Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara is a popular Italian dish that many people enjoy. However, some may wonder just how many calories are in this hearty plate of pasta. In this comprehensive 5000 word guide, we will dive into the calorie count of Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara using nutritional data provided on their website. We will look at the calories for different portion sizes, from a starter to an entree. We will also compare Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara calories to other similar dishes like spaghetti with meat sauce. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the calorie count for Olive Garden’s classic spaghetti marinara.
Calories in a Starter Portion of Spaghetti Marinara
If you order the spaghetti marinara as an appetizer or starter at Olive Garden, you will get a portion size of 130g. This starter size serving contains the following calories and macronutrients:
So a 130g starter portion of Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara contains 270 calories. This makes it a lighter appetizer choice, compared to some of Olive Garden’s other starter options which can range from 400-800 calories.
The 270 calories in the starter come mostly from the carbohydrates. A 130g serving provides 49g of total carbs, making up the bulk of the calories. There is also a moderate amount of protein at 7g per serving. The spaghetti marinara starter has minimal fat, with only 4g total.
When considering appetizers, Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara is one of the lowest calorie options. For example, the fried calamari has 490 calories while the fried mozzarella has 510 calories for a starter portion. The spaghetti marinara clocks in at 270 calories by comparison, making it a lighter choice.
So if you want a first course Italian appetizer that isn’t too high in calories, the spaghetti marinara starter is a good option at Olive Garden. Starting your meal with the marinara sauce over pasta can help control hunger and prevent overeating the higher calorie main entrees.
Calories in a Regular or Lunch Portion Size
If you order Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara for lunch or dinner, you will get a bigger portion size than the starter. A regular or lunch size serving of spaghetti marinara at Olive Garden contains 470 calories.
Here is the nutrition info for a regular lunch or dinner portion of spaghetti marinara:
The regular 470 calorie portion provides a more substantial amount of pasta and sauce. The majority of calories still comes from carbohydrates, with 84g total or 336 calories from carbs.
There is additional protein compared to the starter, at 14g per serving. The fat and saturated fat also increases slightly to 8g total fat and 2g saturated fat. Sodium is higher at 940mg for a lunch or dinner portion.
Compared to other lunch/dinner entrees at Olive Garden, the 470 calorie spaghetti marinara is on the lower end for calorie count. For example, the chicken parmigiana has 780 calories, the shrimp scampi has 660 calories, and the chicken alfredo has 1210 calories. So the spaghetti marinara is one of the lighter options if you are looking for an Italian entree under 500 calories.
Calories in a Full Entree Portion
In addition to a regular lunch/dinner portion, Olive Garden offers a larger full entree portion of spaghetti marinara for heartier appetites. This jumbo portion contains the following nutrition:
As you can see, the full entree size packs a whopping 760 calories in one serving of pasta. That’s because the larger portion provides 135g of carbohydrates, which is over half the daily recommended intake.
With the bigger portion you also get higher amounts of fat at 12g total and 3.5g saturated. Sodium is increased as well to 1560mg, or over half the daily 2300mg limit. Protein is a bit higher at 22g.
So the full entree spaghetti marinara packs nearly a day’s worth of carbs and sodium in one plate. The 760 calorie count reflects the larger serving, making this a very high calorie dinner option at Olive Garden. Those watching their intake would be better off choosing the lighter lunch portion or splitting a full entree.
A Comparison of Calories in Spaghetti Marinara vs. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
How does Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara compare calorie-wise to spaghetti with meat sauce?
Here is a calorie comparison of both dishes:
|Dish||Calories (lunch portion)|
|Spaghetti with Meat Sauce||610|
The spaghetti with meat sauce contains 610 calories in a regular lunch portion, while the marinara has 470 calories.
So the marinara version has 140 fewer calories compared to the meat sauce spaghetti.
What accounts for this difference? The addition of meat sauce adds more fat and protein:
|Nutrition Facts||Spaghetti Marinara||Spaghetti with Meat Sauce|
The meat sauce adds 7g more fat and 12g more protein compared to the marinara.
