October is Pasta Month. Most of us probably eat pasta fairly regularly. It is inexpensive, easy and fast to cook, and enjoyed by adults and children of all ages.
The current USDA MyPlate recommendation is that one-fourth of your plate should be grains, which includes pasta. MyPlate also recommends that half of your grain intake should be whole grains. There are many varieties of whole grain pasta available, so include that to meet the whole grain recommendation. Whole grains have more fiber and nutrients than regular (white) pasta.
Try to add pureed or sliced vegetables to your pasta sauce. Carrots, celery, spinach, and onions can be added to add more fiber and nutrients and not compromise the taste. Garlic and other seasonings can add good flavor to pasta sauce without adding more salt.
Canned tomato sauce can have a lot of sodium. You can make your own using fresh tomatoes if you have them, or look for varieties that have less sodium. Many pasta sauces also have sugar, so read your food label to see what’s in the pasta sauce you buy. Many pizza sauces taste similar to spaghetti sauces, but have less sugar. The consistency may be a little different, but the taste should be similar.
Many people think pasta will make them gain weight if they eat it, because pasta is high in carbohydrates. Actually, it’s the amount of pasta we eat that may make us gain weight. Usually when we eat pasta, we eat a large serving. Next time you have pasta, try to use less pasta and more vegetables. We also may use creamy sauces that are high in fat or eat a lot of bread with pasta. Large servings, creamy sauces, and too much bread will pack on the pounds, not just the pasta itself.
One healthy way to eat pasta is to make whole grain pasta with olive oil and lots of vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, onions, etc). Season with garlic, oregano, basil and top with a bit of cheese to get three of the food groups. Add some tuna, grilled chicken, or beans for a protein kick and to get four food groups. The more colorful the veggies you use, the bigger variety of nutrients you will get from your pasta.
Pasta from restaurants tends to be higher in calories, fat, and sodium than if we make it at home. They are also usually large servings. Split the order of pasta with someone else, take half of it home for leftovers, or ask for a smaller portion or lunch portion to cut back on the calories, fat, and sodium.