You don’t have to give up delicious pasta recipes if you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight — you just need the right low-calorie recipes and a little direction on the most nutritious ways to cook pasta.Choose the Right Pasta
When creating a low-calorie recipe for healthy pasta, start with the basics — the pasta itself. Whether you’re really industrious and make your own or you buy packaged pasta, there’s one key factor to remember: Choose pasta made from whole grains.
Pasta is naturally low in fat and high in carbohydrates. Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta includes the healthy parts of the grains that add fiber and are good for your heart; those grains have been removed in regular white pasta. Whole-grain pasta is also digested more slowly, which helps to maintain a steady level of glucose in the blood and make you feel full for a longer time.
Always check the ingredients when you’re buying pasta; look for those marked whole wheat or whole grain on the box and check for whole-wheat flour listed as the first ingredient.
Even with healthy pastas, you need to watch your portion sizes; uncooked pasta has about 100 calories per ounce; this equals about ½ cup when measured cooked. A big hearty bowl can have hundreds of calories, so be sure to determine the right portion size for your daily calorie allotment.
Add Vegetables to Your Pasta
Once you’ve started with a healthy base of whole grain pasta, you can add volume to your pasta recipes and pack in more nutrition by piling on the veggies. Vary your vegetables with delicious and nutritious choices of all colors including sundried tomatoes, spinach, onions, peppers of all colors, squash, zucchini, eggplant, peas, mushrooms, and even broccoli — chopped, stewed, or fresh.
You can lightly sauté or steam vegetables that have been cut into chunks or strips and then toss them in after you cook pasta, or add them to your own sauce made from fresh or low-sodium canned tomatoes.
Put in Some Healthy Protein
Once you’ve picked your whole-grain pasta and fresh vegetables, consider adding a lean protein to pasta recipes. Skinless chicken, cut up and grilled, baked, or sautéed, turns pasta into a main course. Steamed, grilled, or sautéed shrimp is another delicious choice to top off your pasta dish.
Pasta Sauce Matters
The sauce is where a healthy pasta dish can quickly go wrong: It can become laden in fat and calories. Be smart when choosing your pasta sauce. If you’re using a jar of sauce, read the label to check the fat content. In general, any creamy or heavy sauce, like an Alfredo or carbonara, is going to include a lot of fat and calories.
Opt for a basic tomato sauce or get creative and make your own. Just combine tomatoes with fresh herbs like basil and oregano, and simmer in a pot on the stove. Look for healthy recipes for pasta sauces that are simple to make, and you won’t have to worry about with the fat, calories, and sodium in the jar varieties. You can even create your own variations on a non-tomato sauce using a little olive oil, garlic, other seasonings, pureed peppers, and some chicken broth.
Variety is the key to sticking with healthy cooking, so add a few delicious and healthy pasta recipes to your weekly meal rotation.
Last Updated: 3/28/2013. By Diana Rodriguez | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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