This is a question that I get asked often — yes, pasta can be good for weight gain. But before you run away to the nearest Italian restaurant to gorge yourself on bowls of fettuccine, let me explain why pasta can promote weight gain.
Pasta for Weight Gain
Pasta is moderately high in calories, which makes it helpful for putting on weight. In general, you should aim for 250 to 500 extra calories each day to gain weight at a healthy rate. That will allow you to gain 0.5 to 1 pound weekly.
A cup of cooked, enriched white pasta — such as macaroni elbows or spaghetti — has 221 calories, so simply adding a serving of pasta to your daily meal plan provides enough extra calories for healthy weight gain, even before you factor in sauce or other toppings. If you want to go for whole-wheat pasta, you’ll need to eat slightly more to gain weight — a cup contains just 174 calories.
Nutritional Value From Pasta
While any food will make you gain weight — as long as you eat enough calories — it’s best to choose foods that offer nutritional value. Pasta is a good source of several essential nutrients to keep your healthy as you gain weight.
A cup of white pasta, for example, offers 10 percent of the daily value for iron, an essential mineral. Iron promotes healthy oxygen circulation, since it’s used to make hemoglobin, the highly specialized protein that transports oxygen in your bloodstream. Most people don’t get enough iron, notes Brown University, so including more iron-rich foods can benefit your health.
Pasta also supplies the B-complex vitamins — which help you make energy from the food you eat — especially folate, a nutrient involved in red blood-cell growth and oxygen transport. If you go for whole-wheat pasta, you’ll also get fiber to support healthy digestion, and a cup supplies about 4 grams, which is 16 percent of the daily value.
Add Protein to Gain Lean Weight
Serve your pasta with protein — paired with a weight-training exercise program, protein helps you gain lean mass. That’s because protein supplies amino acids, the small compounds used to make new muscle tissue. How much protein you need depends on your weight, but athletes looking to build muscle mass need around 0.7 grams per pound of body weight. If you currently weigh 115 pounds, eat 81 grams of protein daily; if you weigh 140 pounds, eat 98 grams.
A cup of plain pasta contains 8 grams of protein, and a cup of plain tomato sauce adds another 3 grams. Top your pasta with 3 ounces of 97-percent lean ground beef to add 22 grams of protein to your intake, or add a 3-ounce, cut-up Italian sausage for an extra 13 grams of protein. You can also use vegetarian-friendly foods for added protein — a cup of chickpeas, for instance, offers 15 grams of protein.
Weight-Gain Serving Tips and Suggestions
Experiment with different pasta combinations to help you avoid boredom as you gain weight. For example, you can get your extra 250 calories with a pasta snack: start with a cup of pasta topped with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, then add a handful of steamed veggies or a few fresh basil leaves for added flavor. Or top a half-cup of whole-wheat pasta with 3 ounces of lean ground beef and a half-cup of tomato sauce for a meal that supplies around 230 calories.
For a higher calorie meal, up your portion size. A cup of whole-wheat pasta topped with a full, cooked Italian sausage and a cup of tomato sauce supplies about 550 calories. Or drizzle a cup of white pasta with a tablespoon of olive oil, a cup of green peas and season your dish with a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh mint and a dash of pepper for a meal that contains approximately 500 calories. Note, this adds up to 480 calories without the lemon juice, so there is a bit of wiggle room and the juice shouldn’t push the number of calories over 500.
Ways to Eat Pasta Without Gaining Weight
Pasta lovers, rejoice! You can have your favorite noodles and not wind up feeling guilty about if you’ve set back your flat belly goals.
Pasta is our go-to weeknight dinner because it’s so easy. Dinner that comes together in less than 15 minutes — where do we sign up? But eating pasta every day can have its drawbacks, namely weight gain.
It’s not that pasta is inherently a fat-forming food; it’s mostly that we’re eating too much of it. Did you know that the recommended serving size for pasta is just 2 ounces? According to the National Pasta Association (yes, that’s a real thing), Americans eat an average of 9 ounces of pasta a day. That’s almost five times more than the recommended serving size!
Essential tips for belly fat loss
The thing is, when consumed within the context of a balanced diet, pasta can actually fit into your life without causing weight gain. We said it: it’s possible to eat this Italian staple and still maintain a trim figure. For carb-lovers, hearing that bit of news feels a bit like winning the lottery.
Better yet, whipping up a slimmed-down noodle dish isn’t time consuming or difficult, nor does it drastically change the taste. No, this isn’t an elaborate joke; you’ve just got to learn the tricks of the trade—which we reveal below.
Simply use our time-tested tips to whip up tasty, guilt-free pasta dishes and keep shedding those extra pounds. .
Pair It With A Side Salad
Before jumping into all the ways you can alter the actual pasta part of your dinner, let’s take a moment to talk about your side dish. Although your noodles’ plate neighbor may not seem important, it can actually greatly alter the slimming effects of your meal. Eating veggies before a starchy meal like pasta can lower after-meal blood sugar levels and boost satiety, according to a Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition review. Translation: Eating a side salad with some raw carrots and some of your other favorite veggies can help ward off after-meal hunger, which can help you consume fewer calories throughout the day and subsequently aid weight loss efforts. Bonus: Add a tablespoon of dressing to your greens. A bit of fat can help the body absorb cancer-fighting and heart-healthy nutrients like lycopene and beta-carotene. Just make sure you’re not using one of The Most Toxic Salad Dressing on Grocery Shelves.
