You want pasta, don’t you? This is why

This is why you want pasta today and the way to make it healthier.

 Pasta (spaghetti) with tomato sauce (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Pasta (spaghetti) with tomato sauce
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Pasta is one of the most fun foods to eat on cold winter days. It’s hot, nutritious and comforting, but it can have lots of calories. We found the  healthiest ways to eat it - because guilt is for the weak.

We’re all human, and COVID-19 showed that we aren’t delicate wildflowers, so there is no doubt that we love pasta. Not just like, but love, especially in winter when it’s cold and you need a hot dish that is easy to prepare, satisfying and delicious. But is it nourishing?

Pasta suffers from poor public relations and not always rightly so. Obviously if you eat white flour pasta with cream and mushroom sauce (yes, we’re looking at you) it won’t be the healthiest or leanest choice but there are some very simple and yummy ways to make your pasta healthier. Here are some of them.

Add vegetables to pasta and sauce

Many people are afraid of pasta, but if you eat it with the right ingredients like different vegetables, or tomato sauce which is delicious and healthy, pasta can be nutritious and tasty. The colorants in tomatoes and other vegetables called phytochemicals are used as protection against disease and aren’t destroyed through cooking or heating. Sometimes, they become more active as a result of cooking, like tomato sauce which contains lycopene that protects against prostate cancer.

A hearty bowl of pesto pasta is a wonderful thing.  (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)A hearty bowl of pesto pasta is a wonderful thing. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Eat your pasta al dente 

While most people don't eat pasta al dente (to the tooth i.e. cooked until it’s just soft enough to eat), start now. This will give more control over blood sugar levels. Pasta is a carbohydrate, but it has a relatively low glycemic index, which helps the body regulate blood sugar. When cooking pasta, which is usually made from durum flour to the level of al dente, its glycemic index is even lower, it’s digested in the body for a longer time and most importantly it’s also tastier.

Choose the right pasta

As mentioned there is no one who doesn’t like pasta, and if there is we don’t want to be friends. But, and there is a but, pasta has one notable disadvantage which is its high caloric value. So to address weight watchers as well, choose whole wheat or spelt flour pasta, which are healthier since whole wheat pasta contains all the parts of the wheat kernel including the husk and sprout that include vitamins and fiber. Also, fiber makes you feel full after eating a small amount, so you’ll consume fewer calories yet be satiated. 

Recently various versions have been developed which are made from brown rice, quinoa, corn and legumes such as lentils, peas and chickpeas. If you’re really careful use zoodles - noodles that are made from zucchini. True, this isn’t pasta, but use your imagination.

Hold off on the cream and butter

It’s recommended to minimize as much as possible sauces based on saturated fat such as butter and cream. Saturated fat raises the level of bad cholesterol in the blood, resulting in the risk of various illnesses. To reduce the amount of calories in the sauce and also to enrich the dish with vitamins and minerals, the sauce should contain a small amount of oils, and a large amount of vegetables.

Add protein

Like any meal, when it comes to pasta, it’s recommended to add foods that contain protein from animal products such as cheeses or chicken and fish. Alternatively, add plant proteins such as tofu, lentils and beans. Food proteins help the body with the process of breaking down and digesting amino acids, which function as the building blocks for proteins in the body. Different types of proteins build up the tissues, cells, blood components, the immune system and more.

Size definitely matters

Not sure you want to read this but an average pasta bowl, with no sauces or toppings, can go up to more than 500 calories on its own. Since carbohydrates provide the energy the body needs to function properly, don’t give up pasta, just eat less. Add lots of vegetables to fill up the dish or eat soup or salad so that you’ll be satisfied with a small amount of pasta.