Just because you're counting calories doesn't mean you have to miss out on enjoying this staple side dish.
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.
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.
I’ve tried many chicken salad recipes over the years, but this is my very favorite. It’s fresh, fruity and refreshing, and the cashews add wonderful crunch. Every time I serve it at a potluck or picnic, I get rave reviews—and ( always come home with an empty bowl! —Kara Cook, Elk Ridge, Utah
I love all the colors and flavors of this quick and easy cold pasta salad recipe and serve it often in summer, to the delight of my guests! You can't beat the combination of Gorgonzola and bacon. Leftover grilled shrimp makes a tasty substitute for chicken. —Terry McCarty, Oro Grande, California
This pleasing pasta salad is like eating a BLT in a bowl. Filled with crispy bacon, chopped tomato, celery and green onion, the sensational salad is coated with a tangy mayonnaise and vinegar dressing. It’s a real crowd-pleaser! —Norene Wright, Manilla, Indiana
Tackle gatherings to go with a bright pasta salad. This tricolor toss-up with broccoli, tomatoes, olives and a hardworking dressing is the easiest one you could take. —Amanda Cable, Boxford, Massachusetts
This cold pasta salad recipe was served at a dear friend's baby shower by a health-conscious friend, who suggested the dressing be prepared with low-fat or fat-free ingredients. Either way, the creamy dressing has plenty of garlic flavor and coats the pasta, romaine and croutons nicely. —Tammy Steenbock, Sembach Air Base, Germany
A sweet out-of-the-ordinary dressing makes this macaroni salad special. My aunt gave me the recipe and it has become one of my favorites. I occasionally leave out the green pepper if I know that people don't like it, and it still tastes great. —Idalee Scholz, Cocoa Beach, Florida
I love trying new recipes, and this one for Italian pasta salad tops all other varieties I've tried. With beans, cheese, sausage and vegetables, it's a hearty complement to any meal. —Bernadette Nelson, Arcadia, California
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.