Does losing weight have to mean giving up your favorite pasta dishes? While it’s true that pasta dishes are often high in calories, if you’re willing to make some changes, you won’t need to completely eliminate pasta from your diet. There are plenty of healthy pasta recipes you can continue enjoying even when you’re watching your weight.
Healthy pasta recipes result from smart decisions in shopping and cooking. Here, you’ll find out what to avoid — and you’ll learn some easy at-home pasta dishes that are nutritious and delicious.
Is Pasta Healthy?
Fresh pasta dishes have been a go-to comfort food for centuries, especially in European and Asian cultures.1
But despite this historic popularity, some people might question the effect pasta dishes have on overall health. These concerns might lead someone to nix pasta dishes completely as soon as they go on a diet.
The main issue is that they tend to be high in carbohydrates and calories. That calorie count only increases with the addition of cheeses and heavy cream-based sauces often found in traditional pasta dishes.2
Pasta-lovers, take heart: there are still plenty of ways you can incorporate healthy pasta dishes into your diet.
How To Make Healthy Pasta
The first step in forming a healthy pasta recipe is to choose the right kind of pasta. This doesn’t mean making a tough choice between fusilli, fettuccine, or orecchiette. Instead, this choice relates to what your pasta is made of.
Some healthy options are to choose a whole wheat pasta or even shirataki noodles, edamame noodles, or zucchini noodles. Unlike white pastas, whole wheat pastas and veggies noodles maintain more of their beneficial nutrients. The advantages of this kind of pasta include the following:
- More vitamins and minerals
- More protein
- More fiber
- Fewer calories3
But the type of pasta you use in your pasta dishes isn’t the only factor to consider. You also need to think about what kind of pasta sauce you use. There are some ingredients you’ll want to avoid.
The pasta sauce you buy in a jar is often filled with excessive amounts of sugar and sodium.4 This adds flavor but reduces the healthiness of your dish. And it’s not just sauces. So-called insta-pastas are especially guilty of including these ingredients in high amounts.5
To avoid this pitfall, try to make as much as you can at home. Let’s cover some of the best healthy pasta recipes you can make at home.
Shrimp Scampi Pasta
This healthy pasta recipe isn’t just delicious. Shrimp is filled with nutrients and also has fewer calories than beef or chicken.6
- 1 lb. healthy pasta of choice
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- Red pepper flakes
- 1 lb. shrimp
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare your selected healthy pasta as directed on the box or bag.
- In a separate skillet, sauté the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes over medium heat.
- Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta. Stir and serve right away.7
Healthy Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is a great option for those searching for healthy pasta recipes. It’s also one of the easiest pasta dishes to make.
Simply cook your pasta and add the vegetables you prefer. Popular ingredients for this pasta dish include:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Red Peppers
- Red Onions
Feel free to be creative in order to meet your nutrient needs. For instance, adding an ingredient like snap peas contain a hefty helping of vitamin A.9
Flavor is important too. If you enjoy spice, you can add chilies as well. The beauty of pasta salad is that it’s a flexible pasta dish that you can alter to your own personal preference.
One Pot Pasta
One-pot pasta dishes are a great option to simplify the process of making healthy pasta recipes.
Often, you can make these recipes using a slow cooker or Dutch oven. These tools offer an extremely low maintenance cooking process. Create your pasta dish by combining all of your favorite ingredients, and then sit back and wait for the cooking to be done.10
- 1 lb. pasta of choice
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe
- ⅓ cup walnut halves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Cook pasta as directed.
- Next, drain the pasta and add walnuts, garlic, and olive oil into the pasta pot. Sauté until the walnuts are toasted.
- Finally, add the pasta and broccoli rabe, and stir.11
Homemade Pasta Sauces
Pasta sauce can make or break a healthy pasta dish. To prevent pasta sauce from ruining your diet, learn how to make it at home.
Luckily, many pasta sauces are easy to make and require only a few ingredients. You can quickly make a custom version of your favorite sauces without sacrificing flavor.
For example, here is a simple-yet-delicious homemade pesto recipe. You will need:
- 2 cups basil
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅔ cup olive oil12
Add all of these ingredients to a food processor and blend. You’ll have a pesto pasta sauce that you can eat right away or freeze and eat later.
Tomato sauces are also easy to make. Here is a tasty option.
- 1 medium onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 medium carrots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cans crushed tomatoes (14.5 oz. each)
- Parsley to taste
- Basil to taste
- Sauté onions, celery, and carrots over medium heat. Add garlic and olive oil.
- Let the mixture sit until the garlic is browned.
- Add tomatoes and herbs, and let the entire mixture simmer for half an hour.13
Nourishing Noodles That Won’t Break Your Diet
By choosing healthier pasta, homemade pasta sauces, and opting for lots of veggies in your recipes, you can enjoy pasta dishes without the guilt. Plus, they taste great, and you’ll be supporting your health and the health of those you cook for.
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