Some habits are hard to change. Bread in the morning, bread at lunch, bread in the evening. Pasta for lunch and pasta in the evening if you’re a student, in a hurry or don’t like to cook.
Do you see the picture?
But why cut down on these foods when they are so satisfying? Everyone eats bread. Pasta too, right? There’s no doubt that cutting down on bread and pasta isn’t easy.
You don’t even realize how much of these foods you eat. You probably don’t think about the quality of the products you buy. And you don’t necessarily want to change your diet.
I assure you that it’s not about giving up bread, rice, and pasta. But if you want to be healthier and lose weight, you must first focus on the foods you eat a lot of every day.
How bread and pasta affect your weight
The main criticism of bread, rice, and pasta are that they may be responsible for our extra pounds.
To understand why you have to look at their composition: mostly carbohydrates which directly affect a hormone that plays a fundamental role in our bodies: Insulin.
Insulin plays an important role in regulating our metabolism, especially when it comes to weight control by storing calories in the form of fat.
When insulin levels in the blood remain low and stable, everything is fine. This is a good sign if you want to keep fit or lose weight. Foods that have a low or moderate glycemic index are recommended.
However, when insulin levels are high, things get bad.
Insulin secretion is a signal to our body, which burns carbohydrates first and stores the excess sugar as fat.
The main culprit: refined sugars. Because they are easily digested (they have a high glycemic index), they take little time to pass into the bloodstream, causing a spike in insulin levels.
But the situation becomes much more complicated if you eat a lot and often products with a high glycemic index (like white bread and pasta).
As a result, insulin levels don’t go down. Your body probably wants to burn carbohydrates first and foremost, so every time you run out of carbs, it will ask for more. This is one of the reasons you may feel hungry between meals.
Add to this the addictiveness of sugar, which acts like certain drugs, and the problem becomes clear: sugar calls for more sugar.
Now you have a better understanding of the situation. White bread at every meal and large amounts of pasta almost every day can be the perfect recipe for messing up your insulin levels thus leading you to gain weight especially if you don’t exercise.
Why should you pay attention to what bread and pasta you eat?
When it comes to nutrition and health, bread and pasta are not on the list of the worst foods.
Many other, more harmful foods immediately come to mind.
Bread and pasta have been with us for so long that we can’t imagine blaming them for our weight gain.
However, the fact is bread and pasta do contribute to our weight gain mostly because of their quality. White bread has one of the highest glycemic indexes. It also contains a lot of salt.
Industrial pasta (you can also put a white rice in the same category), has a moderate glycemic index, which still makes them not ideal for our health.
Well, the problem is that bread and pasta contain a lot of sugar which can make us fat.
Other common characteristics of white bread and industrial pasta: They are very low in nutrients. That is, they contain little fiber and vitamins. The fault lies with the industrial process that makes their production possible.
And finally, my last point: wheat. This essential ingredient has evolved greatly in recent decades through hybridization, with the aim of increasing its yield and facilitating its industrial use (e.g., the gluten composition has been increased). We are therefore concerned about a possible deterioration of its quality in relation to our health because we eat too much of it and too often.
Whether it is a matter of upbringing and habit or an irrepressible craving for sugar, bread is ubiquitous in our diet. We find it everywhere, it can accompany every meal, every snack, without us having any real control over the quantities consumed.
Pasta, for some of us, is the food of choice around which most meals are built.
It doesn’t take science to realize that excess and health rarely go hand in hand without taking risks.
This is even more true when it comes to a diet high in the consumption of bread and pasta made only with bleached flour and composed exclusively of low-quality foods.
Because the room they occupy is lost to other much healthier food options.
The space that bread and pasta occupy on our plates and in our stomachs is mainly at the expense of vegetables and legumes, which are rich in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
But in general, eating a lot of bread and pasta can be a barrier to variety in our diet.
Conclusion: a diet rich in low-quality sugars promotes weight gain and deprives our body of many vitamins and minerals. Therefore, to avoid this, we need to:
- Choose good quality bread and pasta
- Reduce the quantities consumed
- Diversify our diet and add more healthy foods of natural origin and preferably with a low or moderate glycemic.
At the very least aim for quality
Just because you don’t necessarily want to give up bread and pasta doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. And if you do, here’s the first step: focus on quality over quantity.
Start by taking stock of what you’re eating: Do you eat a lot of white bread, rolls, sliced bread, and pasta?
If the answer is yes, it’s definitely a good idea to focus on the quality of the products you buy.
