As one of many restaurant concepts wanting to appeal to the waist-conscious diner, BRIO Tuscan Grille recognizes the need for a lighter, flavorful Italian meal, and this month, we were invited in to try their latest creations.
The restaurant culinary team at both BRIO and BRAVO restaurants collaborated to create their Lighter Side of Tuscany Menu, featuring 18 appetizer and meal options. These options are available at over 100 BRAVO! Cucina Italiana and BRIO Tuscan Grille across the country; ensuring diners receive the same experience anywhere.
Since all meals are made fresh in-house, diners have the choice to customize any entrée to increase the nutrition. The Lighter Side meals are cooked in pans that have been misted with extra virgin olive oil, with dishes baked and only lightly drizzled with sauces, to help reduce total calorie count. Each item’s description provides a calorie count, and a detailed list of included ingredients. A few stand-out examples on the menu include:
Salmon Griglia: With grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes, roasted peppers, spinach, diced tomatoes, Feta, pesto vinaigrette and a balsamic glaze. 500 calories.
Blackened Tilapia: Lightly seasoned and grilled with sautéed zucchini, carrots, broccoli, roasted red peppers and a citrus pesto sauce. 425 calories.
5 oz. Filet BRIO: Grilled to order, served with grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes, spinach, roasted peppers and pesto vinaigrette. 365 calories
HEALTHY DINER NOTES
As with all things, just because something is labeled “light” does not always equate to healthy or good for you. Each of the light side menu items remains under 550 calories, which is a drastic improvement over the average meal size of 1,128 calories according to a study of 56 restaurants by the University of Toronto.
For example, the 300 calorie appetizer Caesar salad utilizes the same recipe as the main menu, which contains nearly 30 grams of fat. Even as a meal, the salad is still higher in fat than recommended, and without a source of protein, will likely leave most dinners reaching for the bread basket.
The BRIO Shrimptini is only 200 calories, but it was a surprise to learn that the pesto and flax cracker both include parmigiano reggiano-a great flavor for very few calories, but is unexpected for those who may have eliminated dairy.
BRIO’s staff is very knowledgeable and can easily answer any questions about food preparation, ensuring that the meal will meet desired dietary restrictions. For those with a gluten intolerance, the staff uses special pans, gloves and tools to reduce the possibility of gluten contamination.
HEALTHY DINER RECOMMENDATIONS
Focus on fully enjoying your meal by asking the server not to bring you the free bread basket upon arrival. The flax crackers are delicious, but at almost 100 calories a piece, they will quickly undo healthy meal choices.
Fish lovers should order the Salmon Grigilia – generously served with lots a flavorful vegetables, save 100 calories by ordering it without the feta cheese and pesto. You’ll maximize your fresh vegetable and protein intake, without sacrificing any flavor.
If pasta is what you are craving, it is made healthier through the addition of grilled chicken, basil, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and spinach in the Pasta Pesto (550 calories). Once again, ask to remove the feta and be aware: the pesto sauce does contain butter. While not the healthiest option on the menu, it is the best choice for a light, full flavored pasta dish.
And yes, even the healthy diner can enjoy dessert now and then! The Lighter Side Menu now includes a yogurt based cheesecake for 300 calories. While this item is not going to meet any clean eating standards, it’s a nice option to share with friends and finish off the night.
Photo credits: Amanda C. Brooks, BRIO Restaurant