Perusing Pasta

Hope my last blog gave a good mini lesson on carbohydrates.  While all that information is helpful to know (I think!), when you go to the supermarket and see all the various choices of products available, it can still be baffling.  Pasta is one of those foods where there has been an onslaught of new products appearing on store shelves.  Which one is best?  That depends on what criteria you are using.  Flavor?  Fiber?  Added nutrients?  Let’s explore this more.

I want my pasta to taste good.  Truly this is where we need to start first when picking out foods.  How often have you purchased something, like maybe a protein bar, thinking you’re going to eat it?  Maybe they are on sale and you buy six.  Great, what a deal!  You try one – yuck, tastes like sawdust.  You finish that one vowing to include the next five in your diet throughout the week (you don’t want to be wasteful).  That was two weeks before Easter.  The day after New Year’s you decide to clean out the pantry.  Way in the back, behind the stale Life cereal are the protein bars.  You have to take a nibble just in case you might like them now but they are always worse because they taste like old sawdust at this point.  No matter how healthy a food  may be, if you don’t like it, you’re not going to eat it!!!   Sorry, I went off on a tangent.  Back to business.

I’ve compared four different popular brands of pasta.  I’m going to discuss their nutritional content but also give my opinion on how they taste.  Amounts are based on 2 ounce/serving of pasta.

Calories           Fat (gm)          Fiber (gm)            Protein (gm)

Barilla Penne Pasta          200                   1                             2                            7

Barilla Plus Pasta              210                    2                            4                           10

Barilla Whole Grain          200                 1.5                          6                             7

Dreamfield Pasta               190                  1.0                         5                             7

Ronzoni Smart Taste       170                     .5                         5                             6

The first pasta listed is  just regular Barilla.  This is my favorite brand of  basic pasta.  The Barilla Plus pasta touts its high protein, omega-3, and high fiber content.   It is made with flaxseed, spelt, oats, barley and legumes.  The main difference is the higher protein content and omega-3’s (provided by the flaxseed).  Barilla Whole Grain pasta is made with 51% whole wheat flour which makes this the highest fiber product.   Dreamfield pasta supposedly has fewer digestible carbohydrates.  This is the advertising angle manufacturers take promoting it is a good pasta for diabetics.  It has a lower glycemic index (13).   This means it is absorbed  into the bloodstream more slowy than regular pasta. However, Barilla Plus also has a low glycemic index (11).  Ronzoni Smart Taste claims to have as much calcium and vitamin D as an 8 ounce glass of milk.  Calories and fat are the lowest.  I guess it’s another way to get more calcium and vitamin D in your diet.  Glycemic index is higher (around 50).

Which is best?  They all provide decent amounts of fiber (except the regular Barilla).  Pasta in general is a low-fat food choice.  They are all similar in protein content.  The last four are all good choices so really it does come down to taste.  So here goes…

  1. Dreamfield Pasta – Taste and texture closest to regular pasta.  My kids like this one.
  2. Barilla Plus – Like the taste although I wouldn’t say it tastes like regular pasta.  Heavier than regular pasta with somewhat of a “fiber” type taste.  Not bad though.
  3. Ronzoni Smart Taste – Doesn’t have that high fiber taste but isn’t quite like regular pasta either (something kind of artificial about it).
  4. Barilla Regular – Great taste and texture, of course but too low in fiber.  Higher glycemic index (43-61)
  5. Barilla Whole Grain – Tastes totally different from regular pasta.  Heavy, grainy flavor.  Just not for me.

When considering what your kids might like, I think Dreamfield pasta is the best choice.  Higher in fiber yet isn’t so obvious in the flavor.  Experiment with different kinds of pastas and see which ones your family likes best.  However, try to get one with a higher fiber content.   Many people like the whole wheat pasta.  If you and your kids like the flavor, go for it.  I just find that younger people generally like the “regular” taste best.

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”  Voltaire

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