How To Pick The Best Pasta For Your Healthy Lifestyle

How to Choose The Best Pasta For Your Healthy Lifestyle

This post is by OYS writer Melissa. You can read more about Melissa here and see all of her other posts here. Check out Melissa’s blog Nutrition and Wellness for Life. She offers wellness consultation services that focus on helping you eat better and exercise more.  She also has a FB page!!


Reading food labels is time-consuming, but it can truly help you make small changes that will help make your diet more healthful. If you missed my post about reading food labels, check it out here. Once you get the hang of what to look for, it does get easier. But to help you out even more, I’m offering a regular monthly series covering different foods we all buy at the grocery store on a regular basis. If there is a food you want me to do a comparison for, just let us know! You can check out my previous comparisons on the OYS blog.

This month I am comparing pasta. Many people think that pasta cannot be a part of a healthy diet, but it absolutely can! Yes, even if you are trying to lose weight. The two big keys to keeping pasta in your life are selecting the right kind and paying attention to your portions. I will show you which kind of pasta to stay away from, which is pretty good, and which is your best option.

I used the Shop Well app to help me out with this comparison. If you want to learn more about Shop Well and what it can do, check out this post.

Bad Choice

Regular Semolina Pasta

The sample I used here is penne by Barilla. I just want to disclose that neither the brand (Barilla) nor the style of pasta (penne) have anything to do with this being a bad choice. The big problem with this pasta is that it is made from refined grains. In the ingredients list, you will see “Semolina (Wheat)” and “Durum Wheat Flour.” Don’t be fooled by that word “wheat.” If you only see the word “wheat,” that means that it is white pasta that has been stripped of all of the fiber and nutrients. For 2 ounces of this pasta, you will get 200 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. If you watch your portions, the calories are an acceptable number, and there is a good amount of protein. But the low fiber means that this pasta is missing the good stuff, which makes it a waste of calories.

Good Choice

Pasta Made With Whole Grain

This sample also comes from Barilla in the form of shells. Again, neither the brand nor the style impact the health value of this pasta. If you are transitioning to healthier pasta, this pasta is your gateway. White pasta and whole grain pasta definitely have different textures, and it may take you a while to get used to it. This pasta is a mix of both. The first ingredient is “Whole Grain Durum Wheat Flour,” followed by the old “Semolina” and “Durum Wheat Flour.” Seeing the phrase “whole grain,” and seeing it as the first ingredient is a good thing. That means there is a good amount of whole grain in there. For this pasta, you will get a similar profile to the first option. It has 200 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein. The difference comes in the fiber at 6 grams. That comes from the whole grains! A word of caution about products like this that splash the phrase “Whole Grain” across the front of their products. That may only mean they used some whole grain in there. If you want to cross over to the healthiest pasta, head for the next option.

Best Choice

100% Whole Wheat Pasta

This sample came from Wegmans and is an organic farfalle pasta. Remember, neither the style nor the brand have any effect on the health factor. I honestly don’t care about buying organic pasta because it’s not one of the things high on my list of foods I really want to eat organic. This particular pasta only comes in organic, but don’t feel like you have to go organic with your pasta. What makes this pasta the winner is the one ingredient: “Organic Whole Wheat Semolina.” That tells you right there that there are no hidden refined grains anywhere. The nutritional profile is just about the same as the “good” choice above. So why do you want to try to eat 100% whole grain? It has lots of fiber, which not only helps to fill you up, but also helps your body run smoothly and protect you from disease. So remember to look for the phrase “whole grain,” and make sure it either states “100%” or is the only ingredient.

Pasta can still be a part of a healthy adult diet. There are many different brands and varieties, so keep trying until you find a whole grain option you love. Be sure to read labels thoroughly, and take into account all of the ingredients in addition to the calorie and fat counts.

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