Praise be, carbs are not the enemy! But a pasta meal should still be balanced, as dietitian Melissa Meier explains.
Tis’ the season for comfort eating – and these cold, dark nights might have carbs on your mind. And while diet culture has led you to believe carbs are the enemy, you can rest assured that as a dietitian, that’s certainly not my opinion. You can have your pasta and eat it, too – there’s just a few small things to keep in mind.
Pasta is made from flour (usually wheat-based), which is, you guessed it, rich in carbs. But instead of something that’s going to instantly add five kilos to your thighs, it’s time to start thinking about carbs differently.
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Why? Carbohydrates are actually an essential component of a healthy diet. Yes, you read that correctly: essential. Not only do they provide energy to help you get through the day, but they’re the type of fuel your body is wired to use most efficiently.
Without enough of the right carbohydrates in your diet, your blood sugar levels will embark on a topsy turvy rollercoaster ride and you’ll experience cravings for all of the foods you’re trying to not eat in the first place (think: chocolate, lollies, biscuits). So go on, eat the damn pasta.
How much pasta is a healthy portion?
I’ll preface this by saying we’re all different, and this is simply advice for the average Joe – what’s right for you may be far more (or less) than what I’m about to recommend.
Men and women between the ages of 19 and 50 are recommended to have six serves of grains every day for good health, comprising mostly of wholegrain choices. When it comes to pasta, one serve is equivalent to half a cup cooked.
Pump the brakes before you dive into three whole cups of cooked pasta for dinner though – these six serves are best spread evenly throughout the day, so I’d suggest one cup of cooked pasta as a healthy portion for a main meal.
In case you’re wondering, those six serves of grains per day drop to four for women between the ages of 51 and 70, and three thereafter. For men, it’s six until you’re 70, and four and a half after that.
Remember that in order for a meal to be healthy, it needs to be balanced – so there are a few additions to make to your plain boiled pasta before it gets my tick of approval (and unfortunately, I’m not talking about a mountain of parmesan).
For one, you want your pasta dish to be chock-full of veggies, so wave goodbye to store-bought sauces and whip up your own at home using onions, zucchini, capsicum, eggplant, tomatoes… you get the picture.
And two, add a little lean protein for a hunger-busting hit. That could come in the form of some lean minced meat or canned lentils for a plant-based twist (trust me, you don’t even know they’re there). Oh, and skip the buttery garlic bread on the side, too.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.