For most guys trying to lose weight, carbs are often seen as the enemy, and pasta is penne non grata. But it doesn’t have to be that way: Toronto researchers, studying low-glycemic diets, found that participants who ate an average of 1½ cups of cooked noodles a week lost weight “when consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern.”
Ah, that’s the rub, isn’t it? “Part of a healthy dietary pattern.” What does that even mean? People like Michele Fumagalli, owner of Chicago’s Fit Plate Nutrition, like to say that carbs aren’t the enemy. Along with protein and fat, they’re one of the three macronutrients our bodies need. Here are four ways to enjoy the dark mistress that is pasta and still — no, we’re not joking — lose weight.
Your vermicelli should be so veggie-forward that it looks like you’re having plants with a side of noodles.
“It’s not about taking pasta away but adding more nourishment to it,” says Fumagalli. “In a perfect world, plates would be 50 percent color — vegetables and fruit — 25 percent protein, and 25 percent carbs.”
Fibrous foods like brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes or onions will make you fuller faster, and also help your body regulate its blood sugar response. All of those colors “represent different nutrients that keep us healthy,” says Mackenzie Burgess, a registered dietitian and nutritionist.
There are oodles of alternative noodles made from things like cauliflower, beets, cassava root, whole wheat, lentils, carrots and edamame in the pasta aisle these days. Most contain fewer carbs and more fiber and are generally more diet friendly. And, okay, fine, most of them sound disgusting.
But they’re all worth trying, at least once. You may be shocked by what you enjoy. Burgess favors chickpea pasta, as it “cooks like regular pasta but is loaded with extra protein and fiber.” Remember, higher protein plus more fiber “reduce the hunger hormone, slow digestion and boost satiety.”
But don’t judge a box by its cover; some alternative pastas are padded with processed junk. “Turn to the nutrition facts panel and ensure the marketed ingredient is high on the list,” Burgess explains. “Aim for at least four grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein per two-ounce serving.”
Carb-laden dishes are best wolfed down on workout days. “Exercising breaks down heavy carbs,” says Tampa-based chef Corey Hall. “If you’re not going to be active that day, best not to indulge.”
Also, consider having that lasagna at lunch. “Then eat a lighter meal in the evening when you’re not as active,” says Hall.
There’s no substitute for homemade sauce, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Store-bought pesto, vodka sauce and even marinara are often filled with cheap oils, added sugars, sodium and unwanted additives. Making your own means you control content quality, flavor profiles and how much of each element is used. In some cases, you can use a trick to make that topping more of a treat. Subbing Greek yogurt for heavy cream in alfredo is Burgess’ secret weapon.