Italian food plays a major role in America's culinary tradition. Pasta dishes abound. But in the last 20 years, low-carb living has led many people to forgo pasta, which is a shame.
Pasta can definitely be a part of a healthy diet, including weight loss programs. Here are a few things to consider.
The main concern when eating pasta is the serving size. If you compare a pasta dish in an American restaurant to its counterpart in Europe, you'll immediately understand what we're talking about.
The FDA defines a serving of pasta as 2-ounces dry (4 ounces cooked). This serving, before adding sauce, will set you back 200 calories. Indeed, pasta is an energy dense food! Pasta is made from durum wheat, a grain with relatively high protein content. A serving has approximately 40 grams of carbs, but also 6 grams of protein!
Take note, and the next time you cook, make only the amount you'll need for a single serving per diner.
We always recommend eating whole grains, and pasta is no exception. Standard, refined wheat pasta has just 2 grams of fiber per serving, but whole grain pasta has up to 3 times as much - 6 grams of fiber. If you find it too challenging to switch to whole grain pasta overnight, try to mix it in with regular pasta at first, until eventually your palate will adjust.
Now, on to the sauce and toppings. Many times, it's the heavy cream sauces and the cheese that make a pasta dish unhealthy. They contribute high amounts of saturated fats and sodium. Thankfully, there are plenty of tomato-based sauces that are low in calories but high in nutrients, especially lycopenes (antioxidants).
Pasta can be part of a healthy diet, but you'll have to eat European portion sizes.
Buy whole grain pasta
Watch the serving size
If you're using store-bought sauce, add some extra vegetables. Finely chopped broccoli, spinach, shredded carrots, or cauliflower blend well in to any flavored sauce. Frozen mixes are a quick and easy nutrition boost.
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