Eating healthy at the Olive Garden restaurant involves choosing whole-grain pastas and dishes with lots of vegetables and lean protein. Keeping portion sizes small is key at the Olive Garden, which is known for its large portion sizes. Avoid side dishes, such as breadsticks, desserts and high-calorie drinks. Use the nutritional facts provided by the Olive Garden's website for information that can lead to healthy eating choices.
As of 2014, the Olive Garden offers a Lighter Italian Fare menu. All dishes on the menu contain 575 calories or fewer. Lunch choices include garlic rosemary chicken, ravioli di portobello, capellini pomodoro and lasagna primavera with grilled chicken. The light dinner menu adds options that include herb-grilled salmon, center-cut filet mignon, baked tilapia with shrimp and chicken Abruzzi.
The Olive Garden offers low-fat salad dressing, skinny cocktails, calorie-free beverages and mini-desserts. The restaurant is willing to substitute whole wheat linguine for any pasta and vegetables for any other side dish, and it is willing to box dishes to go before they are brought to the table, effectively cutting the portion size in half.
Among the healthier choices on the regular Olive Garden menu are stuffed mushrooms, pasta e fagioli soup and garden salad without dressing. Healthy entrée choices include cheese ravioli with marinara sauce or whole wheat linguini with marinara sauce and either grilled chicken or meatballs on the side.