Monday, January 21, 2013
11:32 AM Connie 3 comments
Pasta dishes are quick and easy to prepare, making them the perfect choice when you want to whip up a quick meal. If you like convenience as much as I do, you like the idea of preparing your whole meal in one pot so there are less dishes to wash. But you have to be a bit careful with a pasta dinner because it can easily become laden with calories and fats. Just keep these tips in mind to help you prepare easy, healthy pasta recipes that are scrumptious and nutritious.
Choose the Right Pasta
If you want a healthy pasta dish, you have to start with the basics, which is the pasta itself. Pasta is mainly carbohydrates and small amounts of protein and fat, but whole grain pasta contains much more of the good stuff. It contains healthy parts of the grain including fiber, which is good for the heart and the digestive system. Whole grain pasta is digested more slowly, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels and makes you feel full longer, which helps prevent those snack attacks later.
Not a fan of whole wheat or whole-grain pasta? Try using half whole grain and half white until you get used to it, or try buying the white whole-grain varieties that most stores carry. ("Ronzoni Smart Taste" is one brand available in my area.)
Check Portion Sizes
You can have too much of a good thing, so always check portion sizes. An ounce of uncooked pasta has approximately 100 calories and measures about half a cup when cooked. A cup of cooked pasta has around 180 to 200 calories. Be sure to get the right portion size to maintain a healthy weight. It is very easy to get too much, especially when you compare your serving to those giant-sized servings you get in most pasta restaurants. Holy ravioli! (Trust me, they are overfeeding us:)
Vegetables add nutrition as well as volume to your pasta recipes. Make sure to include onions, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, etc. Don't forget my favorite - kale! Vegetables can be sauteed or steamed before tossing them in the cooked pasta.
You will find some really easy and delicious pasta recipes in the Healthy Express Cookbook: 101 Fresh, Light & Quick Dinners by Erin Rogers. This is an e-book that I highly recommend because the recipes really are light and healthy, yet they are simple enough for anyone to make. Some of the pasta recipes include Rustic Ravioli Stew, Lemon Scallops with Angel Hair and Angel Hair with Pesto and Grilled Chicken. Yummy, right? And they don't use exotic ingredients either. For example, all you need to make the Rustic Ravioli Stew are garlic, onion, rosemary, beef broth, ravioli, spinach and tomatoes. Simple and real, just the way I like it.
Add Healthy Protein
Now that you have your carbohydrates (the pasta) and vegetables, it's time to put in some healthy protein for a deliciously healthy pasta recipe. Grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast turns a simple pasta dish into a scrumptious main course. You can also saute or steam some shrimp to top off your pasta dish.
The Secret is in the Sauce
Sauce matters when it comes to pasta. A healthy whole-grain pasta can turn into a nutritional nightmare if it becomes laden with fats and calories. You may want to stay away from pasta recipes that are heavy on cream. One of the healthiest recipes for pasta sauce is a simple marinara or tomato sauce. Simply simmer tomatoes with fresh basil and oregano. A little olive oil, finely chopped garlic and fresh basil also make a simple yet delicious pasta dish.
Pasta Salad Recipes
A pasta salad can be a side dish or a meal in itself. Cooked whole wheat pasta shells, spirals, bow ties, or macaroni make the perfect base for a healthy pasta salad recipe. Pasta salads also offer a way make use of that leftover chicken, tuna, vegetables, etc. Add low fat mayo, sour cream or yogurt, and some capers, smoked salmon and chopped hard boiled egg for a gourmet recipe.
See my Tomato Kale Pasta Salad recipe, too!
What's your favorite healthy pasta recipe? Share below!
Need more ideas for simple, light dinner ideas? Try the Healthy Express Cookbook: 101 Fresh, Light & Quick Dinners by Erin Rogers. It is chock full of really easy and healthy recipes. Click here for more.