Carrabba's is an Italian chain restaurant with an extensive menu that includes such favorites as spaghetti and lasagna as well as salads, soups and traditional desserts. Many of these traditional options, however, are too high in calories, fat, sodium or sugar to be considered nutritious. However, there are healthy menu items. You just need to know what and how to order.
Starters and Sides
While you'll need to skip the fried calamari and zucchini, as well as the mozzarella sticks, there are a couple of healthier options if you want an appetizer. Try an order of the steamed mussels or shrimp scampi, but ask for the butter sauce on the side. Both mussels and shrimp are low in fat and supply a good amount of protein, but drowning them in butter increases the saturated fat content quite significantly. The crab cakes are one of the lowest-fat appetizers and they also supply fiber and protein. A house salad with dressing on the side is another starter to consider. It's low in calories and the vegetables add fiber and potassium to your Italian meal. A bowl of minestrone soup makes a healthy appetizer as well. Minestrone soup is made with vegetables and beans, which means it's low in saturated fat and high in fiber, protein and essential vitamins and minerals.
The trick to ordering pasta at Carrabba's is to skip the creamy sauces. A serving of fettuccine Alfredo, for example, can contain more than 1,200 calories. Pasta recipes loaded with cheese, such as stuffed manicotti, aren't healthy choices either because they are high in calories and also contain a large amount of saturated fat. Opt for pasta in tomato sauce for a lower-fat meal that also supplies vitamin C and fiber. Pasta dishes with tomato sauce and fresh seafood are another healthy option at Carrabba's because they're rich in nutrients but low in saturated fat. Pasta tossed with fresh vegetables and grilled chicken is another healthy choice that appears on the Carraba's menu.
From the Wood-Burning Stove
Carraba's offers several wood-fired menu items, including several pizza selections. Opt for pizzas made with calcium-rich mozzarella cheese and plenty of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and peppers. Skip the pepperoni and sausage because these meats are high in sodium and saturated fat. Wood-fired salmon is another option on the Carrabba's menu that's a nutritious choice, supplying heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as well as a good amount of protein. Grilled chicken or chicken marsala are additional items to consider as they're lower in saturated fat and calories than many of the other menu options, too.
Tips for Successful Ordering
Consider ordering an appetizer as your meal. A plate of steamed mussels, for example, is fairly low in fat and calories, if you ask for the butter sauce on the side, and can be quite filling if you're not ravenously hungry. If you want to splurge and have stuffed pasta or pepperoni pizza, ask a dining companion to split the meal with you so you don't go overboard on the fat, calories and sodium. Taking half your meal home with you is another way to cut down on how much you eat. You might also consider asking your server to remove the complimentary bread that often comes with an Italian meal, as the American Cancer Society recommends.