Research shows that eating pasta is associated with higher intakes of total vegetables and red vegetables in particular – think tomatoes. One reason for this is that pasta is the perfect vehicle for adding vegetables into your diet. Plus it naturally pairs well and tastes delicious with colorful vegetables like broccoli, red pepper, eggplant, cauliflower and spinach.
Pasta is a culinary staple that has been nourishing and sustaining people all over the world for centuries. It is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index. Foods with a low glycemic index are slowly absorbed and digested, which helps keep blood sugar levels in check. Complex carbohydrates provide energy for physical activity and are the main source of energy for your brain. But that isn’t all, combined with nutrient-packed vegetables, pasta dishes can help improve diet quality too. For more information on pasta and health look at our Pasta and Health Fact sheet.
Best of all, pasta can easily fit into a healthy lifestyle. A recent literature review which evaluated 38 studies found pasta consumption is not associated with overweight or obesity in healthy children and adults. In fact, pasta may be inversely associated with Body Mass Index (BMI) or abdominal obesity, particularly when consumed in the context of a healthy dietary pattern, like one loaded with fruits and vegetables. Here are four ways to make your pasta dishes even more balanced:
- Load up on the vegetables
Pasta makes perfect partners with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and many other types of vegetables, including tomatoes. In fact, research shows eating pasta is associated with higher intakes of total vegetables, especially veggies in the red group.
- Experiment with new foods
Pasta is the perfect vehicle to introduce your family to new types of vegetables, sauces or flavors. The familiar comfort food makes it easy to try lesser-known vegetables like beets, brussel sprouts, sunchokes or kohlrabi.
- Use pureed vegetables for sauces
Light, healthy pasta sauces often feature a drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs, but for a more flavorful version go beyond olive oil and consider making a pureed vegetable sauce. Tomatoes, red peppers and butternut squash make ideal sauces for pasta dishes and are quick and easy to make.
- Make it meatless
It’s easy to bump up healthy plant-based foods when you cook a vegetarian meal. One way to do this is to substitute the meat for a vegetable such as in this Grilled Summer Vegetable Lasagna. Another option is to look to international cuisines for inspiration. For example, many Asian-inspired dishes like this Sesame Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables are plant-centered.