I have never understood the flak noodles get… all the time. Agreed it is a high carbohydrate food, but who says carbs are bad – we need them for energy after all and grains do provide nutrients like B complex and multiple minerals that we anyways don’t get to eat enough of. And let’s be clear, here I am not talking about the preservative laden instant noodles, or even about the oil dripping roadside stalls gooey stuff. I am talking about simple dishes that are cooked with noodles (and other pastas) the way they should be – with lots of colourful vegetables and if possible even a source of protein. Eaten this way they are simply a variant or rather a combined version of our Indian roti-sabzi (instead of having it separately, here you mix everything together to create one wholesome dish and chomp it happily) and a nice change if nothing else; plus extremely convenient to put together.
What I also like about them is that they can be made in many-many ways and taste different each time, and are a wonderful vehicle to ensure loads of fibre (opt for whole grain pasta and add lots of veggies), calcium (cheese, cottage cheese), protein (meat, egg, tofu), and difficult to find micronutrients (add roasted seeds, nuts and herbs) in our diet. Also you’ll be surprised to learn that pastas that are classically made with a rich tomato sauce deliver (thanks to the tomato) loads of an antioxidant called lycopene, which helps in protecting us from heart disease, cancer, asthma and even cataracts.
Of course, what goes without saying is that portion control is most important (like for any other food). Eating huge portions smothered with highly calorific cheese or a heavy cream sauce will obviously lead to expanding waistlines.
Still worried about the carbs, or have a reason to reduce them from your diet? Then check out this interesting new trend of transforming vegetables into pasta-like noodles. I find them super exciting and think that these nutrient-rich pasta-imposters are a wonderful way to eat more vegetables – and yes they can help you cut down on calories and refined grains, if that is so important to you. Apparently there is a spiralizing machine which helps do that but lot of people make do with simple peelers to make vegetable juliennes and turn carrots, turnips, beets and zucchini into noodles, actually called zoodles. Then you simply top them with a sauce of choice (I love pesto) and dig in or use as a base for a salad or casserole instead of spaghetti.
Finally I am sharing a fabulous (and my favorite pasta recipe) from my book Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People for you to try minus any guilt (it’s loaded with goodness, and is super-super tasty).
Pasta with Chickpeas and Spinach
- Boil half cup pasta (or 150 gm spaghetti or noodles). Keep aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil (or any oil), add 1 sliced onion and salt to taste. Next add 1 tsp sliced garlic. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes and then transfer to a plate and keep aside.
- Put 100 gm baby spinach, 1/2 cup boiled chickpeas (channa white) and 1 cup water and 1 chopped tomato in a pan. Simmer till spinach is done. Add pasta, salt, black pepper and red chili flakes to it. Toss till coated. Serve combined with the onion mix made earlier.
Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan