Health & Wellness

Should you avoid pasta to lose weight?

When it comes to eating advice, it's getting harder and harder to separate myth from fact. So much information, and much of it is conflicting. It does take work to be a healthy eater, and being an informed consumer is a smart way to begin.

The best way to get the right information is to use science-based facts to help make your food decisions. And there's one food rule that always applies: be mindful of portion control. Check out your nutrition knowledge with this fact or myth quiz on some popular statements about some of our favorite foods.

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You can eat healthy without giving up pizza and pasta: Here's how

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You can eat healthy without giving up pizza and pasta: Here's how

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1. Fact or myth?: Pizza is junk food.

Myth: Pizza can be a super-healthy choice — and includes three important food groups: grains, dairy and vegetables. Whether take-out from your favorite pizza restaurant, purchased at the freezer section of the store or home-made, healthy pizza starts with a thin crust; make it whole wheat for extra fiber.

The next step is to use regular or reduced-fat cheese, and top with your favorite vegetables like mushrooms, onions, peppers and olives. Skip the stuffed crust, extra cheese and meat-lover options. If you want some "meat" try meatballs, or turkey pepperoni.

RELATED: What you need to know about common food myths

If you're cooking at home, use a small size tortilla or pita bread, topped with jarred sauce and shredded cheese with veggie toppings. It's a quick meal any time of the day — just bake for about five minutes in a 400 degree oven. Limit your serving to two slices, or two small tortillas — and pair with raw vegetables, a green salad, or fresh fruit to balance out the meal. (And, if you're looking for an extra serving of vegetables, swap out the whole grain crust for a cauliflower crust.)

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2. Fact or Myth?: Avoiding pasta will help you lose weight.

Myth: When it comes to losing weight, calories do count. And while pasta gets a bad rap when it comes to supporting healthy weight loss, it's the portion size that is the main issue — most people just eat too much.

A serving of pasta is defined as one cup, about the size of a lightbulb — not the size of your bowl. At 200 calories, the serving size is pretty skimpy for most people. While whole wheat pasta has more fiber than white flour, the calories are the same and most people have a greater sense of fullness for the same serving size.

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If you prefer white flour pasta, look for "semolina" which is higher in fiber and protein than other white flours. Spinach and tomato pasta are most similar to semolina pasta. The vegetable content in these is tiny, and provides no nutritional boost to the pasta. Pair your pasta with a protein like meatballs or chicken, and think of your pasta as a side dish, not the main event.

RELATED: How to cook perfect pasta every time

Chickpea and lentil pastas are good gluten-free choices, but weigh in at the same calories as all pastas. Fiber and protein rich, these can be worth a try. If you're looking for a larger portion without adding more than about 15 calories, try mixing one cup of zucchini linguini (zucchini strips) with one cup of regular linguini or spaghetti. Topped with tomato sauce, it's a tasty option.

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3. Fact or Myth?: Kettle chips are healthier than "plain ole" potato chips.

Myth: Potatoes are a nutrient-rich vegetable, but when they're deep fried into chips, it's a nutritional game-changer. While kettle cooked chips are sometimes crispier and often cooked in smaller batches, it's the same oil, same potatoes and same calories as plain old chips.

For a smart indulgence, stick with a single serving, about a handful (that's one ounce). You can trim about 1/3 of the calories for each of these by choosing baked or reduced-fat versions.

Remember that when it comes to healthy eating, there are no bad foods, just bad portions.

Madelyn Fernstrom is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor.

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