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A Guide to Healthy Pasta

Updated on February 27, 2015

Hosts of people around the world consider pasta to be one of their favorite foods. Unfortunately, for those who are trying to lose weight or to avoid weight gain, pasta seems to always be on the list of foods that are off limits -- or at least only to be enjoyed sparingly. But with a few simple adjustments, you can create your own pasta meals that are both incredibly delicious and surprisingly nutritious.

Pasta can be made in countless styles and from countless ingredients, with widely varying nutritional profiles.
Pasta can be made in countless styles and from countless ingredients, with widely varying nutritional profiles. | Source

Carbohydrate Considerations

The carbohydrate content found in virtually all pasta is one of the chief causes for concern for individuals trying to manage their weight. But, it is important to remember that not all carbohydrates are necessarily bad for you. Your body needs some carbohydrates for energy; it is only the excess carbohydrates that it does not burn that may then be stored as fat. When you eat pasta, then, try to focus on whole grain options instead of the typical white pasta. Whole grain pasta, unlike white pasta, contains significant fiber and other nutrients along with its carbohydrate content. In addition, whole grain pasta is significantly more filling than white pasta, which helps you eat less of it but still feel satisfied.

Many people find whole grain pasta to be more flavorful than ordinary pasta, not to mention more nutritious.
Many people find whole grain pasta to be more flavorful than ordinary pasta, not to mention more nutritious. | Source

How often do you typically eat pasta?

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Pasta Alternatives

For an even healthier option, consider trying an alternative to typical pasta. A good example is spaghetti squash, which technically is not a pasta at all, but a vegetable. The flesh of the spaghetti squash has a consistency and flavor that is very similar to ordinary spaghetti. At least, it can be very similar; just as with ordinary spaghetti, poorly prepared spaghetti squash can be rather slimy or bland if it is improperly prepared. You may need to adjust your cooking time or technique slightly if you experience this result. However, many people find that properly prepared spaghetti squash tastes even better than ordinary spaghetti -- plus it provides significantly more nutritional benefit.

Spaghetti squash is one of the tastiest and most popular pasta alternatives.
Spaghetti squash is one of the tastiest and most popular pasta alternatives. | Source

Easy Homemade Veggie Pasta

For more variety and convenience in your pasta alternatives, you can also invest in a spiral slicer, a kitchen hand tool that allows you to quickly and easily turn ordinary vegetables into long, slender, pasta-like noodles. You can use cucumbers, zucchini, carrots and other common veggies with this tool, creating a deliciously guilt-free way to satisfy your pasta craving.

This is a very popular example of an inexpensive but high-quality veggie pasta maker.

Toppings

In many pasta dishes, the sauces and toppings are responsible for more of the potentially unhealthy components of the meal than the pasta itself. Even if you create a meal that is otherwise relatively healthy, drenching it in a cheese sauce or similar accompaniment that is packed with saturated fat and calories can sabotage your efforts. Instead, try using a little olive oil, grilled vegetables or a low-fat, low-sodium homemade tomato sauce on top of your pasta.

The toppings you choose for your pasta can have a massive impact on your meal's nutrition -- positively or negatively.
The toppings you choose for your pasta can have a massive impact on your meal's nutrition -- positively or negatively. | Source

Related Issues

Of course, no matter how healthy your meals are -- whether you eat pasta or any other food -- you will still gain weight if you eat more calories than you burn. Although switching to healthier pasta meals can be a smart decision if you want to lose weight, you should also make sure that you eat a well-rounded, nutritious diet in all areas and that you include plenty of physical exercise in your routine if you want to see significant long-term health improvements.

How frequently do you eat pasta, and how do you like to prepare it?

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