Indulging in a plate of spaghetti may be your go-to for weeknights but today, we’re taking a closer look at the all-time favorite. While the beloved spaghetti boasts a rich array of nutrients, before you twirl that fork with gusto, you should consider this: the calorie count in spaghetti can be a landmine, particularly when you’re on a fitness journey.
To savor this Italian classic while maintaining your diet, portion control is the key. And if you’re looking for the ultimate diet spaghetti upgrade, opting for the whole-wheat kind is guaranteed to pack the maximum nutritional punch.
For the uninitiated, spaghetti is a globe-trotting celebrity of the food world. Every chef, stall, and restaurant that serves this Italian classic has a special touch they add to the recipe. Crafted from a simple blend of milled wheat and water, spaghetti pairs well with a variety of savory sauces and succulent meats, which makes it a versatile dinner meal.
However, spaghetti’s newfound fame in recent years has arisen due to the wellness aspect that is associated with the dish. Its impressive vitamin and mineral content, absence of saturated fats or sodium, and low-carb alternatives make it one of the most delectable recipes to make when you’re hungry and on a fitness path. In addition, its nutrient profile is even better when it is crafted from whole wheat.
Let us unravel the diet spaghetti meal from scratch and take a look at its nutritional virtues, healthy DIY recipes, and the potential side effects.
What are the nutrients in spaghetti?
According to the USDA, 100 grams of uncooked whole wheat spaghetti by the brand Se Grocers, provides the following nutrients (8):
|Total lipid (fat)||2.68 g|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||1.79 g|
If you’re a person who is looking to make a diet version of spaghetti, it is always a better choice to choose the whole-wheat option. Whole wheat has more fiber, which can make you feel fuller after eating fewer calories.
This rule is particularly important for those who are watching their calorie intake or are on a strict calorie deficit plan and don’t want a meal to take up precious diet space without fulfilling their appetite.
Checking the glycemic content of spaghetti
What is glycemic index (GI)? GI serves as the yardstick for measuring the degree to which a particular food impacts your blood sugar levels. Essentially, the higher the GI, the more swiftly and dramatically your blood sugar levels surge after a meal.
High GI-diets may be associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to research, a low glycemic index diet can be as effective as a low-fat diet for weight loss. (5)
If your aim is to lower the GI of your dietary choices, whole-wheat spaghetti is a superior option that boasts a lower glycemic index than white spaghetti. (4)
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Can I eat spaghetti when trying to lose weight?
Chances are you’ve been told that losing weight and eating pasta cannot be done together. Eliminating your favorite dinnertime meal may be the toughest thing you’ve been advised to do but here’s the fact: spaghetti is not your enemy. In fact, diet spaghetti can be enjoyed in a variety of scrumptious recipes.
However, eating spaghetti when you are attempting to shed a few pounds requires a certain amount of thought. Below are some of the healthier or lighter ways you can prepare spaghetti and some mistakes you might make that pose a bigger obstacle to your journey.
1. Choosing white pasta
As mentioned above, the glycemic index of white pasta is far higher than other alternatives such as whole-wheat pasta, bean-based pasta, or chickpea and lentil versions. It is advisable to pick up pasta varieties that are high in fiber as this helps slow down digestion. Therefore, the more fiber your pasta contains, the more likely you are to feel full, satisfied, and energized for hours later.
3. Choosing a sauce that’s high in sugar and fat
Covering your spaghetti with some traditional sauces such as store-bought cream sauce may be a big mistake on your weight loss journey. However, to reduce the sugar and fat, you can use a product that’s tomato-based and seasoned with flavourful herbs such as garlic and basil. Adding olive or avocado oil to dress your spaghetti or making a DIY blend of nutrient-rich ingredients such as spinach, squash, or avocado can be a game-changer.
4. Forgetting to add vegetables and protein
Don’t leave your pasta naked on the plate; vegetables and protein are the perfect pasta partners. They provide bulk and satiating fiber while also slowing down digestion, promoting steady energy levels, reducing insulin spikes, and providing a metabolism boost. Combining protein with your pasta will keep you feeling full for longer and support lean muscle maintenance during your weight loss efforts. (14)
5. Overdoing your portions
Exercising portion control when it comes to spaghetti or any type of pasta is important. Eating frequent, restaurant-sized servings of spaghetti can contribute to weight gain. The carbs you don’t burn for fuel are stored as glycogen in your liver and muscle, and when these storage locations are at full capacity, your body will convert the excess glucose into fat.
6. Making spaghetti the main focus
Making carbs the sole focus of your meal can make it an unbalanced meal, which can be counterproductive for weight loss. Instead, make pasta part of a balanced meal. Combining it with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats naturally curbs portion sizes — transforming a four-cup pasta bowl into a sensible one-cup side.
Is there a healthy spaghetti?
