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Carbohydrate-rich pasta gives runners boost of energy

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25 2012 5:22 p.m. MDT

Grilled veggies with penne pasta can fuel a runner. (Regina H. Boone, Mct) Grilled veggies with penne pasta can fuel a runner. (Regina H. Boone, Mct)

To fuel up for a race, many runners turn to carbohydrate-rich pasta.

Carbohydrates boost runners' energy reserves — which is key for endurance events like marathons. Training for such events depletes those reserves.

"You want to make sure you have healthy carbohydrates that will replete energy stores in the muscle and liver," said registered dietitian Tina Miller, a Meijer Healthy Living adviser. "Pasta is the perfect, healthier way to get those stores repleted."

Miller suggests choosing fortified pasta because it's often higher in protein.

When looking to fill up before the big race, you might get overwhelmed by all the pasta choices on store shelves. There are those touted as being a good source of whole grains, some that are fortified and some that are gluten-free. But before you grab that box of spaghetti, be sure to read the label. With most pasta, the nutrition information reflects a 2-ounce dry serving; that equals 1 cup cooked pasta and has about 40 grams of carbohydrates.

Pasta that is touted as a good source of whole grain has about 5 grams of fiber per serving. One bonus to eating more fiber is that it helps you feel full longer.

Eating more whole grains is a key recommendation in the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which say that whole grains should make up at least half of all the grains you eat.

You can use any type of pasta in today's dish. If you haven't ventured into the whole wheat pasta world, this recipe is a good one to start with because of all the vegetables.

You can use just about any grilled vegetables — many are also good sources of carbohydrates and, of course, are low in fat. Just be sure to choose veggies that hold up well to grilling. Zucchini and red bell peppers are among my favorites.

Cut vegetables into slices at least ¼-inch-wide for easier turning on the grill. This also helps prevent them from falling through the grill grates.

You can prep everything in advance, but brush the vegetables with oil and seasoning no more than an hour or so before grilling. Vegetables that sit a while in oil (or in a marinade) can become mushy.

GRILLED VEGGIES WITH PENNE

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

If you have the ingredients prepped and ready to go, this recipe goes together quickly. Use regular pasta or a whole wheat variety.

1 pound penne pasta

2 pints grape tomatoes

1/3 cup fruity olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 medium (about 6-8 inches) eggplant

2 medium red onions

2 medium zucchini

1 large red pepper

1/2 teaspoon favorite salt-free all-purpose seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash

1 container (7-8 ounces) cherry or pearl-size fresh mozzarella, drained

1/3 cup fresh sliced basil or oregano leaves for garnish

Preheat the grill to medium-high. When the grill is hot, oil the grates.

While the grill heats up, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water, and keep warm.

Place grape tomatoes on a double piece of foil. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Enclose the tomatoes in the foil and place on the grill while you prepare the other vegetables.

Use a serrated knife to cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Slice the red onion into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut the red pepper into eighths.

Place all vegetables on a sided baking sheet. Brush both sides of vegetables with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil (using more if needed), sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper and salt-free seasoning.

Place all the vegetables on the grill and grill about 5 minutes on each side or until they are tender. They should have nice grill marks on each side. If some vegetables get done before the others, move them to a cooler part of the grill.

Check the grape tomatoes; they should have burst open in the foil packet and be nice and juicy.

Remove all the vegetables from the grill. Cut the eggplant, zucchini and red pepper into 1-inch pieces. Separate the red onion into rings.

In a large serving bowl, toss the hot pasta with the grilled vegetables. Add the tomatoes with all the juices and toss to coat. If the mixture seems too dry, drizzle with some of the reserved pasta water or use a bit more olive oil. Add the mozzarella and toss again. Serve in pasta bowls garnished with basil or oregano.

— from and tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen

Nutritional information (per serving): 534 calories (34 percent from fat), 20 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat), 69 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 863 mg sodium, 30 mg cholesterol, 11 grams fiber

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