Pasta Rice and Other Grains

  • For meal appeal, buy a variety of pasta shapes. For thick sauces, use thicker pastas: fettuccine, lasagna, and tagliatelle. Chunky sauces are best with sturdy pasta shapes: fusilli (twists), farfalle (bow ties), macaroni, rigatoni, and ziti. With smooth, thin sauces, use thinner strands of pasta: cappellini (angel hair), vermicelli, and spaghetti. The refrigerated section of the store also sells fresh pasta; use it right away or freeze it.
  • Look for whole-grain pasta: spaghetti, lasagna,

How Much Pasta? How Much Rice?

Because dry pasta and rice cook to a larger volume, use

these guidelines when deciding how much to buy.

Pasta

Equal

or Rice

Uncooked

Cooked

Egg noodles

8 oz.

4 cups

(2 cups)

Spaghetti, fettuccine,

8 oz.

4 cups

other long shapes

(1 V2-in.

diameter

bunch)

Macaroni, shells,

8 oz.

4 cups

bow ties, penne,

(2 cups)

other small to

medium shapes

Brown rice

12 lb. (1 14 cups)

4V3 cups

Polished, long-grain

12 lb. (1 14 cups)

33/4 cups

white rice

Converted white rice

7 oz. (1 cup)

3V2 cups

Instant white rice

8 oz. (2 cups)

4 cups

macaroni, and fettuccine. Like traditional pasta, wholewheat pasta is high in starches (complex carbohydrates). The fiber content is almost three times higher; half a cup of whole-wheat pasta has about 3 grams of fiber, compared with about 1 gram of fiber in traditional pasta. Seepage 277for more about whole grains. Other options: soy pasta for soy protein benefits and pasta made with other grains and with legumes.

For more variety, savor the appeal of vegetable and herbed pasta. The addition of tomatoes, beets, carrots, spinach, and other vegetables adds a variety of colors and flavors to pasta. And herbs add a delicate flavor. What about the nutrients? Tomato pasta and spinach pasta don't count toward your goal for the Vegetable Group. The nutritional contribution of vegetable purees used to make commercially flavored pasta is quite small. It's the vegetables or tomato sauce tossed with pasta that carry extra nutrients.

  • Experiment with Asian-style noodles. They're made with many ingredients besides wheat flour, including potato flour, soybean starch, rice flour, and buckwheat flour. Japanese soba noodles are made with buckwheat and wheat flour; Japanese wheat noodles are udon (thick noodles) and somen (thin noodles). Look for rice noodles, mung bean noodles, wonton wrappers (sheets of wheat dough), and rice paper (a thin dough used somewhat like a tortilla). Ramen noodles, which are Japanese instant-style deep-fried noodles, are often packaged with dehydrated vegetables and broth mix; the mix is typically high in sodium.
  • Wonder about the fat in egg noodles? While pasta is made from flour and water, noodles also contain eggs, egg yolks, or egg whites. Nonegg pasta contains no cholesterol and very little fat. Egg noodles may have small amounts of cholesterol and a little more fat but still are low in fat and cholesterol.
  • Try different forms of rice. Use the label to compare their nutrients. Brown rice contains slightly more nutrients, followed by polished white rice, then instant white rice. Because it's a whole grain, brown rice— with 1.5 grams of fiber per half cup—has about three times the fiber of white rice. When you read the label, check for uncooked and cooked rice; it may give the nutritional content for prepared rice with added butter or salt.

Change the flavor and the texture with specialty rices. Jasmine and basmati rice have a fragrant flavor and aroma, especially nice with Thai and Indian food. Arborio rice, a short-grain rice, gives Italian risotto its creamy texture.

Despite its name, wild rice is actually a long-grain marsh grass. From a nutritional standpoint, wild rice has a little more protein, riboflavin, and zinc, and a little less carbohydrate than brown rice. The fiber content is about 0.5 gram per half cup. For its nutty flavor, serve wild rice in salads, stir-fries, soups, stuffing, and side dishes. Or mix it 50-50 with regular or brown rice.

What about rice mixes? If you need to watch sodium, consider using just half the dry seasoning mix.

  • Browse the grocery shelves for other grain products: barley, bulgur, couscous, kasha, and quinoa, to name a few. See "Today's Grains" in chapter 9. In "Cooking Grain by Grain" in chapter 13you'll find guidelines for cooking with other grains.
  • How much should you buy? Base the amount of dry pasta and rice on their cooked volume. And remember, you may eat more than one serving, so figure the nutritional contribution based on the amount you really eat.
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