IT’S COMFORT FOOD SEASON……HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY SWAPS FOR PASTA
Why replace pasta
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I know you have heard all about it. Pasta is bad. Carbs are bad. Keto is the new “jam.” So, here’s the thing, most of us are subject to way too much processed, refined grains and sugar as part of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). The food pyramid told us for years these foods should be the basis of our low fat diet, and lots of them. Unfortunately, the science was not as complete as it is today and we now understand a lot more about the chemical processes in our body and how the food we eat effects our health. So, I am not advocating for you to adopt a full keto or Atkins style diet. I am simply saying that increasing your awareness of what choices you make can have a tremendous impact on your health and how you feel.
Let me get one thing clear….we NEED carbohydrates in our diet. Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients that play an important role in the human body. They provide energy and provide needed fiber for good gut health. However, by in large, the American diet has way too many “bad” carbs and sugars. This overabundance, and use of carbs and sugar in our diet is what has driven the obesity epidemic and substantial increase in chronic disease due to inflammation.
A thought leader on this very topic that I follow closely is Dave Asprey. He found himself in poor health in his twenties. Being in the computer industry, he set out to unravel and “hack” his body and has brought a huge body of information to the forefront. He is funny, candid, and brilliant. The connections he makes to poor food choices are mind blowing and most definitely sparked an “AHA” moment for me. In his book, he states:
“I began studying causes of inflammation and found a huge body of research on the abundant anti- nutrients in most standard diets that can cause chronic inflammation. They do this by irritating the gut, which triggers the immune system, or otherwise damaging the body’s repair and detoxification systems.” (Asprey, Dave. The Bulletproof Diet. Rodale, 2014)
Unfortunately, going to the grocery store can be crazy confusing. Labels are misleading, magazine covers are filled with taglines and pictures, and the availability of copious choices is mind boggling. It is all influenced by big corporations and food companies. These companies are continually marketing to stay “current” with whatever lingo seems prevalent at the time in terns of diet fads. Our food recommendations are updated by the USDA every five years, but they don’t always include all the information available or that is being studied. So what is one to do?
The bottom line….. we can get the carbohydrates we need in a day from vegetables. Vegetables are loaded with good carbs, vitamin, minerals, phytonutrients, polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber. There are some additional whole foods sources of good carbs too; such as fruits, beans & legumes, nuts & seeds and ancient grains.
Valter Longo, PhD studies aging and disease. He states in his book:
“…data indicates that by understanding how the human body is maintained while young, we can stay fully functional….One of the primary ways to achieve this is to exploit our body’s innate ability to regenerate itself at the cellular and organ levels. Unfortunately, the modern diet, and the constant consumption that characterizes the way so much of the first world eats, keeps these built-in mechanisms permanently switched off, leaving us prematurely vulnerable to disease…” (Longo, Valter. The Longevity Diet. Penguin Random House, 2018)
“The diet should be rich in complex carbohydrates, such as those provided by whole bread, legumes and vegetables, but low in sugars and limited in pasta, rice, bread, fruit, and fruit juices, which are easily converted into sugars by the time they reach the intestine.” (Longo, Valter. The Longevity Diet. Penguin Random House, 2018)
Comfort Food Hacks
Pasta is a main stay in our diet and a pillar of our comfort food repertoire, especially as we enter the fall and winter months. So many of our favorite dishes have pasta as the primary ingredient and “star of the show.” Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken noodle soup, casseroles…. I love them too, who doesn’t. But since facing some health issues head on, I know for a fact my body doesn’t like gluten, wheat, or too many processed carbs.
The answer is NOT to just buy “Gluten Free” pasta. Many times, these packaged foods are filled with other ingredients that are just as bad, have a high sugar count, and are packed with other fillers that don’t contribute to good overall health.
So…. Here are some recommendations and recipes to make some small incremental changes that can lead to a more nutrient rich diet by upping your “good carb” intake.
Zoodles. – zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potato and more!
Spiralize your veggies
Some great instructions and go-to recipes to try with spiraled noodles can be found at www.inspiralized.com. I keep a veggie spiralizer in my house and my camper so I have no excuses to make poor choices. I use spiraled zucchini as a “go to” quick noodle sub for spaghetti & marinara. I also love trying new recipes with this fantastic tool too.
Cauliflower – Chopped, Riced, Roasted, Mixed in….. It’s Good!
Cauliflower is loaded with nutrients
The ultimate comfort food, Mac & cheese. Comfort Food Lovers rejoice…….. you can find a great Mac & Cheese swap using cauliflower right here.
Eggplant – yes, eggplant
Eggplant Lasagna is a big hit in our house
My in-laws mentioned recently they had a wonderful lasagna while having dinner at someone’s house. That got me thinking about how long it had been since we had lasagna. Being sensitive to gluten, I set out to find a replacement and I used this recipe. It was a hit!!! Everyone in my house ate it.
There are lots of ways to sub spaghetti squash into your regular meal plan, including just simply using it instead of pasta noodles. However, here is a recipe that looks tasty and includes BACON!!!!! Jump in and try it out, I know we will be adding it to our meal plan soon.
Packaged Dry Noodles
If you must have noodles, try using something that does not have an ingredient list full of strange ingredients and fillers. Opting for something made out or chickpeas or veggies is a great option and may not spike insulin as much or lead to inflammation. Here are two options that are well liked in our house.
How are you making healthy choices to incorporate more vegetables and legumes into your meals instead of traditional noodles?