For our first August Pasta Spotlight, we chatted with Kaleigh McMordie, a registered dietitian, writer and recipe developer. Kaleigh is also the blogger behind Lively Table. We asked Kaleigh to explain how pasta fits into a healthy diet, as well as some advice for whipping up a pasta meal with limited time and resources. Read below for our full interview with Kaleigh.
1. How does pasta fit into your healthy lifestyle?
Pasta is great for making quick and easy meals. It takes on veggie-filled sauces and toppings well, and whole grain pasta is a great source of fiber and contains important B-vitamins. I love using whole grain pasta in pasta salads to pack for lunch and using whole grain spaghetti as a base for baked chicken parmesan.
2. As a dietitian, can you explain why going gluten-free is unhelpful for people who do not have Celiac Disease or known gluten sensitivities?
I don’t ever recommend eliminating foods of food groups unless medically necessary. Eliminating gluten from the diet is not really helpful since it is naturally found in healthy whole grain foods, like pasta or whole wheat bread, that are good sources of nutrients, whereas gluten-free versions of foods that normally contain gluten usually have added fat and sugar to make up for texture and taste issues. Specialty gluten-free products are also normally more expensive than their regular counterparts.
3. Can you explain how pasta is part of a healthy diet?
Cutting out foods or whole food groups that you love, like carbohydrates, is counter-intuitive to maintaining a healthy weight, contrary to popular belief. Restricting favorite foods is more likely to cause people to binge on those foods once they ‘give up’ or go off of a diet, leading to weight gain. It’s better to enjoy the things you love, like pasta, mindfully and as part of a balanced diet to stay healthy and happy!
Furthermore, carbohydrates are necessary for the body to function. The human body runs on energy derived from carbs, and if it doesn’t get enough, any protein consumed will be broken down for energy instead of for things like building muscle and repairing tissue. Consuming too little carbohydrates also causes low blood sugar, moodiness, and fatigue. Any initial weight lost on a low carb diet is mostly water, and will come right back when normal eating is consumed.
4. We read in your “About” page that you believe that you can make a healthy meal with both limited time and resources. Can you share some recommended staples to keep in the house to make a healthy meal during these occasions when time and resources are limited?
Yes! It is absolutely possible to eat healthy with a limited budget and time! Being prepared with healthy foods that can be whipped up in a pinch is so crucial to making sure you don’t rely on eating out when you’re super busy. My favorite budget-friendly kitchen staples for these times include canned beans and chickpeas, whole grains like quinoa, pasta and oatmeal, nuts and nut butter, eggs, and yogurt. I use many of these all the time with whatever fresh fruit and vegetables I have for quick and healthy meals.
5. Finally, can you share one of your favorite pasta recipes with us?
I love this tortellini salad with carrot top pesto!