If you’re a pasta lover and simply can’t get enough of the stuff, chances are good you’re on the lookout for what you can add to pasta to make it even healthier. While pasta itself isn’t an unhealthy food, it’s not really a healthy one either.
It’s basically just a source of complex carbohydrates, and while it does contain a few nutrients, it leaves much to be desired. Does this mean you shouldn’t eat it? Certainly not! If you enjoy pasta and want to eat it in moderation, by all means, go ahead. But do consider adding a few healthy mix-ins that will take your nutrition up a notch.
The first food to consider adding to your pasta is chicken. Chicken is a great option and a very common one because it’ll help make for a more complete meal and provide your body with much-needed protein.
Eating just pasta alone can be problematic as it may increase blood glucose levels, which could set you up for a blood glucose spike followed by a crash. It’s far better if you can serve up some pasta with a balanced mix of protein and fats, and chicken will help provide that protein.
Grill it with some olive oil when you prepare it and you’ll also just have your healthy fat intake as well.
Alternatively, if you want something other than chicken, you can look into adding shrimp. Shrimp is a great choice for anyone who wants to keep their meal as lean as possible as shrimp is very low in calories and is virtually fat-free.
Shrimp is fast and easy to cook, so it tends to be an excellent addition to your dish.
Red Bell Peppers
It’s also important to consider adding some vegetables to your pasta, as these will help to provide an excellent dose of antioxidants and nutrients, helping to take your health one step further.
Most people are currently not getting in the level of antioxidants they should each day, so that’s another reason to sneak peppers into your pasta. Plus, if you load up your pasta with vegetables, you can still eat a good volume of food despite taking in fewer calories (since vegetables are so low in calories).
Bell peppers work well with many pasta dishes so they tend to be a good go-to option.
What pairs together great with red peppers? Mushrooms! Mushrooms are a perfect addition to just about any pasta dish. While they may not be conventionally used in dishes like lasagna or spaghetti, give it a try. You might just be surprised at how delicious they can taste.
Mushrooms are one vegetable that is quite high in total protein content as well, so if you’re struggling to get your protein needs met, this is one that you’ll certainly want to consider.
You might even look into different mushroom varieties as well and step outside the box with some Portobello mushrooms or even some shiitake mushrooms instead.
Both can be great additions to your pasta dish.
Light Parmesan Cheese
If you’re a lover of all things cheese, you probably already know that pasta and cheese go together like bread and butter.
Macaroni and cheese and lasagna are two classics that pair together these two ingredients but you can also incorporate cheese into just about any pasta dish.
Just one word of warning: cheese will add significant calories, so add it in moderation.
If you can use a lower-fat cheese, by all means, do so. Light Parmesan cheese, for instance, is a great option because it’s already naturally high in protein and lower in fat than many cheese variations and is easy to sprinkle on once your pasta is finished cooking.
If you are in the mood for a quick and easy meal, it doesn’t get much easier than simply sautéing some onions in a little olive oil and garlic and then serve those over some freshly cooked pasta and shrimp or chicken. Onions bring a wealth of flavor to your dish and also provide very few calories, so are another easy add.
Olives are often forgotten, as many people just think of olive oil, but yet they are a fantastic option for those who are looking to liven up their pasta dish. Olives are the go-to for pizza, but can also work very well on pasta.
Olives, despite being small, do pack in a wealth of nutrition so should not be overlooked. Like olive oil, they’re a rich source of monounsaturated fats and can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
They’re also great for lowering your cholesterol level if high cholesterol is something that you’re concerned with.
Finally, if cold pasta is your thing, consider a pasta salad made with hard-boiled eggs. Eggs are fast and easy to prepare and will also supply you with a great dose of protein and vitamins.
While eggs do have some cholesterol so you should limit yourself to just one or two a day. After you satisfy your limit of that one or two eggs, you can simply use egg whites from then on.
Eggs add a light and enjoyable flavor to a cold pasta dish.
So keep these in mind and don’t be afraid to liven up your pasta dishes with any of these delicious additions. If pasta is your go-to carb source for most dinner meals, it’ll be important that you are finding additions to use with it so that you don’t run into diet boredom and begin falling off the wagon of your healthy eating plan.
Shannon Clark is your go-to-girl. She holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology. In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 12 years now, and has helped others of all ages lose weight, build muscle, and improve their physical performance.