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Italian meals go light & healthy!

Spice it up

Try these tips to make your favorite Italian dishes a bit healthier:

  • Replace some of the salt in your recipes with basil, oregano, garlic, parsley and other flavorful seasonings.
  • Think fresh. Choose fresh, not canned or processed, chicken, fish and meat.
  • Make smart substitutions. Instead of whole milk or cream, cook with low-fat milk, and use vegetable oil instead of butter.
  • Rinse tuna and other canned foods before cooking to get rid of some of the sodium.
  • Remove the skin from chicken and any visible fat from other meats before cooking.
  • Skip the salt when boiling water for pasta.
  • Cook with leaner beef and pork cuts that end in “loin,” such as tenderloin, sirloin or pork loin.

If you want a heart-healthy diet, eat Italian! Sicilian dishes in particular feature fish, legumes, fruits, vegetables, pasta and little meat—plus healthy fats like olive oil. Try these low-fat recipes from the National Institutes of Health.

Minestrone soup > Serves 16

¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (or ⅛ teaspoon powder)
1⅓ cups onion, coarsely chopped
1½ cups celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, choppe
1 cup carrots, sliced, fresh or frozen
4¾ cups cabbage, shredded
1 can (1 lb) tomatoes, cut up
1 cup canned red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1½ cups frozen peas
1½ cups fresh green beans
dash hot sauce
11 cups water
2 cups pasta, uncooked

  1. Heat oil in 4-quart saucepan. Add garlic, onion and celery, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except pasta. Stir until ingredients are well mixed.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add uncooked pasta and simmer for 2–3 minutes.

Per 1-cup serving: 112 calories, 4 g total fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 202 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 4 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 393 mg potassium

Vegetarian spaghetti sauce > Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1¼ cups zucchini, sliced
1 tablespoon oregano, dried
1 tablespoon basil, dried
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) no-salt-added tomato paste
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
3 cups spaghetti, cooked

  1. In medium skillet, heat oil. Sauté onions, garlic and zucchini in oil for 5 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Serve over spaghetti.

Per ¾ cup serving: 102 calories, 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 3 g protein, 623 mg potassium

Recipes reprinted from Keep the Beat: Heart Healthy Recipes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. July 2003. Available for free download at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/other/ktb_recipebk/index.htm, or in print by sending $4, plus $3.10 for shipping, to NHLBI Information Center at P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824-0105; or by calling 301-592-8573.


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