Healthier Pasta

Elbow MacaroniElbow Macaroni

Pasta can be a very fulfilling meal, but can it be healthy?

Not all noodles are created equal.  Even within the same brand, there may be a drastic difference in the nutritional content.  Because we enjoy pasta but want to eat healthily, we compared the nutrition information to help us choose the best.  

As with any food, read the nutrition label carefully and pay particular attention to calories, fiber, protein, sodium, and serving size.  If you have food sensitivities or allergies, be sure to check the ingredients.  Some of these options contain eggs or were manufactured in facilities where eggs are used.

Note on cooking the noodles:  I have found that both the whole grain and veggie pasta take slightly longer to cook.  Just 2 or 3 minutes but on busy nights, that can feel like a huge difference.  Or, if you cook it less, remember it will be al dente.  

For the purpose of illustration,  we will use elbow macaroni shapes in this article so they are similar, but Barilla does not make an elbow in the white fiber so we chose penne for that noodle shape. 

Product Comparison:

Mueller's elbows
Mueller’s elbows

For a standard pasta, we will look at Mueller Elbows 100% Semolina. This is a basic noodle-like many of us are familiar with.  It has a mild taste that does not fight with the sauce.  The downside of this pasta is the lack of fiber with just 2 grams per serving.

Mueller Elbows Whole Grain
Mueller’s Elbows Whole Grain

Next up is a high fiber variety with Mueller 100% Whole Grain Elbows.  This pasta has a bit of a nutty flavor but is not overpowering.  It works well with most sauces but maybe not with a garlic and olive oil sauce.  The whole grain elbows have 10 calories fewer per serving but an extra .5 grams of fat which could be offset by an extra 3 grams of fiber (total 5 g).

Muellers Hidden Veggie Elbows
Mueller’s Hidden Veggie Elbows

Mueller Hidden Veggie Twisted Elbows is a good option to increase your vegetable intake.  I admit that I fell for this one. I did not read the nutritional information until I was putting the packages away at home.  Big mistake.  The fiber content is the same as the 100% semolina pasta!  The only major difference between the hidden veggie, semolina, and whole-grain elbows is the amount of potassium. That does not seem like enough to make it worth switching.  Also, I am not sure if this would count as a vegetable when you eat it.  

Barilla ProteinPlus Elbows
Barilla ProteinPlus Elbows

One of our favorite kinds of pasta is Barilla ProteinPlus Elbows.  These are a nice option because of the added protein.  With 4 grams of fiber (slightly more than the 2 for semolina) and a generous 10 grams of protein, they are filling and an especially good choice if you are using them in a vegetarian meal.  The flavor is not as mild as the semolina but is less than the whole wheat.

Barilla White Fiber Penne
Barilla White Fiber Penne

Barilla White Fiber Penne are a great filling option.  This noodle is one of our family favorites.  They have the most fiber (6 grams) of the ones reviewed.  They also have a mild flavor similar to semolina noodles.  On a side note, I am not certain that Barilla is still manufacturing these.  Most of our local stores had been carrying them but no longer do.  Amazon and Walmart do still have them on their website, though.  If you find this variety, consider yourself luck and enjoy.  

The bottom line: Now that you have a brief guide to help you select a suitable pasta to have for dinner, don’t forget to spend some time checking out the nutritional information for the cheese, sauce, or any other delights you choose to top your pasta.  There is no sense in eating healthy pasta if you are going to coat it with a high-fat cream sauce or other less-than-healthy toppings.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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