Italians love their carbs.
That's a fact and not just a myth. Statistics show that Italians eat around 90g of bread in just a day! (1)
Let's also not forget that Italian cuisine is all about pastas and pizzas.
So what do you do if you're on keto and someone invites you to Olive Garden?
Should you run and hide? We hope not.
Instead of wasting the chance to taste authentic Italian dishes, we recommend doing your research first.
Just like many other low carb restaurants, you'll realize that there's more to Olive Garden than just their delicious pastas.
Are you intrigued as to what OG can offer to keto dieters? Read this and find out!
Step-by-step Guide on How to Make Olive Garden Pasta Dishes Keto Friendly
When you sign up for keto, you may think that you're pledging to live a life free of pasta, and that means you'll have to bid goodbye to Olive Garden.
However, we have some fantastic news for you! While it's true that you can no longer avail of their Never-ending Pasta Bowl offering and enjoy their delicious breadsticks, there's still one hack that you can try to enjoy the taste of their famous pasta dishes minus the unwanted carbs!
Are you excited to finally have a taste of their well-known pasta recipes? Here are some of the steps that you can follow!
Step 1. Choose your base.
Of course, you can no longer choose pasta as your base if you want to stick to a keto diet's less than 50g carbohydrate restriction. (2) But don't fret, as you can find plenty of other low-carb alternatives at OG.
Our recommendation is to go for either a bed of lettuce or other leafy greens or fresh veggies such as broccoli. Another excellent option that you have is zoodle or zucchini noodles. However, not all Olive Garden branches have this option, so you may want to check it out with the branch in your area first.
Step 2. Find a low-carb sauce.
Now that you've chosen the best base for your OG dish, the next step is to look for a low-carb sauce. This may seem difficult, considering that most of their pasta sauces are packed with carbs.
That's why you'll be surprised that you have two low-carb sauces to choose from—mushroom sauce or creamy pesto. These sauces would be perfect for people who like their pasta sauces creamy but contain little to no carbs.
But if you don't like creamy pasta sauces, you still have one great option—basic marinara sauce. For a more filling dish, we suggest topping it off with ground meat and cheese to make it more filling.
Step 3. Go with a solid protein.
Last but not least is your protein source which is one of the things that we look forward to in almost every meal. Of course, you have plenty of options to choose from—chicken, seafood, meat, meatballs, sausages, and many more.
When choosing a protein source for your OG dish, we recommend sticking to ones that are not crispy, preferably grilled, as it's more flavorful and considered healthier. (3)
Fried and crispy protein sources are not recommended as those are primarily breaded and may contain too many carbs for a keto diet.
More Keto Olive Garden Guidelines
In addition to giving you the perfect formula for creating a delicious and healthy keto dish at Olive Garden, here are some of the other tips that you must keep in mind:
Watch the portions.
While it's true that the creams, protein sources, and bases that we mentioned above are low carb, you should remember that these still contain small amounts of carbs which may add up to a significant amount if you don't watch your portions.
Avoid soups as much as possible.
Yes, there's no denying that Olive Garden soups are some of the creamiest and tastiest soups you'll ever taste.
However, this creaminess and delicious taste come with a price. You'll be surprised to know that the soups from OG start at around 13g net carbs per serving. In short, you can already get 1/3 of your carbohydrate requirement in just a serving of their soup.
But if you're craving it, we recommend going for the soups with the fewest carbs (13g). These include Pasta e Fagioli, Minestrone, and Zuppa Toscana.
Dip your veggies in low-carb sauces.
Instead of getting breadsticks and dipping them in sauces, the keto way is to opt for low-carb sides, mostly veggies. You can also dip those in sauces, but we advise that you go for low carb ones like Alfredo Sauce (5g net carbs only) or Creamy Pesto Sauce (9g net carbs only).
You can discover what side options you have in the next few sections.
The Olive Garden Low Carb Options to Choose From
We've already given you everything you need to customize a keto-friendly Olive Garden dish. However, some people are still not confident in creating their meal even with the tips that we've provided.
If you're one of those people, you'll be happy to know that there are Olive Garden dishes that are already considered low carb with no to minimal tweaks needed!
We've broken our recommendations down according to the dish type so you can quickly figure out what you can order.
Olive Garden Low Carb Salad Options
Famous House Salad with OG Signature Italian Dressing
If you love eating at Olive Garden, then you probably know about their famous house salad (it isn't called Famous House Salad for nothing!).
The good news is this is perfect for people on the keto diet as it's made up of low-carb ingredients like red onions, mixed greens, olives, pepperoncini, tomato slices, and grated cheese.
The best part is you can drizzle this salad with their delicious Italian dressing because it contains only 2g net carbs!
However, you have to order the salad without the croutons to minimize its net carbs.
Nutritional Content Per Serving: Containing only 110 calories, this salad is also a great low caloric appetizer or snack. The salad without the crouton has 8g fat, 2g protein, 2g fiber, and 5g net carbs.
Olive Garden Low Carb Appetizers and Side Dishes
If you're looking for a low-carb appetizer that you can consume in place of breadsticks, you've come to the right place. Mashed potatoes are also a no-no, so we've included a few healthy sides too.
Below are some of the OG appetizers and sides.
FYI, they can satisfy your tummy and taste buds without adding too many carbs to your diet.
This is probably the simplest appetizer of them all, but it's also one of the healthiest and contains the lowest carbs. Let's also not forget about the fact that it's low-calorie as well! We highly recommend this one as it goes well with low-carb dips.
Nutritional Content per Serving: In a single serving, this will give you 35 calories, 0g fat, 4g protein, 4g fiber, and 3g net carbs.
