Which Should You Buy - Whole Wheat or Regular Pasta?

Whole Wheat vs Regular Pasta

November 15, 2011   24 Comments

My son has one food that he talks about incessantly. You guess it, KALE!

Actually, no, it isn't kale - it is macaroni and cheese. The child of this healthy food writer would rather eat macaroni and cheese than any other food on earth.

His mother has tried to find ways to enhance the below recipe (that Alex loves) to get some more nutrients in him. He has managed to pick out any vegetable I have added and complained about changes to his food love.

What to do? Well, how about whole wheat pasta? I had dismissed whole wheat pasta as a terrible idea until I spoke with an Italian chef. He said that what really mattered was what you put on the pasta - not the pasta itself. He insisted that imported Italian pasta was the best.

Italian pasta is regulated by law (seriously) and must contain 100% durum semolina flour and water. Durum wheat has a very high protein content versus other strains of wheat.

If you choose Italian pasta versus American pasta - you are getting something that probably tastes better and is a bit better for you.

Now, you can find whole wheat durum semolina pasta from Italy on the supermarket shelves. The brand I featured above, Rienzi, was in my local supermarket and has 100% WHOLE WHEAT durum semolina flour.

Here are the nutritional facts for one serving size (2 ounces) of both types:

Regular: 200 calories, 0.5 g fat, 43 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 1 g fiber, 0 mg sodium, 5 Points+

Whole Wheat: 200 calories, 1.5 g fat, 35 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 4 g fiber, 0 mg sodium, 5 Points+

As you can see, you get more protein and fiber for the same amount of calories with the whole wheat version. How does it taste?

I found that I didn't notice a difference after I put a sauce on it. Initially, when I tasted it out of colander, I thought it was going to be terrible. But, just as my Italian chef said, you don't notice the flavor of the pasta after you add the other stuff.

And, mysteriously, I ate less of it than the regular pasta. Could it be that the extra 3 grams of fiber filled me up and I felt fuller sooner? I think so!

Below, I have included Alex's favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. This is NOT one for losing weight, but it is a great one for parents who don't have time to make a cheese sauce and then a casserole. The garlic gives it a wee little kick.

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Alex's Favorite Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

(8 servings)

1 pound shaped pasta (whole wheat or regular)
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar (16 ounces)
4 eggs
2 cups milk
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350F and spray large casserole with non-stick spray. Cook pasta about 3 minutes short of al dente and drain. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups cheddar, eggs, milk, garlic, and salt. Add pasta, mix, and add to casserole. Top pasta with the last cup cheddar and bake until golden and bubbling about 25 minutes. Enjoy!

455 calories, 23.5 g fat, 35.0 g carbohydrates, 25.4 g protein, 4 g fiber, 570 mg sodium, 12 Points+

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only.
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First 20 Comments: [ see all 24 ]

We only buy whole wheat pasta these days. It might only be 50% sometimes, but it's still got more body and flavor than the regular stuff. I find now when I go to restaurants and get pasta, it is flat and tasteless compared to what I make at home, even if the sauce is good.

The same thing is true of bread. You get used to the difference after a while, and you miss the whole wheat when it's not there.


on November 15, 2011

Its true.. the stats on whole wheat are great. However, sometimes with a lighter sauce whole wheat can be too dense, so what we do is mix it with half regular and you cant even notice!

on November 15, 2011

Homemade mac & cheese is rediculously easy!

on November 15, 2011

Have you tried using pureed squash as the base for the cheese sauce? My daughter, father and SO haven't noticed the change yet, but I can't let them watch me make it. :) There's a great recipe for it on food network's website somewhere.

on November 15, 2011

Like Courtney above I use some pumpkin puree (it makes the mac and cheese look more like that powdered packaged stuff in the blue box), and I also add creamed cauliflower to the sauce. My family thought I'd added more cheese!

on November 15, 2011

We have eaten ONLY whole wheat pasta for about 6 years now. My 5 year old has never had regular pasta or white rice. She saw white rice for the first time this year at a family members home and thought there was something wrong with it! LOL...same with pasta, saw it at a restaurant and wouldn't touch it. Kids eat the good stuff when that's all they know!! By the way, my 5 and 2 year old LOVED your Acorn squash recipe!! Good stuff!! Thanks for all you do Lisa!

on November 15, 2011

Good info and great comments. I'll give them a try!

on November 15, 2011

I only buy brown rice pasta. It tastes delicious, cooks beautifully, and you can hardly tell the difference! Plus it's very healthy :)

on November 15, 2011

I'd like to know Snack Girl's thoughts on Ronzoni Smart Taste. It's white pasta enriched with fiber. It's been my go to because I don't like the texture of wheat pasta. Wondering where it ranks nutrition wise? Thanks!

on November 15, 2011

I find that wheat pasta is stiffer or firmer or something. I can't get past the texture in my mouth. I don't mind the flavor so much, since mentally I'm a fan of the health improvement more than I hate the flavor. But the texture just bugs me.
I love the comment about the child thinking something was wrong with white rice! I grew up only knowing orange mashed potatoes - my grandma would put carrots and onions in hers, so that's always how we had them growing up. Anyone else's tastes like paste to me! (FYI, even just adding the onion and a little garlic makes all the difference! My sister makes our family recipe without the carrots for get-togethers with her in-laws and they RAVE about her potatoes. Her MIL is not amused.)

on November 15, 2011

And what about Spaghetti Squash? It's a decent pasta swap.

on November 15, 2011

Great article. I don't think many understand the benefit of whole wheat pasta and it has the stigma that it just doesn't taste as good and like you said that isn't necessarily the case.
@Tywana - I like your strategy. Teaching our kids to eat well from day 1 makes a big difference! :)

on November 15, 2011

You should really try a 100% Whole Grain pasta, too. It has 5 grams of fibers and 6 grams of protein per serving. I find the flavor to be delicious and very much like traditional semolina pasta.

While it is true that Italian pasta 100% durum semolina, so are all of the major brands in the US. Plus, major brands are made on Italian presses, just as it is in Italy. The product is not different when talking just straight pasta in a package. (Boxed pasta that comes with sauce or powders is different.) So, it's not any better for you just because it was made in Italy.

on November 15, 2011

I don't like the texture of whole wheat pasta. It's more crumbly. I buy high fiber non-whole-wheat pasta instead (which still has around 7 grams of protein per serving and around triple the fiber of whole wheat) and find it much more palatable as well as less carb-y for the diabetic in my family.

on November 15, 2011

sounds super yummy, will have to try that one

on November 15, 2011

Love Whole Wheat Pasta. One question is why in comes in only certain shapes, penne, shells, linquine or thin spaghetti? Does it cost more to make all the shapes and sizes of white pasta? This is a question I know only Snack Girl can answer.

on November 16, 2011

According to our nation's Congress, if you just dowse your pasta in pizza sauce, it will provide most of the nutrients that children need. :-)

on November 16, 2011

As a college student, I always try to buy whole grain type pastas, not because I like it better (because I don't), but I like to force myself to eat a little bit healthier to offset all the bad things I eat late at night and while I study.

on November 17, 2011

Make sure to get 100% whole wheat or whole grain pasta over pasta that uses wheat flour. Wheat flour is not 100% whole wheat but both wheat and white flour mixed together, which isn't giving you many of the nutrients that the 100% will.

on November 18, 2011

I usally buy Barilla plus with omega3's multigrain pasta it has 4-9 grams of fiber a serving depending which noodle type you get.

on November 19, 2011

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