If you're like most Americans, you probably eat a lot of pasta. The National Pasta Association says that the average American consumes almost 20 pounds of pasta each year, and spaghetti noodles are the most popular of all pasta shapes. The trouble with spaghetti is that it can be too easy to eat more than you need, and most people do, says nutritionist Barbara Moore. Get your serving size under control and you can benefit from the vitamins, minerals and fiber that spaghetti noodles provide, without all the extra calories.
A serving size of cooked spaghetti noodles is 1/2 cup, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate.gov. This amount counts as 1 ounce of a grain serving and is also equivalent to one slice of bread, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn, 1 cup of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal, bulgur or rice. Realize that most recipes consider a serving of any type of pasta to be 2 ounces, which, according to the USDA, should be counted as two servings.
A healthy adult woman between 19 and 50 years old should have 6 ounces of grains each day. At least half of your grain intake should come from whole-grain sources, such as whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta or couscous. Grains contribute primarily to your recommended daily carbohydrate intake, which should be approximately 45 to 65 percent of your caloric intake, or 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates every day. If you exercise regularly, you may need more grain servings per day. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist if you're concerned that you're not eating enough grains.
Measuring Spaghetti Noodles
You can measure dry and cooked pasta with a measuring cup, but it's tough to do the same thing with dry or cooked spaghetti noodles. To end up with 1 cup of cooked spaghetti, The Kitchn says that you should measure the circumference of a bundle of dry spaghetti. A bundle that has a circumference of 2 1/8 inches yields 1 cup of cooked spaghetti; to get a single 1/2-cup serving, simply divide the cooked noodles in half. To accurately measure spaghetti noodles, use an inexpensive spaghetti measuring tool. You can find them online, at cooking specialty stores or in the housewares section of department stores.
Regular vs. Whole Wheat
The serving size of regular spaghetti noodles is the same for that of whole-wheat spaghetti, but these noodles aren't equal in nutrition. Whole-wheat spaghetti noodles have more than twice as much fiber per serving compared to noodles made from refined semolina flour. Unless you purchase enriched spaghetti, whole-wheat noodles also provide significantly more B vitamins like thiamin and pantothenic acid and minerals such as manganese and selenium.
- Real Simple: Busting 10 Diet Myths - Myth No. 3: Pasta Makes You Fat
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Counts as an Ounce Equivalent of Grains?
- The Kitchn: Ounces to Cups - A Guide to Estimating Pasta Yield
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Many Grain Foods are Needed Daily?
- MayoClinic.com: Carbohydrates - How Carbs Fit into a Healthy Diet
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nutrient Data for 20421, Spaghetti, Cooked, Unenriched, Without Added Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nutrient Data for 20125, Spaghetti, Whole-Wheat, Cooked
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.