These days I hear people boasting about the fact that they have stopped eating carbs so often that I felt compelled to write this column. It’s time to stop the blanket carbohydrate-foods bashing. Demonising all carbohydrate foods like noodles, pizza, rice, roti does us no good. That’s because firstly it is difficult and very impractical to completely stop eating them.
They have after all been a mainstay of our diet for a long time. The same people who boast, tend to succumb to them every now and then and then feel guilty after eating them, which is worse. Secondly, it is a downright silly idea to even try and remove them completely from our diet as that is not needed at all.
Noodles Not Much Different From Roti-Sabzi?
No one kind of food is going to be the end of you if you eat them in moderation. That is why I have never understood the flak noodles get… all the time. Agreed it is a high carbohydrate food, but who says all carbohydrates are bad? We need to eat some for energy after all and grains do provide nutrients like B complex and multiple minerals that we anyway don’t get to eat enough of. And let’s be clear, here I am not talking about the preservative-laden instant noodles, or even about the oil dripping roadside stalls gooey stuff, I am talking about simple dishes that are cooked at home with whole wheat noodles (and other pastas) the way they should be - with lots of colourful vegetables, and if possible even a source of protein.
Eaten this way they are simply a variant or rather a combined version of our Indian roti-sabzi (instead of having it separately, here you mix everything together to create one wholesome dish and chomp it happily). It’s a nice change if nothing else, plus is extremely convenient to put together.
Another big rule I like everyone to follow when making noodles is to keep the the grain-vs-vegetable ratio about 50:50. That way you cut the amount of carbohydrates to half instantly and take in more goodness.
And this applies to pastas, poha, upma, couscous, quinoa, and cracked wheat too.
Here’s a fabulous (and my favourite pasta recipe) from my book Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People for you to try minus any guilt (it’s loaded with goodness, and is super-super tasty)
Noodles and Variety
What I also like about noodles is that they can be made in many, many ways and can be made to taste different each time. Plus, they are a wonderful vehicle to ensure loads of fibre (opt for whole grain pasta and add lots of veggies), calcium (cheese, cottage cheese), protein (meat, egg, tofu, sprouts, chickpeas), and difficult to find micronutri-ents (add roasted seeds, nuts and herbs) in our diet. Also, you’ll be surprised to learn that pastas that are classically made with a rich tomato sauce deliver (thanks to the cooked tomato) loads of an antioxidant called lycopene, which helps in protecting us from heart disease, cancer, asthma and even cataracts.
Of course what goes without saying is that portion control is most important (like for any other food). Eating huge portions smothered with highly calorific cheese or fried in excess oil, or smeared in a heavy cream sauce will obviously lead to expanding waistlines.
Still Not Convinced?
Still worried about the carbs, or have a medical reason to reduce them from your diet? Then you could check out the interesting new trend of transforming vegetables into pasta-like noodles. I find these nutrient-rich pasta-imposters a wonderful way to eat more vegetables – and yes, they can help you cut down on calories and carbs, if that is important to you.
Apparently there is a spiralising machine which helps do that, but lot of people make do with simple peelers to make vegetable juliennes and turn carrots, turnips, beets and zucchini into noodles, actually called zoodles. Then you simply top them with a sauce of choice (I love pesto or the simple basic home made green chutney) and dig in or use as a base for a salad or casserole instead of spaghetti.
(Kavita Devgan is a weight management consultant, nutritionist, health columnist and author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People.)