Let’s get one thing out of the way: carbs, and pasta, are not the enemy of a healthy diet. But if you’re wanting to find the healthiest option, our dietitian offers up her thoughts on which on the supermarket shelves is for you.
Often demonised as a food that’ll add unwanted kilos immediately to your waistline and thighs, pasta isn’t high on many people’s healthy eating checklist. Truth is, however, pasta can be an incredibly nutritious addition to your diet – not a guilty pleasure that calls for jokes about carb loading.
Yes, pasta is rich in carbs, but carbs themselves aren’t actually a bad thing (*shocker*). Plus, with the right type of pasta on your plate, you’re in for a dose of gut-loving fibre and a range of micronutrients, so there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it on the reg.
As a dietitian, I think the main consideration when plating up a healthy pasta meal isn’t actually the type of pasta itself, but the portion size you dig into. While we’re used to being served mountains of it at Italian restaurants, a healthy pasta portion is far less, at just one cup cooked per person (FYI that’s roughly the size of your clenched fist). That’ll leave enough room in your meal for some lean protein and lots of veggies – something that’s often on hiatus with pasta-based dishes.
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The healthiest pastas in Aussie supermarkets
Once you’ve nailed the portion size, let’s talk about pasta types – because my lord, there’s a loooong list of them popping up in supermarkets lately. So, without further ado, here’s my take on the healthiest pastas in Aussie supermarkets, in ranking order.
- Wholemeal pasta
Per 100g (dry): 1404kJ, 12.5g protein, 2.2g fat, 0.3g sat fat, 60.6g carbs, 0g sugar, 9.9g fibre, 11mg sodium
Made from wholemeal wheat flour, wholemeal pasta offers all of the goodness of wholegrains, like fibre for digestive health, hunger-busting protein and a tonne of essential micronutrients.
It’s also low-GI, meaning you’ll stay fuller for longer. Eating wholegrains regularly is actually associated with a host of health perks, including protection from chronic disease and weight management. Tick, tick, tick.
- Legume pasta
Per 100g (dry): 1510kJ, 21.3g protein, 3.2g fat, 1g sat fat, 56.7g carbs, 1.4g sugar, 7.8g fibre, 3mg sodium
In my humble opinion, pasta made from beans, chickpeas and lentils is one of the greatest new food products of recent years. Pulse pasta is rich in protein and gut-loving fibre, with all the hallmarks of a nutritious plant-based meal. Plus, it’s gluten-free for our coeliac friends.
- Buckwheat pasta
Per 100g (dry): 1520kJ, 15.5g protein, 3.7g fat,
Buckwheat is a gluten-free wholegrain, so this is another good option for those on a gluten-free diet. Just like regular wholemeal pasta, buckwheat pasta also provides more micronutrients than refined gluten-free pastas, thanks to its wholegrain status.
- Regular wheat pasta
Per 100g (dry): 1458kJ, 12.7g protein, 1.4g fat, 0.2g sat fat, 68.5g carbs, 0g sugar, 3.2g fibre, 5mg sodium
Unlike most products made from refined flour, regular pasta is low-GI, meaning your blood sugars don’t dramatically spike and crash – but rather, gently rise and fall, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. Regardless, regular wheat pasta is lacking in many of the micronutrients wholegrain pasta provides, so should only be a ‘sometimes’ choice.
- Gluten-free pasta
Per 100g (dry): 1480kJ, 8g protein, 1.9g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 76.5g carbs, 2g sugar, 1.1g fibre, 20mg sodium
Regular gluten-free pasta can be made from rice or corn. Despite popular belief that all things gluten-free are healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts, run-of-the-mill gluten-free pastas don’t score too well on my books because they’re often lacking in the protein and fibre that other options provide.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.