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Balancing a healthy diet with high-fiber pasta

Don’t shy away from carbs! Pasta can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, especially if it’s high in fiber like these deliciously easy spaghetti recipes.

Woman eating pasta

Pasta and high-fiber don’t typically go hand-in-hand, but Barilla’s new line of nutritious pastas changes that. Their new pasta varieties have additional nutrients, which makes preparing a balanced meal even easier for a busy family.

We chatted with Barilla’s Executive Chef Lorenzo Boni to get his cooking tips for creating flavorful and healthier meals any night of the week. Hailing from Italy, he knows a thing or two about pasta!

SheKnows: Where do you get your inspiration to create unique pasta dishes?

Chef Lorenzo Boni: As a native Italian, pasta has always been a big part of my life and at my table. I was born in Bologna, Italy, so I often use techniques I learned as a young chef. I also love sports and a healthy living lifestyle, so when I create recipes I always keep a healthy approach, Mediterranean inspired of course, which has always been a part of my life and culture.

SK: What is your go-to quick and easy pasta meal for a busy day?

Barilla PLUS Thin Spaghetti with garlic, red chili pepper flakes and olive oilLB: We conducted a survey recently for Barilla and found 90 percent of parents agreed pasta is an easy meal option — and I couldn’t agree more! Preparing a pasta meal for your family allows you to multitask — chopping vegetables or herbs while boiling the pasta, chatting with your loved ones — all while creating a dish you know the whole family will enjoy. On your most time-crunched days, I recommend Barilla PLUS Thin Spaghetti with garlic, red chili pepper flakes and olive oil. It’s a flavorful meal that is ready in about 20 minutes and made with items all from your pantry.

SK: Will there be any noticeable change in the texture or consistency of the new pastas when cooked?

LB: When cooked, Barilla PLUS looks and tastes similar to regular semolina pasta. I really enjoy Barilla PLUS combined with fresh veggies and/or seafood. Barilla Whole Grain is high in fiber, providing a nice nutty taste from the whole grains that really complement a variety of ingredients like fresh veggies, aromatic herbs, cheeses and meats. It’s a great way to add more nutrition to your meals without sacrificing flavor!

SK: What sauces would you pair with these pastas?

LB: I like to remind people cooking at home that sometimes, extra-virgin olive oil is all you need to make a great sauce. There’s a reason it’s the principal source of healthy, unsaturated fat in the healthy Mediterranean diet. Skipping heavy cream sauces or butter in favor of extra-virgin olive oil is a great way to add flavor and nutritional benefits to your pasta. Remember, a little goes a long way!

SK: With fiber being such an important part of a diet, why not make all pastas high in fiber?

LB: We like to offer a broad range of pastas to meet everyone’s nutritional needs and taste preferences. While semolina pasta may not have the high fiber you’ll find in our Whole Grain, PLUS or White Fiber products, it does offer the traditional Italian taste. Each of our pastas offers the perfect base for layering on high-fiber vegetables and legumes to create a complete wholesome meal.

Wondering how nutritious pasta really is? We also talked with Anna Rosales, a registered dietitian, about the benefits of a balanced pasta meal.

SK: Does regular pasta have simple or complex carbohydrates and does this change with high-fiber pasta?

Anna Rosales: Pasta is a complex carbohydrate, which is considered a “good carb.” Pasta also has a low to medium glycemic index. The lower the glycemic index, the more slowly a food breaks down in your body, resulting in a gradual rise in blood sugar. Cooking the pasta al dente can help ensure to keep the glycemic index lower and the structure intact. Our high-fiber pastas are also complex carbohydrates that offer the goodness of pasta with the added benefit of fiber.

SK: Barilla PLUS is high in ALA omega-3 fatty acids. How does this compare to other foods high in omega-3, like fish and nuts?

AR: One box of Barilla PLUS delivers the nutritional equivalent of the ALA omega-3 fatty acids in 6 ounces of walnuts, protein in 11 eggs and the fiber in 35 leaves of Swiss chard.

SK: How much daily fiber do you recommend for a healthy diet?

AR: For a healthy diet, women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should get 38 grams of fiber per day, according to an Institute of Medicine formula based on getting 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. A pasta meal can be a great way to boost your fiber intake. Use pasta as a base for adding vegetables and legumes.

SK: When serving pasta, what are some ways to ensure a balanced meal?

AR: Pasta is best when paired with healthy ingredients, such as vegetables and lean proteins. It’s easy to oversauce or top with too much cheese, which can add unnecessary calories. Choosing healthy, unsaturated fats like extra-virgin olive oil is a great way to add flavor without guilt. And if you choose to use cheese, just be mindful of portion control — one tablespoon is all you need.

Up next: If your mouth is watering after all this talk about pasta, check out these delicious high-fiber spaghetti recipes from Barilla >>

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