For many people, their entire weight loss regime is thrown off kilter by indulgent meals at social events. One of the big crowd pleasers is Italian food; it has something for everyone, and most people agree that it is deliciously comforting.Whilst it may not look like it, Italian cuisine can often be high in calories, but all those trips to the best Italian restaurants in town need not make you despair. There are ways to ensure that eating at your favourite Italian restaurant is tasty without hurting your waistline.

Mediterranean cuisine in general is considered to be balanced and very nutritious. It includes a variety of produce, relying heavily on fresh ingredients and delicate seasoning. One of the biggest problems is that many restaurants tend to smother their food in cheese or cream sauces, and butter or olive oil. While that may sound delicious-- it’s terrible for the waistline and your health.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to skip going to your favourite Italian place altogether. All you need to do is make an informed decision while ordering your meal. Here are some of our handy tips to eat Italian.

The first thing you want to avoid is reaching for the bread-basket multiple times. While a piece of focaccia may look harmless, it can be hidden with calories, especially if its is baked with olive oil or includes lashings of butter. Similarly, beware the delicious and innocuous looking antipasto platters. All those different types of cheese and thinly sliced processed meats can pack quite a punch. The roasted vegetables can also have added fat, especially when they are soaked in olive oil. And you don’t really need us to tell you that anything frito(fried) is not your friend.

Instead, ask for a seasonal salad with dressing on the side, or a traditional Tuscan or Florentine soup as an appetizer-- healthy, authentic and delicious. If you must have some of the antipasto, remember moderation is always important, and perhaps mop up some of the oil with your napkin.

When it comes to the main course, pasta cooked in a cheese or cream sauce are just as sinful as you think they are. Choose marinara, red clam, or white wine sauces over cheesy alfredo or pesto. Also be sure to apasta which have lower GI

If you’re getting a pizza, order an extra helping of vegetables and greens and perhaps ask for a little less cheese. A thinner based pizza, preferably whole wheat, is also better than the thick pan bases. Also don’t add extra cheese to anything-- no matter how tempting that parmesan shaker on the table is.

If you’re willing to sacrifice the carbs, the best option would be to get a grilled or steamed fillet of fish or some kind of lean meat a la chicken cacciatore, with a side of beans and vegetables.

You’ve made it past the appetisers and main course, and you stumble at the dessert section. Don’t ruin a perfectly healthy meal with a slice of tiramisu that will set you back about 400 calories! Instead, ask for fresh fruit sorbets, biscotti, a tiny scoop of fruit gelato or just a bowl of fruit if the restaurant offers it.

Another cheat is to share with a friend. Don’t get a whole portion for yourself. Going halves ensures that you don’t take in more calories, while stimulating conversation and making your meal a memorable experience.

As the Italians would say--buon appetito!

Read next: Eating out at Punjabi Restaurant: What should you order if you are watching your weight?

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