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6 Tips to Make Pasta Healthier: A Carb-Lovers Dream!

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

When it comes to maintaining a healthy diet or shedding a few pounds, pasta often gets a bad rap. However, research from an Italian study suggests that pasta consumption is actually linked to a reduced likelihood of obesity (you may be just as surprised as I am). But before you load up your plate with heaps of spaghetti, it’s important to note that the portions typically eaten in Italy are much smaller than what we’re accustomed to in the United States. That said, you can also do certain things to make pasta healthier.

But shifting back to the study mentioned above, participants in the study who enjoyed pasta regularly also followed a healthy Mediterranean diet. If the Mediterranean diet isn’t your thing, no worries, the good news is that you can still savor dishes like spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna while staying on track with your calorie goals. By choosing wholesome ingredients and implementing a few clever strategies to make pasta healthier, you can lower calories and fat without sacrificing any of the delicious flavors.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper and explore the various tips to make pasta healthier and help you make your pasta dishes a nutritious and satisfying addition to your dinner rotation.

Disclaimer: It is recommended that you speak with your doctor or dietician before making any changes to your current nutrition plan.

6 Tips to Make Pasta Healthier

Below you can find the secrets to creating nutritious and delicious pasta dishes through smart ingredients and clever ways to make pasta healthier. You’re going to love these strategies!

1.      Add a lot of veggies

To make pasta healthier and more nutritious, it’s time to shift the spotlight onto the vibrant magic of vegetables. Focusing on the role of vegetables means incorporating them in such abundance that they become the star of the dish, with pasta playing a supporting role. Consider sautéing an extra handful of spinach or roasting additional cauliflower to create a delightful balance where vegetables take center stage.

By flipping the proportions, you’ll enjoy a vegetable-forward culinary experience with a touch of pasta rather than a pasta-centric dish with a few scattered vegetables.

2.      Choose the right pasta

To make pasta healthier pasta and expand your choices, opt for whole-grain varieties of pasta. Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta contains valuable fiber from the grain’s nutritious layers, aiding in steady digestion and prolonged satiety.

When purchasing pasta, check the ingredients list for whole-wheat flour as the primary ingredient.

Remember to be mindful of portion sizes, as even whole-grain pasta contains calories. A general guideline is that uncooked pasta has about 100 calories per ounce or half a cup when cooked. Be conscious of your calorie intake and serve an appropriate portion accordingly.

3.      Increase the protein

While a serving of pasta isn’t excessively high in calories (around 250 to 300 calories), the starch content can lead to a quick rise in blood sugar and subsequent cravings. To mitigate this, include protein, fat, and fiber in your pasta preparation. Protein helps retain lean muscle and boosts calorie burning.

Incorporating these elements can stabilize blood sugar levels, curb carb cravings, and enjoy a more balanced and satisfying meal.

4.      Choose pasta sauce carefully

A heavy cream pasta sauce may sound yummy, but it’s not the most wholesome choice for healthy eating. Luckily, there are some creamy swap-ins that give you similar results. Good quality ricotta and plain Greek yogurt can be added to pasta to make an instant, creamy sauce so you can let go of the cream.

You can also take control of your pasta dish and make pasta healthier by getting creative and making homemade sauces. This way, you can easily manage the sodium content.

Simmer low-sodium canned or diced tomatoes with fresh herbs like basil and oregano for a delicious sauce. For a light and refreshing option, toss pasta with olive oil, minced garlic, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

5.      Cook the pasta al dente

If you want to make pasta healthier, cook it until it reaches the al dente stage, which means it retains a slight bite. This traditional Italian cooking method enhances the taste and offers health benefits. Al dente pasta takes longer to digest, providing a steady release of energy and maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

By enjoying pasta cooked al dente, you’ll feel satisfied for longer, reducing the urge to snack shortly after your meal. Embrace the culinary wisdom of Italian grandmothers and discover the delightful combination of texture, flavor, and improved satiety that al dente pasta brings to your plate.

6.      Take care of the portion size

While it may seem obvious, portion control plays a significant role in helping to make pasta healthier.

When you visit Italy, you’ll notice that pasta servings are typically smaller but still satisfying. Adopt this practice by serving yourself a bit less pasta for a healthier dinner. As a general guideline, one pound of pasta can feed six people as a main course and even stretch to eight servings when combined with an abundance of vegetables.

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