Swap Your Noodle
The average American consumes 20 pounds of pasta each year—and most of it is the refined white stuff. What’s the trouble with that? This type of noodle is almost completely void of fiber and protein, two vital nutrients for weight loss. To boost the belly-filling fiber and hunger-busting protein in your meal, opt for a bean-based noodle like Banza Chickpea Shells (2 oz, 190 calories, 8 g fiber, 14 g protein) or Explore Asian Black Bean Low-Carb Pasta (2 oz 180 calories, 12 g fiber, 25 g protein). Alternatively, make the switch to Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Pasta (2 oz, 180 calories, 5 g fiber, 7 g protein). Eating whole grains can not only fill you up more than the refined stuff, but it also lowers blood pressure and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Cut the Carbs
Although pasta is technically a low-glycemic index food (meaning that it doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels as much as other high-carb foods, like white rice), it’s still high in carbs — 70 grams per cup. And naturally, that also means it’s high in calories: 352 per cup to be precise. Cut the carbs, and the calories, by switching to low carb veggies. Spiralize zucchini, carrots, or squash to make low-carb, low-calorie spaghetti! This swap is among the 22 Genius Tips To Cut Carbs, According to Experts.
Transform pasta from a diet no-no into a fat-frying champion simply by placing it in the fridge. When you cool down pasta, the drop in temperature changes its chemical structure into something called “resistant starch,” which can help to decrease your body’s glycemic response (helping you feel full for longer). Additionally, a Nutrition & Metabolism study found that these resistant starches can promote fat oxidation. Whip up a bowl of Italian pasta salad, Greek orzo salad, or tuna macaroni salad to reap the benefits. Or, simply eat your pasta leftovers cold!
Max Out On Veggies
In addition to eating a side salad on pasta night, you might also want to consider adding some vegetables to your pasta dish. Those who consume main dishes that incorporate veggies consume 350 fewer calories daily than those who eat their produce as a side dish, according to Penn State researchers. The likely reason: Veggies boost the amount of satiating fiber on your plate while also adding bulk. The result: You’ll likely feel satisfied while taking in fewer calories. Mixed spiralized zucchini with whole-grain spaghetti, or add chopped and sautéed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, tomatoes and onions to your penne plate. Typically add meat to your lasagna? Replace half of it with fresh spinach and slices of yellow squash and mushrooms. The options are truly endless!
Use Cheese As a Garnish
Some pasta recipes tell you to mix the cheese right into the pasta along with the sauce. Don’t do that. Most of the cheese that’s added before the cooking process will likely melt away into the depths of the dish, becoming nearly invisible. As a result, you’ll likely wind up adding even more to your portion once it’s plated. To healthify your dinner, only sprinkle the cheese on top of the dish after it’s on your plate. This ensures you’ll get a bit of cheese in every bite without taking in additional “invisible” cheese calories along the way. Besides cutting back on waist-widening calories, this tactic eliminates a fair share of the artery-clogging fat, without drastically altering the taste.
Pasta Will Not Make You Fat—But There’s a Catch
Pasta is many dieters’ number one enemy, but a new study from Italian researchers says the hate isn’t necessary. In fact, people who eat pasta have a lower body-mass index and smaller waist-to-hip ratio. What this study doesn’t do, however, is grant an all-access pass to the pasta buffet. Moderation and smart choices are key.
It’s been kicked to the curb by overeager dieters, shamed by self-proclaimed nutritionists, and villainized by the carb-phobic crowd, but pasta is finally getting a moment of redemption. A new study published this week in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes reveals that pasta might not be the diet enemy so many believe it to be. In fact, pasta may help you lose weight, the study says.
“By analyzing anthropometric data of the participants and their eating habits,” wrote George Pounis, the study’s lead author, “we have seen that consumption of pasta, contrary to what many think, is not associated with an increase in body weight, rather the opposite.”
Researchers from Italy’s Neuromed Institute of Pozzilli, including Pounis, examined two large studies that encompassed more than 23,000 people. They found that people who ate pasta have a lower body-mass index (BMI), waist and hip circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio.
Pasta is a fundamental part of the much-lauded Mediterranean diet, so it stands to reason pasta could be a part of the plan. The classic Italian diet is rich in heart-healthy fats from olive oil and fish, as well we fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and yes, pasta.
“In popular views,” Licia Iacoviello, Head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Nutritional Epidemiology at Neuromed Institute, told ScienceDaily, “pasta is often considered not adequate when you want to lose weight. And some people completely ban it from their meals. In light of this research, we can say that this is not a correct attitude.”
But don’t be so fast to boil up a big plate of spaghetti tonight. It’s unclear how these findings relate to Americans’ diets. After all, the studies were conducted in Italy with a population that leans more heavily on the Mediterranean diet. By its very nature, their diet is different from that of the average American. In fact, researchers found that study participants who ate pasta also ate more tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions and garlic, olive oil, seasoned cheese and rice, all pillars of the Mediterranean diet. But the researchers noted that Italians’ eating habits have been shifting in recent decades. They’re leaving behind the traditional Mediterranean diet and adapting one more closely resembling today’s American diet. That is, they’re increasingly eating more red meat and sugar.