Whole grain pasta... How much is okay?
“We have switched to whole grain pasta”. “Since this is a healthier choice is it ok for the portions to be a little larger”?
Smart move!! Replacing the refined white flour pasta noodles with the higher fiber version is a good switch . Look for pasta that provides at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. A 100% whole grain pasta is best.
Although whole grain pasta is rich in fiber and B-vitamins... it is still a carbohydrate based food and it packs as many (or more) calories as the white, refined version. So the sad answer to your question is that we still need to control the portion of whole grain pasta. The serving size that is typically listed on the box of spaghetti is “2 ounces”, which is roughly 1 ¼ cups of cooked pasta.
Here are a few pointers for healthy pasta meals:
ALWAYS include a protein source with your pasta. This could be as simple as adding ground beef, ground Italian sausage or soy crumbles to your sauce. Or, consider adding several cans of drained, chopped clams for a delicious alternative. If you prefer a plain marinara sauce, then top it with a generous handful of shredded cheese.
Fats are also important to include with pasta meals because (like protein), the fats help to prevent blood sugar spikes. Consider tossing your pasta with a little olive oil or pesto after draining it.
If you are using a jarred or canned spaghetti sauce, choose one that does NOT contain high fructose corn syrup.
Saute chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, grated zucchini, etc. and add to the sauce for a veggie boost.
For a balanced meal try pairing the pasta meal with a large mixed green salad.
Consider eliminating the bread with pasta meals (since the carb count is already quite high). If you DO include bread, make your own (very thin) slices of garlic toast. Texas toast is NOT a good option since the slices are SO thick AND some brands of Texas toast contain harmful partially hydrogenated oils.
Experiment with spaghetti squash. When cooked, this delightful veggie may be shredded into long strands that resemble angel hair pasta. Use it just like you would use pasta.
TIP: Avoid over-cooking your pasta. This results in a loss of nutrients. Also, over-cooked pasta is more rapidly absorbed by the body, so there is a greater potential for blood sugar spikes).