Pasta is a classic comfort food which you can make in less than half an hour. For many, pasta is the go-to when you’re in a rush or feeling lazy… but it isn’t the most healthy option. White pasta with packet sauce and lashings of cheese is calorific and full of sugar, and this isn’t great if you’re on a mission to lose some weight or improve your health. Don’t worry, pasta can be made in a lighter and more nutritious way. Express.co.uk chatted to Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a self-proclaimed ex sugar addict Leisa Cockayne to find out how to make a healthy pasta dish.
Is pasta bad for you?
Pasta isn’t bad for you, as long as you make the right choices.
Leisa said: “White pasta can spike the blood sugar levels because it’s a simple carbohydrate which means it converts very quickly to glycogen (blood glucose).
“Essentially, it behaves the same way in the body as sugar.
“Spikes in blood sugar can often lead to more sugar cravings a few hours later.
“As the blood sugar levels drop, your body needs to find ‘quick release’ energy sources and this triggers the ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’ cycle.”
It’s really important to keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.
Lisa said managing to do this will “prevent the sugar highs and crashes”.
Leisa explained: “The good news is there are ways to still enjoy pasta without the sugar spikes.”
You don’t need to cut out pasta to keep your blood sugar levels stable, you just need to make a few switches.
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Protein is another key food source to add to your pasta.
Leisa said: “When you opt for pasta be sure to add a good amount of protein.
“Adding protein promotes satiety because it takes longer to digest and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.”
If you eat meat, try adding some lean poultry to your pasta such as chicken or turkey.
Vegetarians and vegans can add beans, legumes, lentils, soy such as tofu, edamame, seeds, nuts, or whole grains to their pasta.
Some vegetables – particularly leafy greens such as kale and spinach – contain more protein than others.
Vegetarians and meat-eaters can add eggs or protein-filled cheese such as parmesan, low-fat swiss, or low-fat cheddar to the dish.
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So what do you put in your sauce?
To release the naturally delicious umami flavour, you need to season the sauce properly.
Leisa recommends using oregano, basil, parsley and a pinch of salt.
She commented: “To remedy that metallic taste that can sometimes happen with cooked tomatoes, a lot of people suggest adding sugar.
“Instead of this use a splash of milk or cream as this works just as effectively to reduce the acidity.”
If you haven’t already added veggies for protein, you should add some to cover your fibre intake.
Leisa said: “Fill your pasta with nutritious veggies like courgettes, mushrooms, squash and asparagus.
“In addition to introducing a myriad of flavours, it increases your fibre intake and helps you bulk out on antioxidant-rich foods.
“Adding more veggies to your plate will also help you reduce the pasta serving size.”