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Healthy Italian Recipes: How To Make Healthier Italian Food

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If your idea of healthy eating excludes pasta and pizza, you may want to reconsider your options.

Chef Rocco DiSpirito, author of "Now Eat This! Italian," says there's often a misconception about eating Italian food and keeping it healthy.

"You always hear Italian food is fattening. Italian food is extremely healthy and the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest lifestyles in the world," DiSpirito tells The Huffington Post Canada.

This isn't to imply that your bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is the absolute best option for dinner, but there are ways to make your Italian meals healthier. Replacing your cooking oil (if you haven't already) with two tablespoons of olive oil or buying fresh mozzarella and skipping out on processed cheeses are all simple ways to get the most health benefits out of Italian cooking, DiSpirito says.

"One of the biggest mistakes people make with Italian cooking is imitating what chefs do on television with olive oil. They hose down every dish with oil and this is making it fattier," he says.

The Mediterranean diet, which is a plant-based diet, includes simple and natural ingredients of tomatoes, olive oil, dark greens and whole grains, according to EatingWell.com. It's also noted as one of the world's healthiest diets. Studies have shown that Mediterranean diets may help with weight loss, better control of blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of depression, according to EatingWell.com.

And if you're out on the town and your usual order of Italian means a deep-dish pizza slice or white pasta topped with cheese, meat and a few greens, opting for a thin crust and choosing grilled chicken are easy ways to cut some fat and calories, according to RealSimple.com.

Here are 5 ways to make your favourite Italian meals healthier, and three recipes from Dispirito's new book:

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