What are the differences between whole grains and refined foods?
Whole-grain foods are made from whole grains. This means that the husk surrounding the grain is preserved. In contrast, a refined product is made from white flours without these husks. Advantages: The taste is more neutral and such flours are easier to process. A major disadvantage is that a processed product contains less fiber, vitamins, and minerals than its whole grain equivalent. Another difference is that the glycemic index is slightly higher. On the other hand, there are no significant calorie differences between whole grain and refined foods. However, not all calories are equal!
Advantages of whole-grain products
There are no buts about whole grain is much better for your health.
Replace white bread with whole-grain bread and industrial pasta with whole grain pasta on your shopping list.
More fiber will give you a little boost when you’re trying to lose weight. Digestion slows down a bit, the glycemic index goes down, and the feeling of fullness goes up. In terms of feeling full, whole grain bread and pasta are also denser and require a little more chewing. More chewing should result in you eating more slowly and thus controlling the amount you eat better.
Focusing on quality means continuing to eat bread and pasta, but in smaller quantities if possible, and preferring more nutritious products.
What types of bread and pasta should be on my shopping list?
As we’ve just seen, the first obvious alternative is whole wheat bread and pasta.
But your choices don’t stop there. Vary your consumption and discover many other flavors.
Choose sourdough bread, whole wheat bread, whole grain bread: wheat, Spelt, oats, rye, Kamut, or barley.
For gluten-free alternatives: Buckwheat, and corn.
The best and easiest way to find quality bread is to go to local bakeries or grocery stores. However, you can also choose to make your own bread.
Try to buy organic to avoid pesticides (they accumulate in the husk surrounding the grains).
Let’s not lie to ourselves, this is quality bread, and on top of that, it’s more expensive than the white baguette you buy in the supermarket.
If you want to buy gluten-free bread in supermarkets or online, be careful! To compensate for the absence of gluten, which gives bread its raised appearance, manufacturers do not hesitate to add a whole range of additives. So don’t forget to look at the label and the ingredients list. If the list is long and not very understandable, move on.
For pasta (and rice)
There are also many alternative products to wheat made from flours of corn, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, peas, etc. For those who love rice opt for brown basmati rice.
Since pasta and rice are not usually eaten alone, think about the quality of the cheese or sauces you add, too!
Avoid “refined” foods (for simplicity’s sake, these are the ones that are white in color).
Buy whole-grain products and/or products made from foods other than wheat.
Give preference to organic products.
Try to buy your bread from artisan bakeries, and be wary of products offered by supermarkets (because of food additives).
Reduce the quantity consumed
Quality products are the first step to gradually reduce the consumption of bread and pasta. As mentioned earlier, they contain more fiber, require more chewing, and therefore provide a greater feeling of satiety. However, this is not necessarily sufficient. Because beyond the question of quality, eating a lot of bread and pasta is still eating a lot of carbohydrates.
There is still a long way to go to achieve a healthier diet if the quantities consumed are at the expense of a varied diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
How can we continue to move in the right direction?
You can start with simple gestures. Take The white bread off the table. Limit yourself to one slice per person. Use a scale to measure the amount of dough before cooking. The goal is to eliminate the temptation of wanting more.
But to really get to eat less bread and pasta, there are no secrets, you have to replace them with other foods.
Of course, be careful not to make the problem worst by compensating for those bread slices with pastries.
It is best for your health to balance this by eating more vegetables (or legumes, fruits) with your meals.
Serve limited amounts of bread/pasta, but conversely, prepare enough vegetables so that you can still eat something if you are not full.
This way you’ll always have a full plate, a full stomach, and incidentally, more fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Not bad, right?
Especially since meals rich in a variety of foods are part of the answer to high blood sugar. In fact, the glycemic indices of foods are calculated in fasting people who eat only one type of food.
Eating an adequate amount of bread and pasta, accompanied by vegetables/legumes for fiber or foods high in fat and protein, helps slow the passage of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, limiting the rise in blood sugar and insulin secretion.
It is best to cook pasta al dente. It will digest a little slower. Or enjoy it cold as a salad as an appetizer.
If you have difficulty with gradual reduction, limit bread and pasta consumption to certain meals.
For example, eat rye/buckwheat bread only at breakfast. Reserve pasta for days when you go to the gym or for the weekend.
There is nothing to stop you from giving up bread and pasta altogether.
In any case, there is no risk of nutritional deficiencies.
However, it may be justified to give up bread and pasta in the short term if you want to lose weight and are having difficulty doing so.
