Remember the days of pasta parties? I would carb-load like no other! Whether it was the 8 & Under champs, the night before the 400 IM at Junior Olympics or the pasta and garlic bread filled hotel dinner before the NESCAC championships, our relationship with carbohydrates as a swimmer is pretty crucial (and quite comical, since swimmers are typically feared in the dining hall). Nowadays, there is this overwhelming aversion to carbohydrates. Whether we deem carbohydrates as the main culprit of weight gain (ah, the dreaded freshman 15!) or attempt to eliminate carb sources in our diets, we are actually threatening our athletic performance. You’re not doing your body any favors by avoiding carbohydrates. In fact, we need carbohydrates, as it is our body’s main source of energy.
It is important to understand how different types of this macronutrient affect our bodies. All carbohydrates are not made equal. Essentially, there are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are fast digesting and provide us with short bursts of energy. Since our bodies utilize simple carbs so quickly, we are likely to experience low satiety and a crash of fatigue after consumption. The biggest source of simple carbs in our diets is sugar. Refined grains, such as white bread, white flour and breakfast cereals contain simple carbs. Compared to simple carbs, complex carbs are slow digesting and provide long lasting energy. Complex carb sources like whole grains, beans, oatmeal, apples, bananas and sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients and satiating dietary fiber. These foods will keep you full for longer and won’t cause your energy levels to crash.
But where does pasta fit into all of this? Regular pasta made from refined flour is a simple carb. This is partly the reason why pasta gets a bad rap. However, whole grain or plant-based pasta is the better-for-you option!
Here are some of my go-to healthier pasta brands:
Chickpea Pasta from Banza
Organic Black Bean or Edamame Spaghetti from Explore Cuisine
Red Lentil Penne from Tolerant Organic
… you can also look for Whole Grain pastas, Brown Rice pastas and Quinoa pastas
Cheesy, Tomato Basil Pasta (Vegan)
- 1 serving Banza cavatappi (2oz. dry, un-cooked)
- Fresh kale, sliced mushrooms & zucchini
- Frozen broccoli
- ½ cup Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil sauce
- Nutritional yeast
Nothing beats this combo! There’s something super comforting about pasta and tomato sauce that just reminds me of Sunday night dinner in my house. This twist on one of my favorite childhood meals contains more plant-based protein, more fiber, less sodium and lower fat. When I’m cooking, I opt for chickpea pasta. It tastes just as good (if not better) than the real thing and one serving contains 32g carbs, 5g dietary fiber and 13g protein. For comparison, the same 2oz serving of Barilla’s Cavatappi pasta has 42g carbs, 3g dietary fiber and 7g protein. Not only are you getting more protein, but this chickpea pasta fuels your body with those slow digesting complex carbs that you need. For this recipe, start by steaming frozen broccoli. Once cooked, add in kale, mushrooms, sliced zucchini and sauce. Simmer on medium heat until the vegetables are soft and warm. While the vegetables are cooking, bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil and add in the pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pan of simmering Rao’s sauce and vegetables. Fully combine the pasta and sauce then pour mixture into a bowl. Top with as much nutritional yeast as you would like and enjoy. For those who are unfamiliar with nutritional yeast, it is totally vegan and provides a nutty, cheesy flavor. It is a complete protein, contains B-vitamins and trace minerals.
- 1 serving Banza gemelli (2oz. dry, un-cooked)
- 4 oz. chicken breast
- Frozen broccoli
- Frozen peas
- Handful raw carrot chips
- Olive oil
- Garlic Powder
- Salt & Pepper
- Red Pepper flakes
- Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend (from Trader Joe’s)
Pasta primavera basically means pasta and vegetables. I love adding copious amounts of vegetables to my pasta dishes. I typically never measure them out, I just eyeball it and add as much as I want to eat. For this recipe, I used chicken that I previously baked. Adding the chicken is completely optional however, if you want to bake your chicken just preheat your oven to 400F and bake chicken breasts with some salt and pepper for between 20 and 30 minutes. Start by thawing the frozen vegetables in a pan over high heat. You can spray the pan with cooking spray and cover to allow them to steam. While the vegetables cook, start boiling your water for the pasta. Banza pasta cooks pretty quickly, usually less than 10 minutes. Once cooked, drain and add to the steamed vegetables. Add in the carrots and drizzle some olive oil over the mixture (again, I just eyeball it. Good rule of thumb is to add enough oil to hear the veggies sizzle). Next, add in the cooked chicken and sprinkle in some garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and the umami seasoning. Remember, with seasoning, a little goes a long way. Thoroughly combine the pasta and vegetables so they’re evenly coated with oil and spices and enjoy!
Garlic & Oil pasta w/ sautéed vegetables (Vegan)
- 1 serving Banza bow-tie pasta (2oz. dry, un-cooked)
- Fresh kale, zucchini, yellow onion, sliced mushrooms
- Frozen peas
- Olive oil
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- Salt & Pepper
- Fresh basil (optional)
This recipe is super easy. It may not look very complicated, but cooking doesn’t have to be. Simple recipes full of whole food ingredients are important to have in your repertoire. As you get more comfortable in the kitchen, you can experiment with different flavor combinations and you will soon learn that the possibilities are endless! One of my favorite ways to enjoy pasta is with garlic and olive oil. Start by sautéing diced onion in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of fresh minced garlic. When the onions become translucent, it is time to add in the kale, mushrooms, sliced zucchini and frozen peas. In the meantime, cook the pasta. When the veggies are cooked and the peas are no longer frozen, add in the drained pasta and combine with the garlic and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. One way to brighten up the flavor of the dish is to add some fresh basil for the last few minutes it cooks. As the vegetables cook, the delicious and mouth-watering aroma of garlic will fill your kitchen. This is when you know it’s ready!
Check out my page for more recipe inspiration and be sure to share your pasta creations with me @whatzoeeeats.