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Calorie Count Blog

Making Potatoes and Pasta Work for Your Diet


By +Carolyn Richardson on Jan 24, 2013 10:00 AM in Dieting & You

Potatoes and pasta may have been atop your do-not-eat list in the past, but now that the low-carb craze is over, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Your favorite starchy carbs actually may not be particularly bad for you or your diet. There is a caveat: watch what you eat with pasta and potatoes, as their healthfulness is predicated on what else in on your plate.  

Why They Get a Bad Rap

The standard serving of cooked pasta or mashed potato is ½ cup which is equivalent to the size of a tennis ball or a computer mouse. The calorie count for one portion is a mere 110 and 57 calories respectively; hardly a calorie-laden, diet-breaking indulgence. So why do pasta and potatoes get such a bad rap? It’s all about the company they keep. Pasta and potatoes hardly, if ever, are eaten alone and rarely are they served in proper portion sizes

Potato Pitfalls

The potato is America’s favorite vegetable. We eat almost 125 pounds of the tuber each year. A recent study found an increase in the amount of servings per year of potato chips and potatoes/French fries was most strongly associated with weight gain. Clearly keeping your servings of potatoes in check is a most-worthy weight maintenance cause. On top of that, most of us don't eat potatoes on their own. For example, a serving of small French fries from McDonald’s is 271 calories. Pairing those with a burger and sugar-sweetened beverage could become a calorie catastrophe. Even when not fried, potatoes when mashed typically have milk and butter added, not to mention are often served alongside some other scrumptiousness. Other pitfalls for eating potatoes include added cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, and gravy, of course. Swap these out of your dish and you're well on your healthy-potato-eating way.

Pasta Problems

How can a serving of pasta at 110 calories turn into an out of calorie control dish? If you've been out to a restaurant, you know the answer: sauce and toppings. Extreme case in point, Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta just won a spot on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Xtreme Eating Awards, a list of foods surprisingly high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar. According to their article, the dish is served with 3½ cups of pasta (an over-the-top seven servings), with fried battered shrimp, and a butter-and-cream sauce. The stats: 3,120 calories, 89 grams saturated fat, and 1,090 milligrams of sodium. Any fried additions to pasta such as breaded veal, eggplant, and chicken will add more than 100 calories vs. the roasted or baked option. Pesto and cheese-based sauces can rack up more than 200 calories in 1/4 cup serving, and let's not forget the bread that is often enjoyed alongside pasta dishes, with added oil no less!

More Satisfying with Less Calories

Now that you know what to watch out for, use these tips to draw down the calories in your pasta and potato dishes without completely gypping your taste buds:

  1. Proper Serving Size 

    For potatoes, choose a ½ cup of mashed potato,  1 medium whole potato, or about 10 French fries. Pasta gets 1/2 cup cooked. If you go for more, be strategic about subsequent meals and their vegetable and whole grain make-up.

  2. Fill It Out

    Adding lean protein and fiber goes for both. Healthy additions include chickpeas, butternut squash, lentils, or cauliflower. Keep the skin in the mix on the potato side and go for whole grain on the pasta side. The point is to satisfy your hunger without adding more calories than you need. Calorie saves include topping a baked potato with non-fat plain Greek yogurt as opposed to sour cream and using well-seasoned vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, green and red bell peppers, or zucchini instead of the hefty amount of cheese that many pasta dishes call for.  


  3. Lower-Calorie Swaps

  4. Instead of adding milk and butter, use vegetable or chicken stock to make mashed potatoes and add tasty herbs and spices like rosemary, garlic, chili powder, or paprika to add flavor. On the pasta side, skip tossing pasta in added olive oil and use crushed tomatoes with Italian seasoning instead of ready-made pasta sauce as it usually has a considerable amount of added oil and salt. Instead, you control what's added when you cook. 



Your thoughts...


What strategies have helped you stick to a portion size? Or are you of the camp that steers clear of starchy carbs? 

