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Fitness, nutrition and lifestyle blogger from the pacific northwest.

What's for Lunch | Macro Friendly Baked Ziti

What's for Lunch | Macro Friendly Baked Ziti

Sometimes, counting macronutrients (see my post What is Flexible Dieting) can be overwhelming. When I first started this meal planning method, I was helping manage our CrossFit gym, working full time, and trying to pay off $165,000 in student loans in just over three years. Needless to say, I was stressed AND pressed for time. I needed macro-friendly options that were quick and easy to throw together as I ran from one thing to the next.

Enter Barilla's protein pasta, available from your local grocery store in the pasta section.

PAUSE: Your body needs protein to perform basic functions of processing your food and keeping all your systems running optimally. Even if you're not trying to build muscle, the right amount of protein is vital to your daily function. Our western diet however, is actually carb and fat heavy. When you consume excess carbs and fat, your body stores these in the form of fat. Your body has a reeeeeaaaaally hard time storing extra protein as fat. 

Unless you're being intentional about it, I'd venture to say most people don't eat nearly the recommended amount of daily protein. Because of my high volume workouts, I eat closer to one gram per bodyweight. That means I sneak protein into my meals whenever and however I can!

RESUME: A typical serving of pasta has less than three grams of protein per serving. But Barilla protein pasta has 15 - 17 grams per serving! WINNING! My IIFYM babe's baked ziti inspired take on this dish is creamy and full of flavor. I love this meal because it's super quick to throw together in the morning when I'm rushing around like a crazy woman before I leave for work. Alternatively, it feels like comfort food if I choose to have it for dinner! 

Macro Friendly Baked Ziti
3 ounces Barilla protein pasta (dry)
8 ounces 4% fat Darigold cottage cheese
1/2 cup tomato sauce
4 ounces Isernio's lean ground chicken (optional)
Garlic powder, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium high and add pasta. Stir occasionally. Around 10 minutes, strain water from pasta. 

Spoon pasta in your dish. Top with cottage cheese, tomato sauce, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. If you're making this for lunch at work, heat for two minutes and thirty seconds, stir, and enjoy!

Macros (excluding meat): 565 calories / 79 carbs / 13 g fat / 45 g protein
Macros (including meat): 705 calories / 79 g carbs / 18 g fat / 67 g protein

Notes from the chef:
Pasta: Alternatively, if you're prepping for the week and want to make a whole box of pasta, know that pasta typically doubles it's weight when boiled. So, 3 ounces dry pasta is six ounces cooked when you're portioning out. THAT'S A HELLA FUN AMOUNT OF PASTA TO EAT AND STILL LOOK SHREDDED. Happy day!

Cottage Cheese: I've experimented with different brands of cottage cheese and I like Darigold the best.

Why cottage cheese in the first place? It turns into a creamy, cheesy mess when heated. Also, it's packed with protein. My husband thought I was a total weirdo when I started making this dish until I made him try it. Now it's one of his favorite macro friendly meals. So don't judge just yet!

I recommend 4% fat because this meal is a little carb heavy. Your body processes carbs the quickest of all macronutrients, while it processes fat the slowest. That means your stomach will feel full longer when you eat a meal with a higher fat content, because the fat literally stays longer in your stomach. If 4% fat cottage cheese doesn't fit into your macros for the day, you can totally sub this out for reduced fat (2%), low-fat (1%), or non-fat cottage cheese. Warning--taste goes down progressively with fat content. If you want to give this meal a fair shot, make it as recommended the first time!

Tomato Sauce: My all-time favorite brand of marinara is a completely Paleo (no sugar) version that is AMAZING from Costco by Victoria White Linen. Unfortunately, it's carried only sporadically, so even though I stock up, I run out often. Tear. It's not the most macro-friendly, so I usually end up incorporating the lowest calorie version I can find from the grocery-store. Ragu makes a sugar free version I've seen in some stores, but since it's generally not available in my store, I use Simple Truth Organic or Best Choice. These are 60 calories a serving. SCORE!

Spices: What you add is totally up to you! I prefer garlic powder and heaps of crushed red pepper, but if you'd rather not to have to like, blow your nose after you eat, or down glasses of extra water, you can play with oregano, basil, onion powder, etc. 

Meat: I LOVE Isernio's lean ground chicken, typically available in the meat section of your local grocery store. I buy the pre-seasoned Italian version for the same price per pound as unseasoned. I make it in bulk on the weekend and then just dig into into for what I need for a particular meal during the week.

You don't have to add meat--it comes down to your available macro count and taste preferences. Since I have a lower macronutrient allotment as a 5 foot 2 inch female, I typically opt out of adding meat to this dish because the calories add up and I'd rather not eat the majority of my daily calories in one meal!

The best part of this meal is that all of these ingredients are adjustable for your macro and taste preferences. You can totally make adjustments up or down to fit your macros. So, bon appetite babes! Let me know what you think.

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