Is Macaroni Salad Healthy?

Updated: May 21, 2024

It's creamy, smooth and satisfying, but can macaroni salad be healthy?

This summer staple will soon be showing up at barbecues and potlucks. But is macaroni salad healthy? If you’ve been focusing on eating healthier, you may feel unsure about this beloved side dish. While macaroni salad can be high in fat and in calories, there are tasty ways to lighten it up.

What Is Macaroni Salad?

A classic macaroni salad has a few key ingredients: pasta, red onion, celery, sweet pickles, hard-boiled eggs and creamy dressing. The pasta in macaroni salad is usually a short pasta like elbow macaroni or ditalini. Finely chopped vegetables add bright colors and a nice crunch.

The sweet pickles are a macaroni salad staple. But if you’re not a pickle fan, it’s OK to leave them out. Hard-boiled eggs are sliced into small pieces to add some hearty protein. Finally, the salad is tossed in a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing and topped with fresh parsley.

Macaroni salad has a tangy bite and is the perfect companion to a burger right off the grill in the backyard. The best part is that it’s versatile. Spice things up with some ingredient swaps like in a Hawaiian macaroni salad or Caprese macaroni salad.

Is Macaroni Salad High in Fat?

Yes, macaroni salad can be high in fat due to its creamy dressing.

A small side order of prepared macaroni salad comes in at 360 calories and 25 grams of fat. It also contains about 20% of your saturated fat for the day. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat because it can raise the risk of heart disease. If you like salads, then you must try this Hellman’s macaroni salad.

Which Is Healthier: Macaroni Salad or Potato Salad?

Macaroni salad and potato salad are both comforting side dishes that pair well with hearty barbecue recipes. So which one is healthier? Just like with any recipe, it depends on your ingredients.

Potato salad starts with cooked potatoes, which are packed with healthy nutrients like fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Potato salad also usually contains other vegetables like celery and onions. Like macaroni salad, potato salad is often mixed with a mayonnaise-based creamy dressing. It sometimes includes bacon as well.

Both macaroni salad and potato salad have nutrition highs and lows. Adding more vegetables increases the nutrients and cutting back on the dressing can lower the fat content. It’s best to enjoy a small portion of either or both salads because of the amount of saturated fat.

How to Make Macaroni Salad Healthy

Macaroni salad is a delicious side dish that is not the healthiest option because of its high saturated fat content. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to lower the fat and increase the nutrients.

Start by choosing a more nutritious pasta that is made with whole grains instead of semolina flour. This increases the fiber content. Next, consider adding extra vegetables such as diced bell peppers and carrots.

To lower the fat content, use low-fat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. You could also add some extra tangy flavor by skipping the creamy dressing and using a vinaigrette instead. Or consider trying mashed avocado instead of mayo.

Here are tips for how to make a healthy pasta salad: