Weight Control: Pasta Tips

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Pasta is such an interesting food. It comes in a variety of colors and shapes and can be served in an unlimited number of ways. It is inexpensive and can be stored for long periods of time in a dry, cool place. It cooks very quickly, in 12 minutes or less, in most cases. Once it is cooked, leftovers can be frozen or served cold the next day.

Many people make the wrong assumption that pasta is a “fattening food” because it is a carbohydrate and the Atkin’s Diet has wrongly claimed that high-carbohydrate foods cause weight gain. Most health professionals agree that high-fiber, lowfat, high-carbohydrate foods are the key to weight control because they fill you up on fewer calories. When it comes to pasta, using the right ingredients can make all the difference.

Ingredients matter!
Here is a list of pasta dishes listed in the order of calories they contain per pound:

WholeWheat Spaghetti Primavera 294
Spaghetti Primavera 321
Low-fat Vegetarian Lasagna 370
Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce 419
Weight Watcher’s® Spaghetti & Meat 463
Spaghetti with Meatballs 471
Whole Wheat Spaghetti (plain) 562
Lasagna with Meat 616
Macaroni and Cheese 639
Spaghetti (plain) 662
Fettucini Alfredo 926

This list shows that the addition of cream, cheese, meat and oil increase the amount of calories as compared to pasta dishes made with low-fat, high-fiber ingredients like vegetables, marinara sauce and beans.
Take a look at the Spaghetti Primavera. We made it with one pound of cooked pasta, one pound of vegetables and three cups of sauce. The addition of pasta sauce and vegetables decreases the amount of calories by 50% as compared to plain cooked pasta.

Notice how using whole-wheat pasta helps lower the amount of calories even more as compared to using regular pasta.

How do I make it lighter?
• Add equal parts vegetables to cooked pasta. For every pound of cooked pasta (about 8 ounces dry), add about a pound of mixed vegetables.
• Be generous with the red sauce. The addition of pasta sauce helps make the calories go down. Check out the sodium on the label – you can always add cans of no-salt-added tomato sauce to help lower the sodium in regular prepared sauce.
• Go easy on the cheese. If you are making a recipe that calls for ricotta, use fat-free ricotta. You can usually cut back on shredded cheese by at least 50% without harming the outcome of the recipe. Using a small amount of grated parmesan can help you add flavor without a lot of fat and calories.
• Cut back on the meat. Use half the amount of meat called for in a recipe and make up the difference with mushrooms, kidney beans or other vegetables. Use extra-lean ground beef or ground turkey and rinse the fat off in a colander after it is cooked.
• Substitute the cream. You can usually substitute a lowfat, lower-sodium broth in place of cream for most recipes. Add in some fresh or dried herbs like oregano, basil, marjoram and thyme for flavor. You can also use fat-free half-n-half instead of cream.

A light pasta dish, cooked from the night before, makes an excellent lunch the next day. It is much lower in calories per pound than many sandwich choices. Compare these luncheon choices:

Spaghetti Primavera 321
Turkey Sub from Subway® 571
McDonald’s Quarter Pounder® 1107
Roast beef sandwich 1186

Pasta Primavera
8 ounces dried spaghetti
1 pound bag frozen mixed vegetables
1-1/2 cups prepared pasta sauce
1-1/2 cups no-salt-added tomato sauce (canned)
1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain the spaghetti in a colander and rinse lightly. Put the same pan back on the stove and add the vegetables and the sauce. Bring to a boil and cook briefly until the vegetables are heated through. Add the pasta, herbs and cheese and serve hot.
Serves 4. Each 2-cup serving: 297 calories, 2 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 398 mg sodium, 60 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g fiber, 13 g protein.

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