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Its reputation has taken a beating in recent years. So easily blamed for the many modern health issues.
Did you know the average Italian eats 51 pounds of pasta per year? While the average North American consumes only 15 pounds.
So how is it that Italians experience one of the lowest obesity rates in Europe? While Americans exhibit one of highest worldwide.
We tend to think the proof is in the pasta.
The New York Times explores the topic of industrial grain processing and the effect on taste and nutrition. Mechanized refinement of wheat removes the beneficial minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
We’ve put together 7 tips for health conscious people who still need their pasta fix.
We’ll discuss delicious alternatives to refined grains, portion control ideas, and protein-packed pastas.
It’s time to get to the bottom of the pasta smear campaign.
1. You Think You’re So Refined
The white powder we’ve all come to know as flour is the biggest culprit. Modern grain mills have changed the one food source at the center of our diet for thousands of years.
Even the most health conscious people can’t tell the difference between refined and unrefined flour.
Identifying Whole-Grain products:
- Look for the Whole Grain Stamp that certifies the product 100% Whole Grain.
- “Whole Grain”, as in “Whole Grain Crackers” does NOT mean “100% Whole Grain”
- Companies can legally write “Whole Grain” but actually contain a very small amount
- AVOID: Enriched Flour, Bran, and Wheat Germ
- Organic Flour is not necessarily Whole Wheat. Look at the label.
Purchasing 100% Whole Grain pastas are a great way to make sure you are getting the full nutritional contribution along with the calories.
Refined flour is high on the Glycemic Index creating sudden spikes in blood sugar. Without the beneficial micronutrients and dietary fiber pasta becomes merely empty calories.
2. Health Conscious Portioning
We can’t even count the number of times we’ve dumped the entire package of spaghetti into boiling water. Thinking to ourselves…”one box should be enough for two people”. Then what you have on your hands is a mountain of noodles.
9 times out of 10 we eat every last one. Not smart.
It’s recommended that a 2 ounce portion of pasta is one person’s serving.
Ok, but what does 2 ounces LOOK like?
If you are into gadgets like we are you should invest in this amazing pasta portion tool. You can adjust the aperture of this useful prop and select spaghetti for 1, 2, 3, or 4 people.
OR try the plastic bottle trick:
Take an empty plastic water bottle and fill it with uncooked spaghetti noodles. When you can’t fit anymore inside the opening of the bottle you’ve got about 2 ounces.
3. Make Your Own
Making your own pasta at home is the only way to know exactly what’s inside. It gives you the control over the ingredients. The type of flour you are using, the quality of the eggs, and even the purity of the water.
It can be a bit time consuming to produce your own pasta but the good news is it cooks much faster than dried. You can even take one weekend to make a large amount and freeze portions for later meals.
Check out this comprehensive how-to guide on DIY fresh pasta.
Pasta made from alternative grains have changed our life. You are limiting your intake of refined flours while adding beneficial protein and fiber. Amazing!
4. Alternative grains to look for:
- Brown rice (fiber intact, this grain’s carbs have a lower impact on blood sugar)
- Quinoa (some say it’s a seed, but it’s packed with protein)
- Millet (Low impact on blood sugar)
- Buckwheat (ignore the name, it’s not really wheat)
- Amaranth (an ancient grain which was a staple for the Aztecs)
5. Alternatives pastas with Pulses:
Okay, “what” you say? What are Pulses? Great question.
Pulses are the dried seeds of a legume plant which grow in pods.
Most common examples are:
- Dry Beans
- Dry Broad Beans
- Dry Peas
- Cow Peas
Pulse Pasta is high in fiber and complex carbs, low-glycemic, and low-fat. They even reduce your risk of diabetes!
Come and shop the many health conscious Pulse Pastas and see for yourself how delicious they are.
6. Spiralizing Out of Control
We can’t imagine you haven’t seen this trend somewhere. Either on tv, Facebook, or in the grocery store.
Spiralizing vegetables is an easy way to get the satisfaction of slurping “noodles” in a health conscious way.
Common Vegetables used for spiralizing:
- Zucchini, Carrots, Squash, Kohlrabi, Sweet Potato, Daikon Radish, Jicama, Parsnip, Turnip, and Rutabaga
You need a bit of equipment to make this happen but spiralizing machines are easily found these days. There are even attachments that interface with common food processors.
To cook the vegetable noodles you can either boil or steam them.
7. Don’t Get Saucy
If you need to indulge in a bowl of pasta. Or you are out to a restaurant and can’t control what noodles they use.
Consider these quick tips for saving calories by choosing your sauce correctly:
1) If you are being health conscious you can ask for the pasta sauce on the side. Restaurants in America love to drown their pasta in sauce. The Italians believe there shouldn’t be any sauce left in the bowl when the noodles are gone.
2) Say no to the cheese. It’s tempting to pile on the fluffy parmesan but this can add a lot of added calories and fat.
3) Choose red over white. Tomato-based sauces are lower in calories and fat. White cream sauces are very high in fat due to the cream, butter, milk, and cheese.
4) Add flavor with other toppings. Toss a handful of torn basil, chili flakes, and even lemon zest for low-cal flavor.
Pasta Without the Sacrifice
We hope you enjoyed reading all the simple ways of eating pasta while remaining health conscious.
We can all benefit by learning ways to be smarter consumers while still eating what we want.
There are so many flavorful, healthy options to experiment with.