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A healthier way to enjoy pasta

Chicken and pesto pasta

The sun popped out this morning and, for the first time in ages, I felt the promise of summer heat. After 15 years in Bermuda, I’m a baby when it comes to the cold now. And there is something about our dampness that makes it feel extra cold! But with most of my family in England and Canada, I have learnt not to complain. I’m not upset to be missing out on snowdrifts and drizzle! Still, the colder days left me craving comfort food in a major way. But, having tipped over the edge of 40, I’m having to be more careful when it comes to carbs. I had to rethink how to do that big bowl of pasta in a way that was much more portion-conscious. The first thing you can do is choose a better type of pasta. If you want to go with wheat, then choose a wholewheat version so you get the benefit of the extra fibre and a great nutty flavour too. However, for most of my clients, I recommend either a brown rice pasta (eg Tinkyada) or a chickpea pasta (eg Banza.) The brown rice pasta is much more gentle on the digestive tract than wheat and it’s a brilliant substitute for people who want something easier to digest with less bloat afterwards. It holds up well when it’s cooked and has a pretty similar texture to the real deal. Most children don’t notice or, if they do, they don’t mind! Chickpea pasta (and other bean, edamame or lentil pastas) have really taken off lately. This is because the protein and fibre content tends to be significantly higher. This means you can eat less, but feel more full for longer. However, the textures do tend to be a bit different, so might be a harder sell on your children. My favourite of these is the Banza pasta as the consistency is good and they have improved the bioavailability of the protein by adding pea protein too (you tend to get better uptake of plant-based proteins when you have a combination of different types). However, some people do find anything to do with beans bloating. This may be because either they lack sufficient enzymes to break down these types of carbs, or because beans/legumes do have enzyme inhibitors on the outside which can cause trouble for some. In fact, when you cook Banza pasta you will see the water becomes a little frothy because of this, but it seems to help reduce the amount of inhibitors you actually consume as they are kind of washed off. You can test whether enzyme inhibitors are causing you problems by eating beans that you have rinsed and soaked well for several hours, or eating beans straight out of a can. If there’s a difference, then the enzyme inhibitors are your problem! If that’s the case for you, then the Tinkyada pasta may be your better bet. If you’d like to experiment, then both Tinkyada and Banza are available at Miles in the Nutrifit section.Once you have picked your pasta, you still need to moderate your portion size. For most adults, the amount of pasta you should have should be about one cup cooked, max. But rather than getting sad about this sorry state of affairs, instead, just pad out your dish with tons of non-starchy veggies and a big dose of protein. When everything is combined, you’ll still feel like you have a hearty dish, but the actual carb content will be well controlled. I think pasta makes a great family meal and it’s also easy to accommodate any fussy eaters by keeping some ingredients separate, if necessary, before you toss it all together.The recipe below is my current favourite. Chloe and I have it all tossed together, but Belle has it without the pesto — it’s an easy accommodation to make and keeps the dinner vibes happy. PS If you like the sound of this but want an even better version, then the chefs at Harry’s are doing an amazing Nutrifit pesto pasta dish this week which is to die for. Portion sizes are right and it’s packed full of veg so you can have that glass of wine too, without feeling guilty. Hooray! b>Chicken & Pesto Pasta Ingredients (per person): 2 salad onions (spring onions). Peel outer layer and chop the bottom three quarters, discarding the very top part which is a little more tough½ clove garlic, crushed (optional, add more if you like!)½ yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped1 cup broccoli or broccolini, lightly steamed6 baby tomatoes, halved1 small chicken breast, finely sliced1 cup cooked pasta (approximately 2oz dry)1 tbs pestoLight olive oilSalt and pepper to tasteMethod:1, Cook the pasta and steam the broccoli above it until it’s just tender. Set to one side.2, Brush a large pan with light olive oil and sautée the onions, garlic (optional) and yellow pepper until tender.3, Add the chicken to the pan with a little salt and pepper and cook gently until cooked through. Add in the baby tomatoes.4, Stir through the pesto.5, When you are ready to serve, add in the pasta and broccoli and toss everything together until lightly coated and well warmed through.6, Serve in warm bowls from the oven. Enjoy! • Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram