How to Make Healthy Pasta Salad—Yes, It Can Be Done!

Just because you're counting calories doesn't mean you have to miss out on enjoying this staple side dish.

Shrimp pasta saladPhoto: Taste of Home
Photo: Taste of Home

There’s a myriad of ways to make pasta salad. As a fan favorite at cookouts, a delicious cool side dish in summer or a way to add flavor to your party fare, pasta salad is tasty—but unfortunately, it’s not always so healthy. A traditional pasta salad serving can contain more than 500 calories, which is a hefty amount if you’re watching your waistline. But never fear: There are delicious ways of switching up your dish to make a healthy pasta salad.

1. Go for avocado

Deli-style pasta salads often come overloaded with our favorite salad dressings. And while that’s certainly pleasing to the taste buds, it’s not always so pleasing when it comes to stepping on the scale. Instead of using mayonnaise or dressings full of fat, try swapping out the dressing for mashed avocado. Add buttermilk and a few herbs for this green delight.

If you want your avocado in the salad, start with this recipe for avocado and artichoke pasta salad.

Psst! Did you know avocado contains more potassium than a banana? Discover more surprising facts about avocado.

2. Swap out the pasta

Here’s a healthy tip: Trade your pasta for a more nutritious alternative. This colorful spiral pasta salad would be just as delicious if you swapped out traditional pasta for a whole wheat version. Or be daring and ditch the pasta entirely: Use quinoa for an interesting and good-for-you change. During your grocery shopping, keep an eye out for whole wheat pasta or healthy alternatives to those macaroni elbows. You’ll thank yourself later.

3. Load up on veggies

Don’t just stick with the traditional pasta salad recipe, either. Plenty of lighter versions, like this orzo vegetable salad, focus on adding veggies to the recipe. Green onions, plum tomatoes and fresh spinach make it a good alternative to the traditional calorie-heavy dish.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with these options and your own ideas next time you’re in the kitchen preparing pasta salad. You may uncover your own method for making it healthy.

P.S. If you come up with something good, be sure to share it with us!

Try These Tips With Our Top Pasta Salad Recipes
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Lauren Rearick
Lauren Rearick is a freelance writer/editor based out Pittsburgh, specalizing in arts, entertainment, music, health and wellness as well as lifestyle writing. Her work has appeared in CNN Opinions, The Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, Teen Vogue, Travel + Leisure, the Pittsburgh City Paper, Vinyl Me Please, Hello Giggles and more.

She founded the music blog, The Grey Estates, which was selected as one of the top 100 indie music blogs by Style of Sound. In 2016, she was recognized with a Keystone State Press Award for a personality profile.