 



Comments


Keeping a good supply of frozen veggies is a great way to have your pasta and fill your plate with out all the calories. I like to top mine with a low cal scampi made from vegetable broth, garlic and herbs. I thicken it with a little cornstarch and then sprinkle my plate with Nutritional Yeast for a bit of cheesy flavor.  Or I heat a can of fire roasted tomatoes with some seasonings and voila instant marinara sauce.

Dr. John McDougall wrote a book called "The Starch Solution" and it explains how we can thrive on a diet that is full of vegetables, greens, whole grains and starches. Humans have been thriving on such foods for thousands of years.



OMG!! it's a miracle...portion control works!!!! duh



My current favorite type of pasta is quinoa pasta. You can't tell a difference from the semolina version, and it's really good for you.



Since a half cup of pasta isn't a realistic serving size I mix in spaghetti squash which makes it a filling meal. Or I just plan on a cup and a half.


Throw a half dozen rigatoni tubes on your salad.



I always load up my pasta with tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms and onions.  When i crave potatoes i cut it up into strips like french fries (leaving the skins on) and toss it with a bit of olive oil and herbs and spices and put them in the oven.  I dont believe there is any forbidden foods, just forbidden quantities!!



Original Post by: kittlen

My current favorite type of pasta is quinoa pasta. You can't tell a difference from the semolina version, and it's really good for you.


Hehehe....



Original Post by: cynthia84

Original Post by: kittlen

My current favorite type of pasta is quinoa pasta. You can't tell a difference from the semolina version, and it's really good for you.


Hehehe....


Sorry Kittlen, that hehehe was meant for cindiz!  I always get confused on which post the Quote and Reply buttons go to...sorry!



I like to bake potatoes and then just top them with a home made salsa or pico de gallo.



Please do not use terms like gypping. It is slang slam again Gypsys.



The low carb craze is over?  Since when?  Low carbohydrate only makes sense as fat and protein are more satiating.  Keeping the carbohydrates down with the protein and fat staying up helps regulate hunger.

Sometimes people calorie control without even counting because when you eat fat and protein you end up eating amounts that make more sense.  Unless you just force yourself past the feeling of full for no reason at all its a great way to not overeat. 

http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/n1

http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/jimmy-moores-n1-experimen ts-nutritional-ketosis-day-1-30/14409

Potatoes are fine as long as you aren't overdoing them.  Keep the butter and everything else you want to put on a potato just don't eat several at once unless you are doing a really big workout.

Many people use potatoes and starchy vegetables for working out.  You don't have to though as if you are adapted to using fat for energy you can do most workouts on low carbohydrates.  Its all a matter of personal taste.



Original Post by: cindiz

OMG!! it's a miracle...portion control works!!!! duh


I honestly believe that when most see how big a serving of potato or pasta really is they will think you are promoting a low carb diet as well Smile.  

6oz Yukon gold cubed and slowly sauteed with half an onion in olive oil (red pepper flakes if you like it spicy) until you get some good color.  De-glaze with half a cup of water with some Better than Bouillon.  Add 2 lbs of young green beans cover and crank up the heat to get a good steam going.  Uncover when almost done and cook most of the liquid out.  The potatoes help create a sauce.  

Recipe helps me spread that 6oz of potato over several meals.



1 medium baked potato topped with: 1 cup steamed broccoli, 1 slice of 40cal american cheese, 2 tbsp of light sour cream, 3 or 4 tbsp of low cal bbq sauce, and 1 sliced baked chicken breast. dinner time! delishus!



Grow up, no one is trying to insult gypsies and we don't need grammar lessons..unless someone a problem out of nothing...then there isn't a problem..



Grow up, no one is trying to insult gypsies and we don't need grammar lessons..unless someone a problem out of nothing...then there isn't a problem..



I like my pasta with a tbsp of olive oil and garlic fresh chopped tomatoes.....mmm good and sometimes a few saute'd shrimp on top sprinkled with fresh parmesan cheese



Original Post by: eleanorgibson

Please do not use terms like gypping. It is slang slam again Gypsys.


Pull you head in, this is an article about food not about petty PC-ness.

Gypping is a legitimate word that's been in use for centuries meaning 'To deprive (another) of something by fraud; cheat or swindle'.

