damage. Adults can enjoy a drink with dinner to integrate it into their diet.
While it’s not appropriate for minors to drink alcohol, you could incorporate it into a meal where all alcohol would be cooked out. A hearty red wine can quickly add body into a stew or meat dish.
One of the more iconic Italian cheeses, ricotta acts as an excellent source of protein and calcium. It contains less salt and fat than other cheese types but adds a rich creaminess to any meal. It can be used as a key ingredient in a dish or as a delicious topping.
Ravioli, lasagna, and pasta all love to mix with this healthy cheese. Choose a fat-free or part-skim ricotta to decrease the number of calories and fat per serving. Like any saturated fat, you should eat this food in moderation to keep your cholesterol in check.
Sardines are high in omega-3s, which are good for your heart and brain health. These little fish pack a big punch of flavor, protein, and nutrients. Unlike other fish, sardines are typically not high in mercury and are budget-friendly. They also include selenium, which has been linked to improving your metabolism and thyroid function while also boosting your immune system.
Add these little guys to pasta recipes, toast, or salads for a simple yet healthy meal.
Eat Your Way to Better Health
Italy has ranked as the second nation in Bloomberg’s Healthiest Country Index, coming in directly under Spain. There’s little wonder why they ranked so highly since Italians incorporate so many healthy foods into their cuisine.
Enjoy these numerous health benefits from the comfort of your home by incorporating these classic recipes into your diet. And if you want a break from cooking, check out an Italian restaurant and savor these nutritious ingredients.