Myth No. 3: Pasta Makes You Fat
The theory: When you eat carbohydrates, your body turns them into sugars, which are then stored as fat.
The reality: Carbohydrates per se don't make you fat; extra calories do, whether you eat them in the form of carbs, fats, or protein. Besides, carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which are important parts of a healthy diet. In short, the problem isn't pasta but the sheer volume consumed. "Americans tend to eat too much carbohydrates, fat, and protein. But they overeat carbs most of all," says Barbara Moore, Ph.D., a nutritionist in Clyde Park, Montana, and a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition. "You go to a restaurant and you're served three cups of pasta with lots of sauce." Those three cups of pasta can pack up to 600 calories without the sauce.
The best advice: Pasta in moderation is fine. Dietitians recommend two or three ounces of uncooked noodles per person―or half of a one-pound box to serve a family of four. This may look like a puny amount, but try thinking of "pasta as an ingredient, rather than as the basis of a dish," says Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian ($35, amazon.com). "Start with a lot of grilled or sautéed vegetables and maybe a tomato-based sauce. Then add some pasta, sparingly." If you want protein, add beans, chicken or shellfish. (For some delicious pasta dishes, see 6 Healthy Pasta Recipes.) Make your pasta―or bread or rice or cereal―whole-grain, which has more vitamins and minerals than white pasta. You'll also be getting fiber, which helps you feel full.