Healthier Pasta Choices

Essential information on the most popular varieties of alternative pastas.

By Maureen Callahan, R.D.
bowl of macaroniTina Rupp


Flavored Pastas

What it brings to the table: Pretty as they look, pastas made with everything from beets to spinach to artichokes don't hold any nutritional advantage over the plain stuff, mainly because very little vegetable is added. Enjoy them for their visual appeal only.


Nutritional bonus: Scant.


Best with: Light sauces that let colors shine through.


Recommended brands: Al Dente, DeBoles, Eddie's.


Brown Rice

What it brings to the table: A subtle, nutty flavor and the light brown color make this pasta a kids' favorite. Since it's made from brown rice, it's also great for people with allergies to wheat or gluten, the protein found in wheat. Avoid overcooking, since the texture can become mushy.


Nutritional bonus: A 2-ounce serving has as much fiber as a small apple.


Best with: Chunky sauces and soups.


Recommended brand: Lundberg.


Quinoa

What it brings to the table: Quinoa pasta is made from a nutrient-rich grain that is lower in carbohydrates than most grains and full of protein. It also looks like regular pasta, a plus for people hesitant to make the switch.


Nutritional bonus: Quinoa contains a complete protein similar to that found in eggs and meat.


Best with: Everything, since the flavor is buttery and mild.


Recommended brand: Ancient Harvest.


Corn

What it brings to the table: Golden-hued corn pasta looks and tastes like its main ingredient. Look for brands made with more corn-meal than corn flour if you want to reap high-fiber benefits.


Nutritional bonus: A single serving can contain more fiber than 2 slices of whole-wheat bread.


Best with: Chunky, vegetable-based sauces, but the texture is too mushy for cold salads that need to be tossed.


Recommended brand: DeBoles.


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