Aloha, Diet!

by Marge Perry on January 19, 2013

I know– it’s my own fault. But it was worth it.

I just returned from a wonderful week in Maui with my husband, children (they are still my children, even if they are legally adults) and father. When I look out my office window at slushy snow under dismal skies, I close my eyes and see spinner dolphins leap and turn — just because they can; my son stumble from the sea, exhausted but triumphant after a day of surfing; my daughter’s sun-kissed face glowing in the candlelight of Mama’s Fish House, where we celebrated her brand new graduate school degree; my Dad in his lai, hamming it up for my camera; and my husband’s sweet face, so close to mine I can hear his breath, as we stand hand in hand watching the sun set over the water.

In addition to these treasured memories, I seem to have brought home a couple of new pounds around my middle. Apparently, that is what happens when you drink an extra glass of wine every night and keep sticking your fork in everyone’s desserts.

So now it is time for me to lose those new pounds, along with a few old ones that have been hanging around too long. To do so, I turn to the one time-proven method that truly aids weight loss. Seriously, no matter what your eating plan– low carb, low fat, paleo, high protein, Weight Watchers or any of the gazillion other diets out there– this one thing has been proven to be more effective than almost any other: keep a food diary. Record every morsel that goes in your mouth. For me, that includes all those tiny spoonfuls we taste as we develop recipes, because they add up. I am using an  app called LoseIt! and tracking calories. Ebo, who also put on a few, is using the Men’s Weight Watcher’s plan, so he has to count points. Either way, we are completely accountable for every thing that goes in our mouths. And that makes you think a whole lot about what you are eating– much more than if you were to follow a diet but not log what you eat, because then it is easy to dismiss the little tastes of this and that.

This Pasta Fagioli is a great dish when you want to lose weight. A bowl has only 279 calories, and it is hearty enough to feel like a meal. I can keep portion size containers of it in the freezer and microwave it for lunch. A bowl of the soup and a salad full of crunchy chopped vegetables makes a satisfying dinner– one I will count on to help banish those new pounds before my tan fades.

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Pasta Fagioli

The soup thickens as it stands: add water or broth as needed.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped red onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomato with basil, garlic and oregano

1 cup (about 5 1/2 ounces) orzo pasta

2 15-ounce cans lower sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated or shaved parmesan

1. Heat the oil in a soup pot set over medium high. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary, and cook, stirring often, 1 minute until garlic is slightly softened. Add the carrots and celery and cook until somewhat softened, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Stir in the beans, cook 1 minute to heat through, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Top each bowl with grated or shaved parmesan.

Makes 6 servings

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 279 calories, 12 g protein, 49 g carbohydrates, 10 g fiber, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 398 mg sodium

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Carter January 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm

So happy for you that you were able to enjoy a vacation in Hawaii with your family. Why did I expect those flakes to be coconut? LOL… This recipe looks great. As a lifetime WW’er, I favor the Simply Filling plan when I can, which focuses on Power Foods. If you switch the orzo to barley instead, (and skimp on the parmesan), these are all ‘power foods’. Barley is pretty similar to orzo, and definitely higher in fiber. Thanks for this and good luck!


Marge January 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Anne– That is very funny about the parmesan/coconut. It made me think of the yummy toasted coconut candy I had in Maui. Sigh: another good reason I need to keep my mouth shut for a while. :)
Whether for WW or not, I do love your idea of making this soup with barley in place of the pasta. And I might use quick cooking barley (by Mother’s or Quaker) to make this a meal I can get on the table in under 30 minutes. (I really love quick cooking barley as a weeknight side dish, too. I’ll have to post one of my recipes soon).
Under your WW plan, would whole grain pasta count as a power food, too?
(I don’t tend to like 100% whole wheat pastas, but I really like Barilla Plus mixed grain pasta. While it doesn’t come in an orzo shape, one could break up the spaghetti.)


Anne Carter January 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I’ll watch for your barley recipe(s), Marge. 100% ww pasta does count as a power food, but whole grain pasta doesn’t, and the ww plan would say you count points for the whole grain pasta. But that’s okay — following Simply Filling would give you 49 weekly points to play with.


Kimberly Winter Stern January 20, 2013 at 9:41 am

Handy-dandy useful, Marge! Sounds like your trip was multi-faceted, which of course is how you travel–uncovering every little nugget. Happy New Year!


Marge January 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Kimberly– I can’t wait to travel with you again, soon!


Kurt Jacobson January 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

It’s a great time of the year to eat healthy. I suspect you will have no problem paying up for your vacation fun. Heaven forbid you should have held back in Hawii!


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