7 Ways to Make Pasta Healthier

Lasagna Vegetable Pasta

Pasta is a staple in many households, and for good reason. It’s inexpensive, easy to make, and most people enjoy it. Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes, but each rendition has one thing in common: they’re made from wheat flour and water. The most famous varieties are long pastas such as spaghetti and macaroni, short pastas such as rigatoni or penne, and hollow forms including tortellini, gnocchi, and lasagna. These days, you can find many pasta shapes and sizes.

As versatile as it is, why do some people think you should limit your consumption or avoid it entirely? Pasta has gotten a bad rap over the years because it has been associated with being fattening and unhealthy, but this isn’t always the case. There are things you can do to make your favorite noodles healthier and more nutritious, let’s explore some of those.

Watch your portions

Be aware of portion sizes. This can seem like an obvious tip, but it’s important because people often underestimate how much they eat, and it’s easy to overdo it when you’re eating pasta. It’s easy to help yourself to a large plate of pasta. A single serving size is around two ounces of dry pasta while most people eat more than this because they’re so used to the heaping portions restaurants serve. Be sure you know what the serving size for your favorite dish is before digging in. Enjoy it slowly and mindfully, stopping to place your fork on the plate to slow down and appreciate its taste.

Pair your pasta with vegetables

Since pasta is a high-glycemic food, it’s best to pair pasta with vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates. Here are some examples of low-carbs veggies that go well with pasta:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Bell peppers (green and red)
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Leafy greens

You can add veggies to your pasta in many ways. One way is to cook them in the sauce, so the heat softens the vegetables and they take on the flavor of the sauce. When you add veggies to pasta, you get more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. The extra fiber reduces the glucose response to the pasta. The take-home message? Watch your portion sizes and pair pasta with fiber-rich veggies.

Switch pasta for zoodles

Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, are a popular alternative to pasta. They’re low-carb and gluten-free and taste delicious paired with sauces. Although some grocery stores sell pre-spiralized zoodles in the fresh produce department, you can make your own at home with an inexpensive spiralizer. Spiralized veggies are tasty with pesto, cheese sauces, and tomato sauces.

A small spiralized zucchini has only 4 grams of carbohydrates while a cup of pasta spaghetti has over 10-fold that amount. Plus, your body digests the carbs in zoodles more slowly so that blood sugar levels don’t spike or crash too quickly after eating them.

Add herbs and spices

Herbs and spices add flavor but that’s not the only reason to add them to pasta. Research shows, that gram for gram, herbs, and spices have more antioxidant activity than fruits and vegetables. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.

So, skip the butter or heavy olive oil and use fresh herbs instead to liven up your pasta dish. Try parsley or basil — they add flavor without adding extra fat and calories. You could also use garlic or lemon juice as a topping instead of more butter or olive oil. If you add oil to your pasta, choose extra-virgin olive, avocado, or walnut oil, as they contain more heart-healthy fats than butter.

Here are some ways to incorporate herbs and spices into your pasta dishes:

  • Add herbs and spices to the water before cooking. Adding herbs or spices before boiling pasta will infuse the water with flavor and nutrients from the herb or spice.
  • Add chopped fresh herbs directly to dishes after cooking.
  • Mince garlic cloves and add them to olive oil before adding tomatoes, garlic, onions, and other vegetables for an Italian-style dish.
  • Toss pasta gently with fresh herbs, like parsley or basil, until they wilt slightly and release their flavor into the noodles.

Choose seasonally appropriate recipes

Pasta dishes are often heavy on cheese and meat, which makes them more flavorful but less healthy. But you have other options. Another choice is to make your pasta with seasonal ingredients. For example, in springtime when vegetables like asparagus and zucchini are at their peak, add them to pasta dishes for a vegetarian pasta dish. For a higher protein dish, add beans or legumes instead of animal products like beef—it will add more fiber to your pasta dish too. Cooking seasonally means you get the freshest ingredients and the most nutritious.

Don’t use high-sugar pasta sauces

Sugar is not a healthy addition to your diet, rather it’s empty calories. The average person in the United States consumes 8,000 teaspoons of sugar each year. It’s a contributor to weight gain and obesity. Plus, sugar consumption and weight gain fuel insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, diets high in sugar cause blood sugar swings that can cause a drop in energy a few hours after eating them.

Most pasta sauces contain some form of added sugars—whether it’s tomatoes or herbs cooked with sugar, or some other form of sweetener manufacturers add during preparation. If you buy prepared pasta sauce, read the label, and look for one with no added sugar. Even better, make your own, so you control the ingredients.

Skip the pasta accompaniments

What do you eat with your pasta? For many people, it’s Italian bread and butter, leading to carb and calorie overload. Pasta isn’t exactly a low-calorie meal in general, but when you eat it with breadsticks or garlic bread, the calorie count, and carbs skyrocket. Instead of having a carb overload before your meal even begins, try ordering a salad instead or skipping the bread altogether. And hold off on that rich Italian dessert at the end of your meal!


Hopefully, this article inspires you to make pasta a little healthier. By making a few changes, like using zoodles instead of noodles, and using no added sugar pasta sauce, you can enjoy a healthy, but delicious, Italian meal.


  • “Insulin Resistance and Diabetes | CDC.” https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/insulin-resistance.html.
  • “Zoodles Nutrition Facts – Eat This Much.” https://www.eatthismuch.com/food/nutrition/zoodles,1586390/.

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