I'm a Dietitian, and I'll Never Give Up Pasta—Here's Why

Pasta gets a bad rap from some but there are many benefits to eating pasta. Here are a few of them.

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When I went to Italy a few years ago, I almost cried over my cacio e pepe (my husband says he saw a tear, but I don't know). Either way, that bowl of noodles, cheese and black pepper was so delicious that it made me wonder why so many people shun pasta. If only they knew all the benefits of pasta, they might not be so hard on it.

I know low-carb diets are popular, and pasta itself is often treated as its own special category of food to avoid. But as a registered dietitian (and Italian-American) pasta will always have a place in my diet. Here's why I love it and I think it deserves a spot on your plate too, as well as a bit about pasta nutrition.

I Love Pasta and Here's Why

  • It's delicious.
  • It's fast.
  • It's cheap.
  • It's versatile.
  • The whole family loves it.

Those are the big reasons and they're all pretty good ones. Pasta night is one of the easiest nights of the week for my family, as far as dinners go. I can make Roasted Tofu & Peanut Noodle Salad, Classic Mac and Cheese or a pot of Tomato & Kale Pesto Pasta and everyone (toddler included) is satisfied.

As a bonus, I usually get at least one meal of leftovers. There's tomorrow's lunch!

Pasta is also an affordable way to feed hungry mouths, coming in around just $1-2 per box (that's under $0.20 a serving).

When I'm running short on time and everyone is clamoring to be fed, pasta comes to my rescue. There are many pasta recipes that clock in at 30 minutes or less. And, while I may not make dishes that bring people to tears, pasta always turns out tasty.

Is Pasta Healthy?

Now, if you agree with me on all of that—but you still think pasta is "bad" for you—here's what you need to know.

Two ounces of dried white pasta has about 200 calories, 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, along with iron and B vitamins, per the USDA.

Choose whole-wheat pasta and you'll get a little bit more protein and 7 grams of fiber. Bean-based pastas are another way to up your protein and fiber intake (but they do taste a little different compared to traditional pasta).

And while pasta may be a carbohydrate-rich food, it also delivers lots of important nutrients. It's definitely not empty calories.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Who eats just one serving of pasta? Most of us do eat more, but not the equivalent of a never-ending bowl of pasta.

About one cup of cooked pasta (for most shapes that's two ounces of dry pasta) mixed with vegetables can be a satisfying portion for many people. But even if you eat two whole cups of pasta, that's still only about 400 calories (plus 14 grams of protein and vitamins and minerals). That's not too shabby for a two-cup serving.

Another thing to note—the Mediterranean Diet consistently ranks as the top diet to follow for better health. And guess what? Pasta is a part of that diet. It's not that you should eat it for every meal, but it can absolutely be included in a healthy diet.

Now, let's say you have a special diet concern—like diabetes. There are plenty of ways to make pasta fit into your diet. For example, choose whole-grain or bean varieties more often, bulk it up with veggies and protein and choose sauces with less sodium. And check out these diabetes-friendly pasta recipes.

If you're gluten-free, you can cook with gluten-free pasta—which has come a long way. Just follow the label directions to cook it to the right consistency so that you don't end up with either mush or an overly-chewy texture.

Why You Should Eat the Foods You Love

First of all, life is short. And if you restrict the foods you like, you're more likely to binge on them later. Maybe for you, that's not pasta. Maybe it's rice or ice cream or gummy bears. Whatever it is, if you ban it from your diet, you're more likely to overdo it when you finally do eat those foods again.

Sometimes what food we choose is about more than its nutritional value. It can be about convenience. It can help us celebrate with our family. It might have to do with our budget. And even though it's been put down over and over again, pasta can be good for you. So mix it up, try new recipes with it—and above all, enjoy it.

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