7 Tips for Enjoying Pasta the Healthy Way

This simple, hearty food—traditionally made from wheat—has satisfied people’s palates for centuries. Though pasta got a bad rap during the low-carb craze of the late 1990s, now we’ve come full circle in our healthy appreciation for this delicious dish. Here are 7 Tips for Enjoying Pasta the Healthy Way.

7 Tips for Enjoying Pasta the Healthy Way

Swiss Chard Pecan Lasagna

1. Whole Grains Bonanza. If you choose wisely, pasta can be a good source of fiber-rich whole grains, which have been linked with a landslide of health benefits, including helping you to live a longer, healthier life. Shoot for at least three servings of whole grains every day.

2. Look Beyond the Label. A wide range of whole grain pastas are now available in supermarkets, but looks can be deceiving. Some products may be labeled “multigrain,” “whole grain,” or “healthy carb,” but that doesn’t mean they are made of 100% whole grain. Look for pastas that list whole grains first on the ingredients list.

Lentil Walnut Bolognese with Spaghetti

3. Whole Grains Add Up. Pastas are often made with a combination of whole and refined grains; if a product contains 51 percent of the total weight (or eight total grams of whole grains) of a whole grain, it counts as a half-serving. These pastas can still be a substantial source of healthy whole grains in your diet.

Use alternative grain or pulse pasta in recipes such as Lemony Garden Peas with Pasta.

4. In Search of Alternative Grains. Many of today’s pastas are made with alternative grains, including brown rice, quinoa, spelt, Kamut, corn, barley, rye, and millet, making them the perfect solution if you must avoid the gluten in wheat because of conditions like celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. These pastas also offer a healthy, whole grain alternative for the whole family.

Pasta with Marinara and Roasted Vegetables

5. Low-Glycemic Bonus. Pasta—even when made from refined white flour—has the privilege of being a low-glycemic index food. Because of the way pasta is produced, the starches get trapped in the wheat protein matrix and become less rapidly absorbed into your blood stream. This low-glycemic response can give you the advantage of feeling more satisfied for a longer period.

Fresh Cranberry Beans with Pasta and Greens

6. Portion Buster. The biggest challenge in dishing up a healthy pasta meal is sheer portion size. Most people pile up double, triple, or even quadruple the recommended serving size, which is one ounce of dried pasta or one-half cup cooked. The next time you cook pasta, get out a one-half cup measuring cup and place a portion on your plate so you can get some visual perspective on what a serving looks like.

Farmers Market Pasta Salad

7. Load up the Veggies. What’s the real secret for tuning your pasta meal into a nutritious winner? Pile on the health-protective veggies by stirring in tomato sauce, herbs, garlic, sautéed veggies such as onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and zucchini; or green leafies like kale, spinach, arugula and chard. Buon appetito!

Image: Mushroom Bomb Lentil Pasta, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

For other tips on eating a healthy plant-based diet, check out the following:

Simple Plant-Based Swaps for Every Meal
3 Super Strategies for Making Plant-Based Easy
7 Steps to Go Plant-Based

Check out these videos of me making some of my favorite pasta dishes:

Lentil Walnut Bolognese
Cauliflower Spinach Lasagna