I was having a conversation with my dad the other day about carbs and he said, “…well, I know, like, you don’t eat pasta, so I was wondering what carbs are okay,” and I was like, “Wait-I don’t eat pasta? S***, is THAT what people think?”
So, in order to dispel the myth, here is a post about how I eat pasta. This is what works for me in my own life and is by now means prescriptive or one size fits all advice, but I’ve found it keeps the dinnertime drama to a minimum and helps me enjoy pasta in the context of an overall healthy diet—no overthinking or carb-guilt required.
Rule #1: Pasta is not the devil—or the enemy, depending on your belief system. Maybe I’m old-school, but I find the most satisfying, energizing meals involve a protein, plenty of veggies, a bit of fat, and some source of carbohydrate. To me, pasta is just one of the many carbohydrate options out there. To make it more filling, I reach for whole grain varieties whenever available, but if what I really want on a particular night happens not to be whole grain, I listen to that craving. When you stick to whole grains and complex carbs most of the time, there’s a little room for the occasional small serving of white pasta.
Rule #2: Portions count. Most nutrition labels provide the stats for two ounces of pasta—that’s actually equivalent to two 1-ounce USDA servings of pasta. That’s just fine, especially if you’re spreading your carb intake throughout the day and balancing it out with protein, healthy fats, and nonstrachy vegetables, but where most people run into trouble is having a larger portion than those two ounces.
Rule #3: Bulk up your bowl with veggies and protein. A few of my favorites: leafy greens like arugula and kale; roasted broccoli or cauliflower; eggplant; fresh burst tomatoes; shaved sautéed brussels sprouts; caramelized onion; chicken; shrimp; a poached egg…Have fun experimenting!
Rule#4: Go easy on the sauce. No reason to drown your meal in creamy sauce. Start with a tablespoon. Sprinkle cheese sparingly, knowing that you can always add more later if you really want to.
Rule #5: Serve in a smaller bowl. Part of the beauty of pasta is what an abundant meal you can make from humble ingredients. To highlight that, serve in a smaller bowl or dish so the meal fills the plate and provides that visual satisfaction. Another idea: make a small serving of pasta and mix with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
Rule #6: No guilt allowed. Demonizing a particular food sets you up for a complicated relationship with that food, making hard to find your own sense of moderation.
What’s your favorite way to eat pasta?
A few of my favorite pasta (and pasta-related) recipes: