When you’re trying to lose weight, carbs have been equated to the devil. Pasta? Forget it. We can’t even look at a croissant or walk past a bagel shop without gaining a few inches around our waist. But then you learn about the benefits of whole grains. Then you hear “everything in moderation” is the key. What are you to do now?
There are ways to eat pasta and still stay on track for your weight-loss goals. Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D.N., founder of Capitol Nutrition Group in Washington, D.C. never lets her clients do something they can’t do for the rest of their life. “If you can’t imagine life without pasta, then don’t even try. Find a way to enjoy pasta that respects your taste preferences and your body,” she says.
Check out our other tasty tips for pasta-lovers on a calorie budget.
1. Don’t Deprive Yourself
If you eliminate a food you love, you will only want it more. When you finally eat it, “it’s like getting out of jail. You can’t help but overdo it because you’re finally free to eat it again,” says Scritchfield. Sound familiar? If you’re crazy for noodles, no sense in skipping out. Treat yourself to a small portion occasionally so you know your old favorite is always there. And try spaghetti squash on your days off, you’d never know it’s not the real thing!
RELATED: Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Marinara
2. Focus on Flavor
You’re less likely to overeat when each bite is super satisfying. Jazz up a bland bowl with sautéed grape tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and fresh basil. Try a new pesto, or toss in your favorite protein so that a little bit of pasta can go a long way. Our fave? Replacing heavy cream with white wine to make a killer creamy Alfredo sauce! And we do it for less than 450 calories.
3. Make It Whole Grain
There is a difference between eating a bagel and eating a small fist-sized portion of whole-grain pasta. “Not all carbohydrates are created equal,” says Mary Hartley, R.D., an expert for DietsInReview.com. “Nutrition experts recommend eating at least 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates, and those ‘carbs’ should come primarily from whole foods." Try a whole-grain pasta, or get adventurous and test out alternative noodles like a brown rice pasta or (our favorite!) a brown rice-quinoa blend pasta.
4. Bulk Up on Veggies
If you’re going to have your favorite starchy carbohydrate, why not flood it with as many nutrients as possible? “Add a fist-size portion of sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, and olives,” suggests Scritchfield. Try this pasta with roasted garden vegetables, and steam any wilted greens from your fridge into the sauce. It cooks down so much, you’ll hardly know they’re there.
5. Make it a Side Dish, not the Main Attraction
Focus on your veggies and lean protein, then “make a fist-sized portion of pasta as a side dish with a simple sauce of olive oil, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese,” Scritchfield suggests. That way, you can still have your favorite carb but as a supplement to your seasoned grilled chicken and fresh summer salad.
RELATED: Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
By Katie McGrath, CPT-ACSM, HHC for DietsInReview.com