New to a whole food plant-based lifestyle and missing your favorite pasta dishes? Good news: you can eat a healthy plant-based diet AND enjoy pasta with these 5 healthy pasta hacks for your WFPB diet! (Go ahead, do your happy dance!)
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Though technically pasta is technically not a whole food, because even in its healthiest form its still minimally processed, pasta dishes can still be a part of a healthy WFPB diet. In fact, consumption of whole grain foods, including pasta, is associated with a lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. And whole grain foods are high in fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive system and weight! So eat up.
And while yes, you've got the green light to enjoy pasta on a WFPB diet, the type of pasta matters! White pasta is heavily processed, and offers little to no nutritional value to your meals, all the while increasing your blood sugar levels. Instead, try whole wheat pasta or eat pasta made with legumes and vegetables instead of flour.
Stores are filled with new versions of healthy pasta and high-protein options, like as lentil or chickpea pasta.
Tips For Picking Out Healthy Pasta at the Grocery Store
- You want minimal ingredients (whole grains and water preferably or vegetables and water).
- Look for words that indicate whole grain ingredients, like whole grain, whole wheat, brown rice, buckwheat (soba noodles), quinoa, or spelt flour.
- If it says “100 percent durum semolina” or “golden amber durum wheat,” it’s refined.
- Be cautious of gluten-free pasta; they can be packed with additives and unhealthy ingredients. Again, look for minimal ingredients like brown rice and water or 100% buckwheat.
If pasta was your go-to, weeknight meal, try the following hacks for adding nutrition to your week without compromising your health:
1. Add Hummus or Tahini
Protein-rich hummus gives your pasta an extra nutritional boost, and a zingy flavor. Bonus points if the hummus is homemade and without oil and preservatives. Similarly, tahini is full of essential fatty acids and protein, and will make your pasta taste heavenly.
2. Add Avocado
If you like cold pasta salads then you must try this WFPB diet hack. Avocados are high in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. They are also extremely delicious and their natural creaminess will elevate any pasta dish, trust me. Mash some avocado, add lemon juice and seasoning, and stir your favorite, cold pasta in. Or just this easy vegan avocado pasta recipe.
3. Lentil Bolognese
Your beloved bolognese can be easily substituted with protein-rich lentils. Open up a can of lentils (choose canned lentils that are free of oil and salt, preferably organic, and in a BPA-free tin), add your go-to marinara sauce, mix with your pasta, and, under five minutes, dinner is served! This is an excellent meal for your little picky eaters too because it's got the familiar flavors of your family's bolognese, just minus the beef.
4. Vegetable Medley
This hack is great for when you need to clean out produce from the fridge. Roasted vegetable leftovers are the stars of this humble yet mouth-watering dish. Eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, red onions, artichokes, and spinach are just a few options for creating an amazing Mediterranean-inspired, healthy pasta dish. Mix your medley in with your pasta and enjoy!
5. Pasta with Dairy-Free Pesto
Pesto is the perfect sauce for every pasta dish and yes, it can be made without cheese (and in just minutes!). This easy oil-free vegan pesto recipe is delicious and sneaks in some spinach too making it a great chose for increasing the nutritional profile of your meal!
- You don't have to give up favorite pasta dishes just because you're following a WFPB diet!
- Eating whole grain foods, including pasta, is associated with a lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure!
- Choose whole grain or vegetable pasta varieties that have minimal ingredients.
- You don't need to follow complex vegan recipes to give your favorite dishes a plant-based spin: try whole grain pasta with hummus or tahini, add a mashed avocado for dairy-free creaminess, swap the beef for lentils in your family's favorite bolognese recipe, toss your pasta in roasted veggies, or add a dairy-free pesto for an easy and healthy WFPB weeknight meal.
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.