Hilary Meyer
February 28, 2011

I think I've mentioned before that one of my major downfalls is pasta. I love it. With red sauce, cream sauce, pesto, you name it. I could eat it by the bucketful. So even though I'm the associate food editor at EatingWell Magazine, it may surprise you to learn that I've never been to The Olive Garden-a pasta lover's dream with all those entrees drenched in cheese, and of course the endless salad and breadsticks.

There's an Olive Garden on my way to work, and recently, it's been calling to me. I imagine a giant bowl of steaming-hot cheesy pasta whose melty goodness still clings to my fork after I take the first bite! Yum! Not part of the fantasy, however, is how that giant ball of cheese in my stomach feels or how many celery-stick dinners I'm going to have to eat the rest of the week to keep my arteries from spontaneously clogging. (The saturated fat in Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo, for example, is the equivalent of eating 30 strips of thick-cut bacon.)

Well, it turns out I don't need to go out to get my pasta fix-I can get it just as deliciously at home and with a fraction of the calories and fat. If I didn't work at EatingWell in the test kitchen, I would probably be making a beeline to the Olive Garden parking lot. But the tricks I've learned making meals healthier but still tasting authentic has led me down a better path. Here I'm taking on three of the Olive Garden's popular entrees with healthier versions you can make at home. So keep your breadsticks and your giant bowls of pasta, Olive Garden, I'm staying in.

Lighter Lasagna

We lightened up this classic by using turkey sausage in place of pork (to cut down on the fat) and added plenty of vegetables to make it hearty without tacking on a ton of calories.

blog post photo

What you get at Olive Garden:
Lasagna Classico: 850 calories, 47 grams fat, 25 grams saturated fat and 2,830 mg sodium per serving

What you get if you make it at home:
Classic Lasagna: 357 calories, 8 g fat, 3 g sat, 698 mg sodium
Related Link:

What you save: 493 calories, 39 grams of fat, 22 grams of saturated fat, 2,132 mg sodium

Lower-Calorie Fettuccine Alfredo

We ditched the cream, and used broth as a base for the sauce. We thickened it with a little cornstarch to give it a "creamy" texture and mixed in some reduced-fat sour cream for richness

blog post photo


What you get at Olive Garden:
Fettuccine Alfredo: 1,220 calories, 75 grams fat, 47 grams saturated fat, 1,350 mg sodium

What you get if you make it at home:
Fettuccine Alfredo: 379 calories, 11 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 628 mg sodium
Related Link:

What you save: 841 calories, 64 grams of fat, 41 grams of saturated fat, 722 mg sodium

Healthier Spaghetti with Meat SauceWe use lean ground beef to keep the fat in check. To prevent it from tasting dry, we use plenty of tomatoes, and bulk up the sauce with some vegetables.
What you get at Olive Garden:
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce: 1,110 calories, 50 grams fat, 20 grams saturated fat, 2,180 mg sodium
What you get if you make it at home:
Spaghetti with Quick Meat Sauce: 384 calories, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 416 mg sodium
What you save: 726 calories, 41 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 1,458 mg sodium.

What are your favorite restaurant dishes that you would like to see made healthier?

Related Links from EatingWell: