Absolutely! There are many healthy foods that don’t take long to prepare at all. The question comes down to how to incorporate them together in order to create a great-tasting, balanced, filling meal that the whole family will love. An easy way to do this is by starting with a base like pasta. Not only does pasta cook in under 10 minutes, it is also the perfect canvas for colorful veggies, lean proteins like beef, chicken or fish and fiber-rich foods like kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas, and a multitude of simple sauces. Here are a few shortcuts for making healthy pasta meals your family will love:
Keep Cans on Hand
Canned vegetables and canned beans are a lifesaver when time is short and they are the ideal partner for pasta dishes. Check out this Smoked Salmon and Mixed Bean Ziti, which uses green beans and kidney beans, or this Tuna and Chickpea Pasta Salad, which can easily be pulled together using canned tuna.
Buy pre-cut or pre-bagged veggies
Combine pre-sliced carrots, zucchini, cauliflower or broccoli with pasta when you are just too exhausted to cook and need a quick, easy meal in a hurry. Simply open a bag, stir-fry some veggies and add some cooked pasta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and garlic and your favorite herb or seasoning blend and you have a nutritious meal in minutes. Need some inspiration? Try this Pork, Mushroom & Noodle Stir-Fry and include bagged veggies or fresh ones!
Don’t Forget Frozen
Like canned, frozen vegetables offer a wealth of culinary possibilities and pair beautifully with pasta. Consider this Green Bean, Carrot, and Gemelli Pasta. You can easily find frozen veggie combinations like carrots and green beans, toss together with pasta, and voilà, a healthy and delicious meal!
Most times all it takes to make a veggie-focused meal your family will love is just a little prep the night before. Clean and chop individual vegetables and other ingredients and seal them in airtight containers in the refrigerator for the next day. Simple sauces or dressings like pesto or vegetable-based purees can also be prepared in advance and sometimes even taste better the next day. You can even cook your pasta the night before, but be sure it is al dente!
Not only does pasta taste great and pair well with other healthy ingredients, but pasta itself is also a nutritious food! In fact, the 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines (DGA) recommend consuming 45% to 65% of your total calories from carbohydrates, which makes pasta a perfect staple to incorporate into your everyday diet. It is a fat-free, low-sodium food that can easily fit into a weight loss or weight management program. One cup of cooked pasta contains just 200 calories. Additionally, recent research from Frontiers in Nutrition found after analyzing the diets of adults and children who eat pasta, pasta consumption in both children and adults is associated with better diet quality and better nutrient intakes than that of those adults and children who do not eat pasta.
Pasta is also an important component and staple of the Mediterranean Diet, which has consistently been shown to be one of the healthiest and most popular lifestyle diets around the world. The Mediterranean Diet focuses on foods like grains, vegetables, legumes, and seafood, all of which can be added to a bowl of pasta to make a healthy and delicious meal.
Pasta is a beloved staple in so many recipes and diets, and it’s something to be celebrated! Plus, pasta can be made with speed and ease and will fit the palate of even the pickiest eater. When thinking about your next meal, consider pasta, and try one of the recipes above! You can also find plenty more pasta recipes at Share the Pasta.