 



Original Post by: rabidrod

Original Post by: eleanorgibson

Please do not use terms like gypping. It is slang slam again Gypsys.


Pull you head in, this is an article about food not about petty PC-ness.

Gypping is a legitimate word that's been in use for centuries meaning 'To deprive (another) of something by fraud; cheat or swindle'.

 


Amen...

I'm so sick of people getting a "bee in their bonnet" over political correctness. It's like," Please get a real problem."

I hope I'm not discriminating against bumble bees... Wink



1/2 cup of pasta a serving? not in my world i eat that full cup along with steamed or sauteed veggies and/or de-calorised meat sauce. I also eat a large baked potato when i go for it, i've never cut those things out of my diet they are cheap, filling and delicious.I've managed to lose a lot of weight regardless and been maintaining it effortlessly..i just make compromises elsewhere like no sweets (i never really liked sweets anyway), and 86 the crap that passes for food.. mcdonalds anyone?



Strange article. The problem with pasta and potatoes are not the toppings or sauces - this article really displays that 1980s phobia of fat. The problem is eating too many carbs, insulin resistance, and obesity, which are all linked. Gaining a majority of your calories from carbs is generally not a good idea if you are trying to control weight.



Instead of mashed potatoes, try cauliflower. I've suggested this to people who's kids & husbands hate veggies and the one hubby said he didn't even realize it was cauliflower. of course u'd have the same issues w/ milk, butter & cream, but a healthier option.

What I don't get is how white potatoes is on the EWG's list of the Dirty Dozen (foods u should buy organic) but sweet potatoes are on the safe list. I used to hate sweet potatoes but I got myself to eat them and now luv 'em. I don't eat white baked potatoes anymore- a plain baked sweet potato is sooooo much more nutritious.



First of all, the low carb craze is not a craze, but rather a healthy way of eating when you include the glycemic load calculations, and secondly, a serving size of potatoes and pasta are ludicrous. I have never seen anyone, at home, or in a restaurant eat these amounts of either food. So let's chunk this article out the door.



Although I love pasta, and some potatoe dishes, I am afraid your article does not apply to anyone following the glycemic load pattern. While I do realize that your suffegested portion sizes will diminish the effect that these two carb items will have, let us be realistic. A tennis size serving of spaghetti? I mean it wouldn't satisfy any person who enjoys pasta dishes, and I have never been in a restaurant that serves these portions. Get Real!



I always do low carb, it is and will always be part of my life style.  If I dont do low carb I gain weight.



Original Post by: isodore

Although I love pasta, and some potatoe dishes, I am afraid your article does not apply to anyone following the glycemic load pattern. While I do realize that your suffegested portion sizes will diminish the effect that these two carb items will have, let us be realistic. A tennis size serving of spaghetti? I mean it wouldn't satisfy any person who enjoys pasta dishes, and I have never been in a restaurant that serves these portions. Get Real!


It's actually very possible when you use the right "fillers". When you combine 2 parts cauliflower with 1 part potatoes and use cream instead of milk for creaminess in mashed potatoes (higher calories, but the taste is worth it), your allowed portion size would double.

Same goes for pasta: a tennis ball portion of pasta supplemented by another tennis ball portion of zucchini pasta and a big gallop of marinara sauce with lots of broccoli and lean meatballs you will have a sizable meal on your hands within your GL limits.

I know this from experience because I'm pre-diabetic and watch my carbs like a hawk. The trick is to get creative and introduce very low GL food into your starchy meal while trying to figure out ways to make it taste really good so you don't feel deprived.



We've mostly switched from regular potatoes to sweet, if I eat a baked/mashed potato I put too much butter on it.....I don't really need it on a sweet potato.  So it's not really the potato itself that made me stop eating it.

I don't really miss them much

Pasta I still use very sparingly regardless of what your article says I'd rather eat something better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



I cook my potatoes in veggie broth or stock and add lots of vegetables and seasoning.  Sometimes I will add light coconut milk and put it on top of brown rice or wheat pasta, but it is delicious by itself too.  :p



I use 0 fat Greek yogaurt with chord chives on baked potato, no butter


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