How to Make a Healthy Meal Out of a Pasta Dish

October 12, 2015

Pasta gets a bad rap, but there are ways to eat make your pasta healthy!

Pasta generally gets a bad rap, and often for good reason – today’s serving of pasta is about 6 to 8 times larger than the actual suggested serving size! Add to that the rich and creamy sauces and lack of vegetables and fiber, no wonder pasta dishes aren’t considered the healthiest choice!

But what about the pasta itself, is it healthy? The pasta on its own, tossed with some extra virgin olive oil, garlic and a ton of veggies, lean meat or seafood can be a very healthy part of a varied and balanced diet. 

One cup of cooked pasta contains about 40 grams of carbohydrates. And in the context of a balanced diet, 40 grams is not too much – depending on your health status. A serving of cooked pasta is actually 1 cup to ½ cup, or about the size of your fist.

Most pasta is made from durum, an entirely different species from they type of wheat that is used in bread. Durum is an older species and a hybrid of wild grasses; modern bread wheat is more domesticated. Pasta also has a relatively low glycemic index (GI) a system that measures how fast foods are converted to glucose and absorbed in the bloodstream. High glycemic foods cause a fast spike in blood sugar and tax our organs, specifically the pancreas – overtime leading to diabetes. Pasta’s GI is around 25 to 45, depending on the type and how long its cooked. Compare this with white bread, with a GI of about 75.

Each one-pound box contains about eight servings. So not as much pasta as expected – but this leaves plenty of room to add fiber filled veggies, which will boost the nutrition of your meal and help you fell fuller longer. Make a larger salad or add some sautéed spinach, kale, zucchini, or broccoli, or whatever you have on hand to your pasta. Check your supermarket as there are many types of pastas available from those made from beans to quinoa to brown rice and more!

Remember pasta, should be cooked al dente, or slightly firm, anything cooked longer slightly raises the GI. Pasta’s healthfulness is questionable when it is overly processed, such as the mushy stuff in a can, or when it is topped excessively with fatty meats and cheeses.

Remember: portion size, cooking time, and the added veggies are key!