My day on a plate…Dinner

Spinach and walnut pesto with spaghetti

I love this dinner, it’s quick and easy as well as healthy and nutritious. IMG_0561

This is a good post exercise meal as it has protein for recovery from the walnuts and pasta for carbohydrates to replenish the energy you have used during the session which is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Even if you are trying to lose weight and following a low carbohydrate diet after exercise it is a good idea to have some carbs as you muscle glycogen stores will be low and need replenishing to make sure you recover and have energy for your next workout.

Extra Virgin Olive oil and walnuts are both good sources of monounsaturated fat ‘good fats’ which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and research suggests that they may even play a role in improving your mood and brain power.

Spinach is rich in vitamins which help repair and protect the body and keep the immune system strong. It is also rich in minerals such as iron important for helping the blood produce red blood cells which are vital for carrying oxygen around the body. As well as calcium for healthy bones.

Wholegrain or white pasta

I often choose to cook this with wholegrain spaghetti sometimes as a lunch if I am doing a workout in the evening. Wholegrain pasta has a low Glycaemic Index (Low GI) meaning the carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed slowly into your bloodstream which means they will give you sustained energy throughout the afternoon so will be perfect if you are working out after work. It also contains more fibre, vitamin and minerals than white pasta.

However if you are having this meal after exercising white pasta is a good option as at this time you body is very receptive to carbohydrates. White pasta’s High Glycaemic Index (high GI) means it is broken down quickly replenishing your stores in your muscles and liver and improving your recovery ready for your next workout. The ideal window for High GI carbohydrates after exercise is within an hour of finishing exercise if eaten within this time they won’t give you the typical spike in energy high GI foods can cause if not preceded by exercise.

Not keen on wholegrain pasta? New research which was featured in 2013 on BBC Trust me I am Doctor Has found that …

Cooking pasta and then cooling it down changes the structure of the pasta, turning it into something that is called “resistant starch”.
It’s called “resistant starch” because once pasta, potatoes or any starchy food is cooked and cooled it becomes resistant to the normal enzymes in our gut that break carbohydrates down and releases glucose that then causes the familiar blood sugar surge.
So, according to scientist Dr Denise Robertson, from the University of Surrey, if you cook and cool pasta down then your body will treat it much more like fibre, creating a smaller glucose peak and helping feed the good bacteria that reside down in your gut. You will also absorb fewer calories, making this a win-win situation… – cooking, cooling and then reheating the pasta had an even more dramatic effect. Or to be precise, an even smaller effect on blood glucose.

In other words having pasta cold or reheated lowers it’s GI meaning it will break down slowly and give you sustained energy much like the same as eating wholewheat pasta.


The recipe is a guideline but you can add a little more or less of any of the ingredients to taste. You can also add a ¼ of a glove of raw garlic finely grated.

If you are calorie counting following this recipe there is approx 750 caloriesper serving using the quantities below. To cut calories to approx 600 calories reduce pasta to 150g, cut down walnuts to 50g and cheese to 40g.

Serves 2
50g Spinach
65g Walnuts
Approx 50g-A couple of handfuls plus a little extra to serve- Parmesan/Grana Padano
Approx 30ml -Extra virgin olive oil but I don’t really measure this just judge how much I need as I make the pesto
180g Wholegrain Pasta

Put the water on and cook your pasta according to the instructions.
Toast the walnuts lightly and crush-not too small as the chunky pieces as a nice texture to the dish.
Blend the spinach a little at a time. Process until smooth adding a little extra virgin olive oil as you go.
Combine the spinach and walnuts add a handful of freshly grated parmesan
Add oil until you get a nice thick consistency that will nicely coat your pasta.
To serve stir the pesto into the pasta. Reserve a few large walnut pieces, a little parmesan and a few spinach leaves to sprinkle on top.
Bon appétit.

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