Spinach Artichoke Dip
You can find this in the appetizer section of Olive Garden. However, most keto dieters don't pay attention to it since artichoke contains carbs, but its carbohydrate content is minimal, so it can still be considered keto-friendly. (4)
The dip comes with flatbread crisps when you order them. Unfortunately, you can't consume the crisps since you're on keto.
What we recommend is to order this without the breadsticks. Instead, order the steamed broccoli and use it as a dip for it.
Another fantastic idea is to order this with steak or grilled chicken. You can use it as a topping for your main dish, adding flavor to it.
Nutritional Content per Serving: Without the breadsticks, this dip will give you 362 calories, 30g fat, 15g protein, and 8g net carbs.
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Here's an appetizer that will give you the best of both worlds as it's not just nutritious but extremely tasty as well!
From its name, it consists of asparagus topped with grated parmesan and grilled to perfection. As if the parmesan is not enough, it even comes with a creamy dip to add a layer of flavor into the appetizer. It's truly a great dish to start your meal.
Nutritional Content per Serving: Finish this, and you'll get 80 calories, 5g fat, 3g protein, 2g fiber, and 3g net carbs.
Parmesan Roasted Zucchini
If asparagus is not your cup of tea, here's another option for you. Same with asparagus, OG's Parmesan Roasted Zucchini features thin zucchini slices that are topped with grated parmesan.
To make it crispy, it's also topped with a breadcrumb mixture. It's then drizzled with olive oil and roasted perfectly.
We know that breadcrumbs are not welcome in the keto diet, but this appetizer uses only a small amount, so it's still considered low carb.
Nutritional Content per Serving: A serving of this appetizer yields 90 calories, 7g fat, 4g protein, 1g fiber, and 4g net carbs.
Even non-mushroom lovers are amazed at how filling and satisfying this appetizer is. Olive Garden used fresh mushrooms in preparing this meal.
The mushrooms are stuffed with different kinds of cheese, minced clams, garlic, and green onion. It's then topped with fresh parsley for garnish and baked until the cheese mixture turns brown.
Just a warning, though, this one is high in calories, so you may want to avoid it if you plan on losing a few pounds.
Nutritional Content per Serving: The mushrooms contain 380 calories, 30g fat, 15g protein, 1g fiber, and 12g net carbs.
Olive Garden Low Carb Chicken Dishes
Olive Garden also offers plenty of chicken dishes—two of which are keto-friendly. Here they are:
OG Grilled Chicken is the best chicken dish that you can try to keep your calories and carbohydrate consumption as low as possible.
This is a juicy chicken breast that's perfectly seasoned and grilled. It comes with a steamed broccoli side dish to give you not just protein and fats, but fiber as well.
Nutritional Content per Serving: Without the broccoli, the meal contains 130 calories, 25g fat, 26g protein, and less than 1g net carbs.
Chicken Margherita Lunch Portion
The Chicken Margherita is a more flavorful version of the OG Grilled Chicken. It also uses a juicy grilled chicken, but this time, it's topped with basil pesto, mozzarella, and tomatoes, along with a lemon garlic sauce.
And instead of just steamed broccoli for a side dish, a parmesan garlic broccoli is served on the side. In short, it's an upgraded version of OG's Grilled Chicken and Steamed Broccoli dish.
Nutritional Content per Serving: The Chicken Margherita lunch portion contains 370 calories, 22g fat, 37g protein, 2g fiber, and 6g net carbs.
Olive Garden Low Carb Fish and Seafood Dishes
OG also has a great selection for keto dieters who are craving seafood and fish meals. These are as follows:
The dish consists of seasoned salmon fillet and grilled to perfection, then topped with garlic herb butter. The side dish is parmesan garlic broccoli which matches the flavor of the salmon well.
Nutritional Content per Serving: An order of this will give you 460 calories, 28g fat, 43g protein, 4g fiber, and 4g net carbs.
Olive Garden has another dish that dish lovers would love. The Salmon Piccata is a fancier version of the grilled salmon as this one is topped with sun-dried tomatoes and capers and the lemon garlic butter sauce. It also has parmesan-crusted zucchini as its side.
If you wish to lose weight, we recommend going for the lunch portion over the dinner size.
Nutritional Content per Serving: The lunch portion contains 510 calories, 26g fat, 59g protein, 3g fiber, and 9g net carbs.
Olive Garden Low Carb Meat Dishes
The OG menu is so versatile that it also has something to offer for meat lovers. Here are the keto-friendly ones:
Italian Sausage Links
The links may be small, but they are definitely a big hit because of their savory and herby flavor and tenderness. We love their sausage links because they are an excellent option for a protein source for your DIY "pasta" dish.
Please note that these are high in calories, so you may want to limit your consumption to just 2 links if you wish to lose weight.
Nutritional Content per Serving: Two sausage links contain 470 calories, 39g fat, 27g protein, 0.5g fiber, and 2.5g net carbs.
The Tuscan Sirloin can be found in OG's gluten-free menu, and it features a 6 oz sirloin steak with garlic herb butter topping and two side dishes—mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
To keep this low carb, order the sirloin without the mashed potatoes. If you wish to boost your fiber intake, you can ask them to double the amount of broccoli.
Nutritional Content per Serving: The steak contains 420 calories, 16g fat, 46g protein, 7g fiber, and 19g net carbs.
Yes, there are lots of dishes that you can eat at Olive Garden even if you're on keto.
But of course, there are plenty of meals that you should avoid as well—shrimp scampi, 5-cheese marinara, all the pastas, soups, and many more.
Eating at home is more recommended if you're on keto. But if you need to eat out from time to time, you should plan your order in advance to stay within the keto restrictions.