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A Formula for Healthier Pasta

Published by , on Sep 10, 2014

HealthyMealWhen planning your family’s meals, focusing more on fruits and vegetables is best – with the goal of having fruits and/or veggies make up at least half of each meal. For pasta recipes, it’s ideal to include TWICE as many veggies as pasta and EQUAL PARTS pasta and protein.

Below is a list of recommended veggies and proteins that you can add to your favorite pasta recipes to create healthier meals using this “formula.” These suggestions are provided by Ashley Cappel, registered dietitian for CHoR’s Healthy Lifestyles Center. Check out some of Ashley’s favorite healthy versions of traditional pasta recipes – Lemon Pasta, Pasta Pesto and Fettuccine Alfredo – and be sure to toss in some of the recommended veggies and proteins listed below for added taste and nutrition!

Suggested veggies to add to pasta recipes


  • Keep frozen broccoli, peas and other veggies or mixed veggies around to add to pastas. These can be tossed in with the pasta while it boils.

  • Bake or microwave spaghetti squash and scrape out the nutritious strands inside to add this to your favorite spaghetti dish. This will add extra fiber and oomph without the calories.

  • Greens, such as spinach, arugula, bok choy and kale, are easy to add and offer even more nutritional benefits when cooked. Spinach and arugula will gently cook when tossed with hot pasta. Sauté or steam bok choy or kale before adding to your pasta dish as these greens are a bit tougher.

  • Veggies are tastiest, cheapest and most nutritious when they are in season. Bell peppers, broccolini, carrots, cherry tomatoes, leeks, mushrooms, olives and snow peas work well in pasta dishes and are considered to be in season all year round. Learn more about when other vegetables are in season throughout the year.

  • Herbs count too! Evidence suggests they play a significant role in our long-term health. Basil and parsley are common additions to pasta recipes. Be sure to try cilantro, mint and other herbs too.


Recommended proteins to add to pasta dishes
To add more nutrients and create a more filling dish, try tossing one or more of these proteins into your pasta recipes:


  • Pre-cooked chicken or pork

  • Turkey of ham from the deli

  • Tuna

  • Chickpeas

  • Tofu

  • Edamame

  • Imitation crab meat


Don’t forget high fiber, vegetarian protein options as well
Vegetarian proteins, such as beans and lentils, pack an extra punch of fiber, protein and iron without the fats that meats can sometimes contain. There are a wide variety of healthy proteins available. View more options.

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