Italian and Chinese cuisines are probably the most ubiquitous of all cuisines in the world - because they're delicious, and can be healthy too.
So, how can you really eat healthy Italian food?
Let's start with the basics. There are two types of sauces - cheese based sauce and vegetables based sauce (tomato, pesto, garlic, etc.). Cheese, as we all know is higher in fat. Now, fat is not bad, but in a whole dish with cheese based sauce, it adds up to a lot of calories. And the most basic reason why people get fat, is because they consume more calories than they expend.
Besides this, the vegetables based sauces like those made from tomato supply you with lots of lycopene, which has been proven to reduce chances of prostate cancer in men.
Pasta is primarily carbohydrates. Whole wheat pasta is better since it has a lower glycemic index and has higher protein and fiber content, helping you build those muscles, to burn more calories! :)
Eating grilled meat (chicken, fish, red meat) as a main course is also a good option. The meat is high in protein and red meat is high in iron as well. Salmon is high in omega 3 oils. Often, its grilled in olive oil, which has a high content of cholesterol lowering power. The fat from olive oil keeps you full for longer along with the heart healthy benefits of olive oil.
A side dish of mashed potatoes in Italian food is very tempting. Potato is not bad by itself, but mashed potatoes are often loaded with cream and butter to make them soft and delicious. That's where the hidden calories reside. Besides, a side of other grilled veggies would give you lots of nutrition. And from the grill, they've acquired a hint of sweet due to caramelization.
If you love the bread basket, take it easy. Ask the restaurant for whole wheat bread. You'll be surprised how often they have it, but don't bring it out!
I have a sweet tooth, so desserts are hard to resist :) But portion control is key. Split a dessert with your friends to minimize the damage. You could also end with a cheese platter with your friends. As a general rule, hard cheese has less fat than soft cheese.