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6 Tiny Tweaks to Make Healthy Pasta Salad

When you think "health food," you probably don't think pasta salad. But it's possible to make a healthy pasta salad with a couple tweaks to your recipe!

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Whole wheat pasta - spaghetti and short pasta penne in wooden spoon on checkered table cloth on wooden tableShutterstock / Life morning

Choose Whole Grain Pasta

No matter what crowd-pleasing pasta salad recipe you start with, you can make one super simple swap to make it healthier: Use whole grain pasta! This easy swap gives you more fiber in any salad without having to alter the recipe in any major way.

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Incorporate Lots of Vegetables


Up the nutritional value of your pasta salad—and your daily vegetable intake—by incorporating lots of fresh produce into the mix. One great recipe to try is this turkey and pasta ranch salad, which is loaded with peppers, zucchini and onion. The best vegetables to add are broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and peas!

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Pasta salad with green vegetables and feta in a vintage plate on a light concrete,stone or slate background.Shutterstock / Liliya Kandrashevich

Make Pasta a Side, Not the Star


Who says pasta has to be the dominant ingredient in a pasta salad? Try making good-for-you vegetables the star instead. For example, this colorful spiral pasta salad calls for five cups of vegetables to 12 ounces of pasta. Even tossed with salad dressing and Parmesan cheese, a standard serving only has 149 calories.

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Add a Lean Protein

Toss protein in your pasta salad and take it from mostly carbs to a meal that’s more satisfying and fills you up longer. For a few ideas of what to incorporate, add cannellini or garbanzo beans, hard-boiled eggs, shrimp or chopped chicken to your most crowd-pleasing dish.

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Cut the Added Sugars

If your favorite pasta salad calls for ingredients like sweetened dried fruits or even certain seasoning mixes. Skip dried fruits with added sugar for plain raisins or dried cranberries. You can even use fresh fruit to make a healthy pasta salad. And instead of going for prepackaged seasonings, you can make your own. These small swaps will help create a healthier pasta salad.

Homemade taco seasoning is a must, but check out our other 12 favorite blends.

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Variety of homemade sauces and salad dressings in jars including vinaigrette, ranch and honey mustardShutterstock / Elena Veselova

Mix Up Your Own Dressing


While store-bought versions can be delicious, making your own salad dressing can often lower calories and boost nutrients. You can whisk together fresh-squeezed lemon and olive oil, olive oil and red wine vinegar or any other easy vinaigrette to add to your healthy pasta salad.

You can even level up and try these homemade salad dressings—all of which are great alternatives to the bottled stuff.

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