But in the long run, this choice can be difficult at family meals, with friends, in restaurants, or on vacation.
And pasta (and rice) can be useful before a workout to give your body the energy it needs.
We should not go to the opposite extreme, where bread and pasta are basically bad foods. If they are quality products consumed in reasonable quantities as part of a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and legumes, they are ok to consume.
Candidates for substitution
To make the changes described in the previous sections, it is necessary to try new foods or give more room to others.
To guide your shopping, consider these 4 principles:
- Avoid white (refined products) and industrial foods.
- Add color to your plate.
- Replace bread/pasta with low to medium glycemic index foods, especially those high in fiber.
Choose natural (unprocessed) and organic foods.
What products should you fill your cart with besides white bread and an assortment of pasta bags?
Vegetables are the obvious choice. They come in all shapes and colors: Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, split peas, leafy greens (beets, turnips, radishes, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, endive, arugula), tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash and pumpkins, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and so on.
With a little patience, it is impossible not to find some that you like.
Useful tips: Accompany your meal with raw vegetables instead of bread or use lettuce leaves in sandwiches, wraps, and other tortillas.
Fruits. Buy them when they are in season, or opt for dried fruits. Also consider nuts (walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts), which are rich in fiber, micronutrients, and protein. They are an excellent alternative, both in terms of nutrition and their ability to satisfy the appetite.
Other important alternatives are legumes. They are ideal to replace a plate of pasta or rice. These include green, white, red, mung beans, chickpeas, beans, lentils, etc.
You can cook them in soups and salads.
Some recipes: chili con carne (or “sin” carne for the meatless version), hummus, etc…
Granola. There is much more than we think, besides wheat and rice (which can be basmati, wild, brown, red, black). You can include in your diet: Quinoa, bulgur, corn, oats, but also Kamut, millet, rye, barley, buckwheat, sorghum, etc.
Recipes and tips: Tabbouleh or bulgur pilaf, polenta, a mixture of rice and quinoa, etc.
But also bread-like alternatives, such as corn or buckwheat pancakes or corn tortillas. For the curious, there are also recipes like the Quinoa Burger.
You may also go for tasty dishes that combine grains and legumes, such as chickpeas and semolina, lentils and rice, beans and corn, beans and rice, lentils, pumpkin, and quinoa.
Starchy foods: we naturally think of potatoes, but sweet potatoes are even more interesting from a nutritional point of view.
We can hardly do without our traditional slices of bread with butter, honey, or jam. On the other hand, there is nothing to stop you from going for quality by buying only whole wheat bread. And if you are willing to reduce or radically change your habits, there are other types of breakfast than the ones we are used to. Try reducing the amount of sugar (and therefore bread) to make more room for protein, either through eggs, oatmeal, cheese, and an avocado!
For sweetness, opt for fruits such as apples, kiwis, strawberries, raspberries.
Treats and other small snacks
Don’t reach for bread or crackers! For the sweets cravings, resort to fruit (grapes, oranges, pineapple, bananas, etc.). For more texture, choose 1 or 2 handfuls of a mixture of almonds and walnuts, a small piece of cheese (no bread), or yogurt.
Lunch and dinner
There are no miracle solutions to limit or avoid bread and pasta at lunch and dinner. For this, dishes rich in fiber and high-quality proteins and fats should do the trick.
If you are looking for tips to reduce your bread consumption, you can, for example, start your meal with a vegetable soup,
replace bread with raw vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers, or radishes). If sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, or tacos are on the menu, be inventive. Try substituting a vegetable equivalent for the bread, such as a lettuce leaf.
But that’s not the point. It all depends on your willingness to vary your meals and your willingness to try new flavors and dishes.
Instead of pasta, make vegetables the base of your meals. Also, eat lots of legumes, grains (like quinoa and bulgur), or mixtures of both.
Whenever you prepare meat or fish, always accompany it with plenty of greens.
If you’re an athlete and are used to eating pasta before a workout, replace it with (brown) rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes – they’ll be just fine!
It’s not that easy to totally eliminate bread and pasta from your diet. In Fact, change isn’t easy, but eventually, it is if you’re motivated and if it’s accompanied by an overall improvement in your diet.
The young bread-and-pasta-loving students we used to be can attest to that. At the time, stopping or drastically reducing the amount we consumed would have been nearly impossible.
Our habits have gradually changed as we have given more importance to the quality of food instead of just flavor and quantity.
Have you also reduced your bread and pasta consumption? Do you have any tips for us? Let us know what you think.