There is nothing wrong with regular spaghetti once in a while. But, there are several varieties of healthy spaghetti that are higher in protein and fiber. These include:
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Chickpea pasta
- Veggie noodles
- Red lentil pasta
- Soba (buckwheat) noodles
We even have some keto pasta recipes and their nutritional benefits that we’ve listed in previous articles. In addition, there are some great recipes for making that perfect, delightful diet spaghetti. Check out some of them below:
- Vegetarian diet spaghetti with mushroom and garlic
It only takes 6 ingredients (if you ditch the cheese) and 20 minutes to make this. Butter is swapped for olive oil to make this easy spaghetti recipe even lighter and the garlic packs in flavourful aromas. (3)
- Healthy spaghetti bolognese
- Fennel spaghetti
Low in fat and calories, this fennel spaghetti is a healthy vegetarian spaghetti meal for two. (9)
- Tuna, caper, and chili spaghetti
Create a quick and wholesome dinner by combining tuna, capers, rocket, garlic, chili, and spaghetti. You’ll have this healthy meal ready in just 25 minutes. (15)
Why is spaghetti good for a diet?
Spaghetti has become popular due to the nutritional benefits it provides. Some of the beneficial aspects of spaghetti include:
Rich in fiber
Whole-wheat spaghetti in particular has more fiber than any other regular pasta. Fiber helps keep your blood sugar levels in check and your digestive system healthy (1). If you are following a gluten-free diet, you can opt for spaghetti made from chickpeas or zucchini.
Helps maintain cardiovascular health
This is primarily because spaghetti doesn’t have any cholesterol or saturated fats and is low in sodium (when paired with a low-sodium sauce). Lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure and therefore, helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. (12)
Provides micronutrients and protein
A single serving of spaghetti offers a substantial nutritional boost. One serving of spaghetti has 8 gms of protein. It also contains iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium. (2) Proteins and micronutrients play a crucial role in building muscles, maintaining bone health, regulating blood pressure, and preventing cardiovascular disease. (7)
What’s the healthiest way to eat spaghetti?
We’ve discussed keto pasta alternatives in a previous article, but if you’re looking to make your spaghetti meal the healthiest version it can be, you should keep the following tips and tricks in mind:
- Swap your regular spaghetti for whole-wheat, legume, or vegetable-based spaghetti, such as spiralized zucchini
- Pair your diet spaghetti dish with a side salad
- Load your spaghetti with vegetables
- Try less calorific meats such as swapping thick-cut bacon strips for chicken breast
- Make your spaghetti a side dish, rather than the main course
- Re-think that store-bought marinara sauce and instead blitz your own healthy ingredients to make a DIY mix
- Add spices such as red chili peppers— they contain a spicy, appetite-suppressing compound called capsaicin. These peppers also slightly boost thermogenesis—the body’s ability to burn food as energy—and keep your metabolism going strong.
Now you know the best, healthiest way of enjoying your favorite Italian meal— spaghetti. Not only can you whip up a delectable mid-week meal without much preparation, but spaghetti is also a treasure trove of micronutrients and fiber that can help you on your overall fitness journey.
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Can I eat spaghetti when trying to lose weight?
Yes, you can eat spaghetti even when you’re trying to lose weight. The hack here is opting for whole-wheat spaghetti, reducing portion size, adding loads of vegetables and lean proteins, and choosing a low-calorie sauce.
Can I eat spaghetti every day?
While it is possible to eat spaghetti every day, particularly if the portion size and carbohydrate intake can be controlled, it is not advisable to do so if your pasta is made from refined white flour, which is low in fiber and easy to overeat.
Is spaghetti or rice better for weight loss?
Both spaghetti and rice can fit into a balanced diet for weight loss. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta are higher fiber choices which can help you feel full and eat less.
Is spaghetti better than potatoes?
They both provide nutrients and both can be part of a balanced diet. Potatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamins C and B6, and potassium.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota (2017, tandfonline.com)
- Dietary Reference Intakes (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Easy Mushroom Garlic Spaghetti Recipe (2021, healthyfitnessmeals.com)
- Fennel spaghetti (bbcgoodfood.com)
- Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load (lpi.oregonstate.edu)
- Healthy spaghetti bolognese (bbcgoodfood.com)
- Higher Protein Density Diets Are Associated With Greater Diet Quality and Micronutrient Intake in Healthy Young Adults ( 2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Historical Record: Spaghetti (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Is Spaghetti Good for Weight Loss? (2019, livestrong.com)
- It’s not just what you eat, but the time of day you eat it (2023, washingtonpost.com)
- Pasta, whole-wheat, cooked (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- The health impacts of dietary sodium and a low-salt diet (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The original white cheese sauce, original by RED CACTUS (nutritionvalue.org)
- The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Tuna, caper & chilli spaghetti (bbcgoodfood.com)