Today’s healthy pasta meals have roots that stretch back to ancient times. Thousands of years ago, people ground wheat, mixed it with water to make a wheat paste, dried it, and then boiled it to go with meals. Today’s consumers welcome pasta to their tables for its versatility and convenience, just as nutrition scientists recognize pasta meals for their place in healthy eating patterns, such as the “gold standard” Mediterranean Diet and the traditional Latin American diet.
In the early 2000s, during the no-carb, low-carb diet craze that swept through this country, pasta was added to a laundry list of other foods to avoid. It was suggested that carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes, rice, and even fruit should be eliminated in order to lose or maintain weight. Like other fad diets that preach an all-or-nothing tactic with speciﬁc foods, “no-carb” didn’t work. Read on to learn why pasta has a very healthy, very delicious, and very easy place in a healthy diet.
What Makes a Healthy Pasta Meal?
A healthy pasta meal is truly the sum of its parts, and features two key factors: what you pair with your pasta, and how much pasta you eat in a meal. Pasta is an ideal partner for healthy foods and ingredients such as vegetables, beans, and herbs (whole or in sauce form) and extra virgin olive oil. Nuts, ﬁsh, and small amounts of meat or cheese can also be added for extra ﬂavor and protein. Pasta’s versatility allows for almost endless preparations. Healthy pasta meals are a balance of pleasure and health!
Here are some our favorite healthy combos
- Angel hair with shrimp and tomato marinara or lemon pepper sauce
- Penne with arugula and walnut pesto, peas, and grilled chicken
- Orecchiete with broccoli rabe and chicken sausage
- Greek-style lasagna with zucchini, kalamata olives, tomatoes, oregano, and feta
- Pasta e fagioli, a classic Italian soup with pasta, white beans, and plenty of veggies
- Sopa de Fideos, a classic Mexican noodle soup
Once you’ve picked tasty and healthy additions to your pasta of choice, pay attention to how much you’re putting on your plate. According to most dietitians, a healthy serving of pasta for an adult is one-half to two-thirds cup of cooked pasta, which is much less than most people are used to seeing on their plates and in restaurants! Fill out your plate with extra vegetables and lean sources of protein such as ﬁsh or beans.