Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 Days to a Cleaner Diet {12}: Spaghetti Dinner Overhaul

One of my favorite magazines is Redbook, and thanks to one of the deal blogs that I read, I was able to snag a free subscription a few months ago! Besides the fact that I actually really like the magazine, it’s also just so nice to have something other than bills and junk mail in your mailbox, isn’t it?!

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{Click here to see the other posts in this series.}

One of the neat things they do each month is take a typical (very high-calorie) restaurant meal, tweak it, and make it something you can make at home and for a lot less calories.

That’s kinda what I’m going to do today, except with a common American dinner: spaghetti. We’re gonna clean it up, step-by-step, and hopefully get your creative juices flowing with ways that you can make changes in your own dinner menus.

I feel pretty confident that most of us have spaghetti nights with at least some frequency, right?

Let’s take a typical American spaghetti-night menu:

Jarred sauce
Feedlot meat of some kind (either in the sauce or meatballs)
White pasta
Jarred parmesan cheese

Salad of iceberg lettuce and maybe some other raw veggies
Store-bought dressings; maybe Italian?

Frozen garlic bread, cooked at home in the oven

Sounds pretty standard to me! Maybe this is what you actually had for dinner tonight! lol I think a lot of people serve this with confidence, because you’re hitting a lot of the food groups with a meal that almost anyone would eat.

However, there’s a lot of room for improvement here! Let’s break it down, one by one.

1. Jarred sauce: Look for brands that don’t have anything artificial in them and preferably ones with low amounts of sugar. (If you can’t pronounce it, that’s usually - but not always - a bad sign.) I personally buy either Newman’s Own or Francesco Rinaldi’s “ToBe” line (I stock up when there’s a sale!).


I am part Italian but yes, I buy jarred sauce. I’d rather be blogging than making homemade sauce! haha

2. Feedlot Meat: My advice is that if you can’t currently afford to buy good-quality meat, just don’t add it. Spaghetti is so filling, I promise you won’t miss it! I rarely, if ever, make spaghetti with meat. Sometimes I will add maybe half a pound of grass-fed ground beef, just to add to the flavor. Meatballs are a rare treat here because of the expense.

3. White pasta: Start with a brand that is half whole-wheat (Barilla makes this in an orange box), and then switch over to all whole-wheat.


Personally, I think angel hair is a good transition pasta since it’s so thin anyway and the denseness isn’t noticed as much.

4. Jarred parmesan: Yup, I still buy this. Very convenient. Remember, I still don’t eat organic cheeses. I’m working on it. :)

5. Iceberg lettuce salad: Remember, I would encourage you to buy organic lettuce and spinach - they get contaminated very easily! Go half-and-half at first and then try to switch completely over to dark greens. The darker the green, the better for you!

6. Store-bought dressings: It is shocking to me how much junk is in regular dressings! Stop and look at the labels next time you go to the store – or open your fridge door!

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I bet you will find lots of ingredients that you can’t pronounce! It’s crazy. Try making your own dressing or looking for brands with better ingredients, such as Newman’s Own (buy on sale; it can be pricy!).

7. Garlic bread: In my humble opinion, you don’t really need the garlic bread. Carbs served with more carbs doesn’t really make sense to me. :)
BUT, it is a nice treat sometimes. Want to know a ghetto version of making garlic bread? All-natural, whole-wheat hamburger buns. Toast for a few minutes in the toaster. Lay out on a cookie sheet. Top each half with melted butter, shredded mozzarella, garlic powder, and a little Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Broil in the oven until the cheese melts. There you go. :)

So let’s look at our cleaned-up dinner, shall we? This is basically how spaghetti night looks in my house. It’s not a perfect dinner, but it’s a big improvement on the first one!

All-natural jarred sauce (organic is a plus but don’t stress!)
Whole-wheat pasta
Jarred parmesan cheese ;)

Organic romaine/spinach topped with a variety of raw veggies
Homemade dressing or all-natural store bought

Ghetto garlic bread (haha) or none at all

Remember, friends, this is A JOURNEY. If you served dinner tonight that looked a lot like the first one I described, don’t worry, we can still be friends. (hahaha!) But seriously, take it one day or week at a time!

If it takes you 3 months from start to finish, so be it.

Personally, I would probably take out the meat first (or clean it up!), then the organic/darker lettuce, then the pasta, then the rest. Don’t change all at once unless you want to feel like a crazy woman.

Repeat after me: one day at a time. :)


  1. great post again, Jessica. But really? Powdered Parm? haha... If you spend a couple of extra dollars on a nice wedge of parm, then you don't need to add as much and tastes SO much better. Be careful when buying parm because a lot of the brands have fillers and preservatives added in. I don't buy organic, (for one, I've never seen it here) but I do buy parm that only has 2 or 3 ingredients. (Milk, enzymes, salt...I think) Most pre-grated cheeses have a preservative added in.

  2. I definitely learned something new today! I never gave a *thought* to my parmesan cheese - sure enough, potassium sorbate! Gross! Thanks for telling me - that's the last jar I'm ever buying! :)


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