Healthy Meals at Olive Garden


Background on Olive Garden's health-conscious options

Olive Garden's "Lighter Italian Fare" section showcases a Mediterranean-inspired culinary approach focused on a balanced diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fresh herbs, and lean proteins. Contrary to the perception of Italian cuisine being laden with cream sauces and cheese, Olive Garden presents numerous dishes capturing the essence of healthy dining.

Seafood takes center stage in health-focused items like the Shrimp Scampi and Herb-Grilled Salmon. The Shrimp Scampi features shrimp sautéed in a light garlic sauce with asparagus and tomatoes, offering a well-rounded nutritional profile under 500 calories. The Herb-Grilled Salmon provides a hefty dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein, served with garlic-parmesan broccoli.

Vegetables play a pivotal role, whether as side dishes or main components. The Minestrone soup is a flavorful, fiber-rich blend of beans, fresh vegetables, and pasta. Grilled dishes like the Chicken Margherita, dressed with a zesty lemon-garlic sauce and accompanied by marinated tomatoes and broccoli, ensure a substantial intake of lean protein and fiber without unnecessary carbs.

Even the customizable pasta options, such as angel hair pasta with marinara sauce, offer a versatile low-glycemic foundation that can be tailored with lean proteins and vegetables to suit individual dietary preferences and requirements.

Olive Garden's dedication to presenting health-conscious alternatives celebrates the natural flavors of quality ingredients, captivating both comfort food enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals striving for better nutritional choices.

The benefits of choosing healthier meals at Olive Garden

Choosing healthier meals at Olive Garden can significantly enhance overall well-being. Lower calorie dishes like Shrimp Scampi facilitate easier weight management and prevent obesity-related health conditions. Options like Herb-Grilled Salmon contain healthy fats, primarily omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for heart health and reducing inflammation.

Sodium content is also a critical factor, with healthier selections featuring significantly lower levels, helping adhere to recommended intake guidelines and reducing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

Vegetables like tomatoes, asparagus, and broccoli bring a wealth of antioxidants, combating oxidative stress linked to chronic diseases. Meals combining lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains contribute to sustained energy levels and enhanced satiety, supporting muscle maintenance and overall bodily functions.

Customizable pasta options encourage mindful eating by allowing diners to create balanced meals through a thoughtful combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, promoting adherence to dietary goals while enjoying a variety of flavors and textures.

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi offers a delightful yet nutritious choice, boasting a balanced profile under 500 calories per serving. With modest fat content and only 7 grams of saturated fat, it's significantly lighter than cream-based pasta dishes.

Shrimp contributes substantial protein and valuable omega-3 fatty acids, essential for heart health. Asparagus and tomatoes provide a burst of flavor, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, aiding digestive health.

The light garlic sauce ensures minimal added fats while delivering robust flavor. The overall sodium content is about half that of other pasta dishes, making Shrimp Scampi a suitable choice for those monitoring their sodium intake.

Herb-Grilled Salmon

The Herb-Grilled Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse, offering substantial protein for muscle maintenance and repair, as well as rich omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s lower blood pressure, reduce triglyceride levels, decrease heart disease risk, and possess anti-inflammatory properties.

The minimal garlic-herb butter enhances flavor without excessive added fats or calories. The accompanying parmesan-garlic broccoli side provides fiber, vitamins C and K, and folate, contributing to overall health.

This balanced meal aligns taste with nutritional benefits, making it a smart option for those watching their dietary intake while enjoying a satisfying dish.

Minestrone Soup

The Minestrone Soup is a vegetable-packed, nutritious choice. Red and white beans provide substantial protein and fiber, promoting digestive health and stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Fresh vegetables like carrots, celery, zucchini, spinach, and tomatoes infuse the soup with a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, contributing to overall well-being.

The small pasta adds low-glycemic carbohydrates, providing energy while supporting balanced blood sugar levels.

Despite its higher sodium content, the high fiber and protein levels make Minestrone Soup filling and nutritious, aiding digestion and supporting muscle maintenance.

House Salad with Low-Fat Dressing

The House Salad is a healthy option bursting with fresh vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and pepperoncini. This medley offers essential nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Choosing the low-fat Italian dressing reduces added calories and fat, while omitting croutons further minimizes sodium and empty calories.

Versatile and nutrient-dense, the House Salad can serve as a refreshing prelude to your main course or be paired with other health-conscious choices, providing essential nutrients and setting the stage for a balanced meal.

Grilled Chicken Margherita

Grilled Chicken Margherita balances flavor and nutrition with its lean protein, fresh vegetables, and rich basil pesto. Seasoned chicken breasts are grilled to juicy perfection and complemented by marinated tomatoes, bursting with vitamin C and antioxidants. The basil pesto adds a flavorful touch without overpowering the natural flavors. Tender steamed broccoli replaces traditional pasta, increasing the dish's fiber, vitamin, and mineral content while keeping carbohydrates in check. This entree offers a satisfying, health-conscious meal with a harmonious blend of lean protein and vibrant vegetables.

Create Your Own Pasta

Create Your Own Pasta at Olive Garden allows you to craft a customized, health-conscious dish. Opt for whole-grain linguine for added fiber, and pair it with marinara sauce, a heart-healthy option lower in fat and calories. Sautéed shrimp provides lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, and bell peppers add vital nutrients, antioxidants, and visual appeal. This combination maximizes protein and fiber while keeping calories and fat in moderation, creating a balanced and nourishing meal tailored to your preferences.

A plate of whole-grain linguine with marinara sauce, shrimp, and vegetables

Kids' Grilled Chicken with Pasta

The Kids' Grilled Chicken with Pasta prioritizes lean protein through a perfectly grilled chicken breast, supporting muscle growth and development. Children can choose between a side of nutrient-rich broccoli or sweet, antioxidant-packed grapes, providing essential vitamins and minerals. Milk, a calcium and vitamin D source, contributes to strong bones and teeth while offering protein and healthy fats. Lower in unhealthy fats and sodium, this meal ensures young diners consume a variety of essential nutrients in a tasty, health-conscious way.

Recipe: Shrimp Scampi


  • 12 oz medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 oz angel hair pasta
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. Cook the angel hair pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Add shrimp to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until pink and opaque. Remove shrimp and set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, add butter, white wine, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce slightly.
  5. Add cherry tomatoes and asparagus to the skillet. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until tender.
  6. Return the cooked shrimp to the skillet along with the lemon juice. Stir to combine and heat through.
  7. Add the cooked angel hair pasta to the skillet, tossing gently to coat with the sauce and mix all ingredients.
  8. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Stir in fresh parsley and serve immediately.
  9. Optional: Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

Nutritional information (per serving):

  • Calories: 420
  • Total fat: 16g
  • Saturated fat: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 210mg
  • Sodium: 460mg
  • Total carbohydrates: 38g
  • Dietary fiber: 4g
  • Total sugars: 5g
  • Protein: 29g

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Categorized as nutrition