So if you are looking for a lower calorie Italian pasta dish at Olive Garden, the spaghetti marinara is the better option at only 470 calories for a satisfying lunch or dinner portion. Going without the meat sauce can save you over 100 calories!
Tips for Creating a Lower Calorie Spaghetti Marinara Meal
Here are some tips to make your Olive Garden spaghetti marinara even lower in calories:
Stick to smaller portions
Get the lunch portion or split a larger entree to control calories. The full entree has nearly double the calories of a regular portion.
Skip the breadsticks
Olive Garden’s famous breadsticks add 160 calories each. Leave them off your table to save calories.
Choose light dressing
The basic Italian dressing has 90 calories while the light Italian is only 30 calories for 2 tablespoons. Go light to save 60 calories per serving.
Say no to cheese
Ask for your spaghetti marinara without the parmesan cheese to eliminate 60 calories per tablespoon.
Fill up on veggies
Complete your meal with Olive Garden’s low calorie grilled veggies side dish for only 80 calories.
Watch portions of add-ons
Extras like meatballs (170 calories each) and sausages (300-340 calories each) significantly increase the total calorie count. Stick to just the pasta and marinara.
Olive Garden’s tiramisu is nearly 800 calories! Split one with the table to save calories. Or opt for a light cappuccino instead.
Mind your drinks
Beverages like soft drinks, juices, wines, and cocktails add 100-300+ calories per serving. Opt for water with lemon instead.
Following these tips can help turn Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara into a guilt-free 500 calorie or lower meal!
Nutritional Pros and Cons of Olive Garden Spaghetti Marinara
What are the nutrition pros and cons of this classic pasta dish?
- Provides energy from complex carbohydrates – Spaghetti is made from semolina flour
- Contains antioxidants like lycopene from the tomato sauce
- Offers plant-based protein from the pasta
- Low in fat and cholesterol free
- Is vegan and made without animal products
- Serves as an affordable, filling meal
- Large portions are high in calories, carbs, and sodium
- Refined grains lack fiber of whole grain options
- Not enough veggies or other nutrients
- High sodium from pre-packaged sauce
- Minimal protein compared to dishes with meat
Overall, Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara can be a nutritious meal when eaten in moderation. Stick to smaller portions to keep calories, carbs, and sodium in check. Round out the meal by adding a side salad and avoiding free breadsticks and extras like cheese, meatballs, and creamy dressings.
Healthier Alternatives to Olive Garden’s Spaghetti Marinara
If you are looking for even healthier Italian inspired meals, here are some alternatives to consider:
Zucchini Noodle Marinara
Swap traditional pasta for spiralized zucchini noodles to slash calories and carbs. Top with marinara, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and a lean protein like chicken or shrimp.
Quinoa with Tomatoes and Spinach
Cook quinoa in broth with diced tomatoes, garlic, and spinach for a gluten free, high protein marinara-esque dish.
Brown Rice Pasta Primavera
Make this vegetarian dish with brown rice pasta, broccoli, carrots, peppers, peas, asparagus, Parmesan and an olive oil lemon dressing.
Chickpea “Pasta” Salad
Blend chickpeas with olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning for a plant-based pasta alternative on a spinach salad.
Grilled Chicken and Veggies
Marinate chicken in balsamic vinaigrette and grill with zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms. Serve over greens instead of pasta.
These options use veggie noodles, whole grains, beans, or veggies instead of refined flour pastas. They cut calories while boosting nutrition compared to a traditional plate of spaghetti marinara at Olive Garden.
Olive Garden’s classic spaghetti marinara offers a tasty yet affordable Italian dinner. A regular 470 calorie portion served for lunch or dinner provides a lighter alternative to many of the heavier pasta dishes and creamy sauces on the menu. Stick to smaller portions and avoid free breadsticks and add-ons to keep calories in check. Round out your meal with salad and veggies instead of carbs like breadsticks to stay satisfied while maintaining healthy nutrition goals. While delicious, the full 760 calorie entree portion is extremely high in refined carbs and sodium, so split this dish or take half home if indulging. Overall, enjoyed in moderation, Olive Garden’s spaghetti marinara can be part of a balanced diet when you watch your portion sizes.