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That’s (not) Italian

If an Italian tourist took a stroll through an American supermarket, she might have a hard time recognizing many of the Italian “classics” so readily available. Here in America, the thought of Italian food brings to mind mounds of pasta or bread, dripping with tomato and cream sauces and melted cheese.

However, in the old country, you’re more likely to find platters overflowing with freshly caught fish and local produce, with just a bit of pasta on the side. As with many of the world’s cuisines, the Americanized versions are often on the heavy side, calorie- and fat-laden.

That doesn’t mean the only way you can have a healthy Italian meal is to jet across the Atlantic. When you don’t have time for cooking wholesome meals at home, there are many options for you to enjoy a bit of Italy here in the U.S. Environmental Nutrition scoured supermarket shelves and freezers to learn more about Italian supermarket options and to let you know which ones we think are best.

The next time your mouth’s watering for some Italian fare, keep the following pointers in mind:

1. Try meat-free. Italian-American meals’ meat of choice is often high-fat, high-sodium sausage. To cut the fat, sodium, and calories a bit, look for meatless meals. If you can’t go completely vegetarian for the evening, try a meal with seafood instead of red meat.

2. Pick up some veggies to steam. As with most prepared or semiprepared supermarket meals, most of the Italian meals you’ll find are lacking in produce. A bag of ready-to-steam veggies is a simple way to add bulk and nutrients to your meal with very few calories.

3. Choose red over white. Typically, tomato-based sauces will be lower in fat and calories than a cream or cheese sauce. Plus, tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, shown to be protective against diseases such as prostate cancer.