Healthy Pasta Meals: How to Make Your Favorites Healthier

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Pasta is a favorite food for many people. There is so much you can do with it. Spaghetti and meatballs, Pasta Primavera, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Penne Vodka - the list of pasta dishes can go on and on, but most of the time these dishes are prepared in an unhealthy way using lots of creams, butters, and oils. One of the biggest problems with pasta is that it is a high carbohydrate food and you do not get a lot of bang for your buck. If you eat white pasta you really do not get too much nutritional value - one cup of white pasta contains 45g of carbohydrate and no fiber. It is high on the glycemic index that causes serum blood sugars to rise. This results in a vicious cycle of highs and lows in your blood sugar due to poor satiety and cravings that cause you to keep eating. Below you will learn how to make healthy pasta meals.

Healthy Pasta Meals

Making healthy pasta meals can be really simple to do. The first thing you want to do is opt for the whole-wheat pasta. The whole-wheat pasta will give you fiber and some protein. Some of my favorites are Barilla Plus, Ronzoni Smart Taste, and Dreamfields.

  • Barilla Plus provides 38g of carbohydrate, 4g of fiber and 10g of protein per cup cooked.
  • Ronzoni Smart Taste provides 40g of carbohydrate, 5g fiber, and 6g of protein.
  • Dreamfields provides 41g of carbohydrate, 5g of fiber, and 7g of protein.

The other problem with pasta is the type of sauce that you put on it. A cream sauce or a cheese sauce like those used in Fettuccine Alfredo, Penne Vodka, or macaroni and cheese will never do you any good in the calorie department. It usually adds a lot of calories from fat. When wanting to make a cream sauce try using skim or reduced fat milk, low fat cheese - sometimes depending on the recipe you may be able to substitute fat free sour cream or yogurt to give you the consistency that you are looking for.

Another alternative to your creamy sauces are a red sauce or a wine sauce. These will definitely save on fat calories as long as you do not use a lot of oil. The use of tomato sauce will also count as a vegetable.

For pasta dishes that call for an added protein source go with lean protein. Use a little grilled chicken, shrimp, or scallops - never use breaded and fried meat to your pasta dish. Do not forget to mix in your favorite vegetables. If you do not have time to wash and cut fresh vegetables use frozen vegetables. They can be steamed in their own bag in the microwave. Then toss them into your pasta dish. Mixing the pasta, protein, and vegetable together will help you feel like you are eating a much larger portion of pasta then you are because you are eating everything else with it.

A Message From Your RD

It is really easy to create healthy pasta meals if you put a little effort into your meal planning. In summary, follow the tips below to make your healthy pasta meals.

  • Always think whole wheat pasta
  • Add a lean protein like shrimp or grilled chicken
  • Use a red sauce or wine sauce over a cream sauce
  • Do not forget your vegetables for extra bulk to your meal


This information is based on my education and experience working at SHS Nutrition, LLC in Piscataway, NJ.

Ronzoni Pasta

Barilla Plus

Dreamfields Pasta