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Five Healthy Make-Ahead Pasta Salads for Weight Loss

December 24, 2021
Five Healthy Make-Ahead Pasta Salads for Weight Loss - Lark Health

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In this article:

  • Easy and fast recipes can help you eat healthier and lose more weight.
  • Pasta salad has the advantage of being a make-ahead dish that you can take for lunch or have for dinner. But it can be high in refined carbohydrates and extra fats from mayo and processed meats.
  • These salads have whole-grain pasta, lean proteins, and vegetables. They are easy to make and they can fit into a weight loss plan.
  • Lark can give you more tips on healthy eating and weight loss.

Pasta salads are easy to make, versatile, and delicious. But they are not always healthy, with ingredients such as refined pasta, mayonnaise, and processed meats. On the other hand, using whole-grain pasta, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy dressing can turn them into nutritious options.

Do you want to put together your own healthy recipe? Just mix and match using the guidelines below!

Ingredient For 1 Portion For 4 Portions For 6 Portions
Whole-grain pasta
1 to 2 ounces dry or ⅓ to ¾ cup cooked
4 to 8 ounces dry or 1 ½ to 3 cups cooked
6 to 12 ounces dry or 2 to 5 cups cooked
Cooked or raw non-starchy vegetables
½ to 1 cup
2 to 4 cups
3 to 6 cups
Lean protein
3 ounces of chicken or fish, 1 oz. (¼ cup shredded) of low-fat cheese, or ½ cup of cooked beans
12 ounces (or ¾ lb) of chicken or fish, 4 oz (1 cup shredded) of low-fat cheese, or 2 cups of cooked beans
18 ounces (or 1 ¼ lb) of chicken or fish, 6 oz (1 ½ cups shredded) of low-fat cheese, or 3 cups of cooked beans
Healthy fat
2 teaspoons of olive, sesame, canola, or other plant-based oil, 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado, or ½ ounce of nuts or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
2 tablespoons of oil, ½ cup of mashed avocado, or 2 ounces of nuts or ¼ cup of peanut butter
¼ cup of oil, ¾ cup of mashed avocado, or 3 ounces of nuts or ⅓ tablespoons of peanut butter
Use as much as you want: spices, fresh or dried herbs such as cilantro, mint, parsley, or basil, and seasonings such as dijon or spicy mustard, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, and capers.

Or try these 10 whole-grain pasta salads! And remember, these "recipes" are really just suggestions. You can vary them in so many ways!

  • With different shapes of whole-grain pasta.
  • With different types of cooked or raw vegetables, or by adding more.
  • Swapping chicken, tuna, beans, fish, tofu, shrimp, or other lean proteins.
  • With different herbs, spices, oils, and nuts and seeds.

1. Southwest Bean and Pasta Salad

Southwest Bean and Pasta Salad

This recipe is just like beans and rice…but with beans and pasta instead. You can skip the cheese if you prefer a vegan salad.

For 6 servings, cook 6 ounces of whole-wheat shells. Mix the shells with 1 can of low-sodium black beans, 1 can of corn, 4 ounces of shredded low-fat cheddar or jack cheese, 1 cup of chopped tomatoes, and 1 cup of chopped bell pepper. To make the dressing whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, juice from 1/2 of a lime, chopped cilantro, chili powder, cumin, and pressed garlic.

2. Asian Chicken Pasta Salad

Asian Chicken Pasta Salad

This is a healthy version of the perennial favorite! For 2 servings, mix 1 cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti with 1 cup of coleslaw mix (or 1/2 cup each of shredded cabbage shredded carrots), 1/2 cup of sliced red pepper, 1/2 ounce of toasted sliced almonds, 6 ounces of shredded or cubed cooked skinless chicken breast, and 2 mandarins, in wedges.

Make a dressing with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Toss it with the pasta.

3. Creamy Lemon Tahini Tuna Salad

Tahini is sesame paste. It can make a creamy dressing, and it goes well with lemon. For four servings, cook 4 ounces of whole-wheat bowties and mix them with 2 5-ounce cans of tuna, 2 cups of fresh or defrosted frozen peas, 1 cup of chopped tomato, 2 stalks of chopped celery, and (optional) chopped parsley or mint. Toss the pasta with a dressing made with 3 tablespoons of tahini, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/4 cup minced onion, crushed garlic or garlic powder, and black pepper.

4. Salmon Pasta Salad with Curried Yogurt Dressing

You can use canned salmon if you prefer. For  servings, bake or pan-sear 12 ounces of salmon and cook 4 ounces of whole-wheat penne. Mix the pasta and salmon with 1/4 cup of diced onion and 1/2 cup of diced celery, a diced red apple, and 2 cups of cooked and cut green beans. Make a dressing with 1/2 cup of fat-free yogurt, curry powder, 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard, and black pepper. Toss the pasta with the dressing.

5. Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad with Parmesan Cheese

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad with Parmesan Cheese

This is perfect for people who love pasta salad, but do not like raw vegetables. To make 8 servings, cut into bite-sized chunks one large eggplant, 2 bell peppers, 1 large onion, and 2 zucchini. Toss them with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh rosemary, 3 cloves of peeled and sliced garlic, and roast them in an oven. Toss them with 5 cups of cooked whole-grain penne pasta, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, and 4 ounces of low-fat parmesan cheese. If desired, serve with more parmesan cheese.

6. Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

This is just like a classic Greek salad, but with satisfying pasta. For 4 servings, mix 2 cups of cooked whole-wheat penne pasta with 1 chopped large zucchini, 1/2 large chopped cucumber, 1 cup of halved grape tomatoes, 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach leaves, and 1 can of low-sodium garbanzo beans, drained. Toss it with a dressing made with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

7. Whole-Wheat Noodle Peanut Salad

Whole-Wheat Noodle Peanut Salad

You can use any type of vegetables you like in this salad, and add red pepper flakes for heat if you like. For 6 servings, cook 6 ounces of whole-wheat spaghetti, drain it, and mix it with 2 chopped bell peppers, 1 cup of chopped broccoli florets, and 1 lb. of prepared tofu. To make the dressing, combine 1/4 cup of peanut butter with 1/4 cup of low-sodium broth, and mix in rice vinegar, sriracha sauce, ginger, garlic, and diced green onion, with an optional packet of low-calorie natural sweetener. Optional toppings: chopped cilantro, and 1 tablespoon of chopped peanuts per person.

8. Artichoke Rotini Salad with Pears and Blue Cheese

This salad calls for artichoke hearts, but you can substitute cut green beans or any other cooked or raw vegetable. You can also serve it over spinach or arugula leaves to get more vegetables. 

For four servings, use 3 cups of cooked whole-wheat rotini (6 ounces of dry noodles). Make a dressing in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and a dash of black pepper. Finally, pour the dressing over the pasta and toss gently.

9. Easy Meatless Italian Bow Ties

Easy Meatless Italian Bow Ties

Italian pasta salads can be high in fatty meats, such as salami and pepperoni. They often have a lot of cheese and dressing, too. This salad has crunch and plenty of flavor and texture, and is far more nutritious. Add cooked diced chicken breast or garbanzo beans for more protein.

Use 8 ounces of whole-wheat bowties (farfalle) for 6 servings. Toss it with 2 cups (1 1-pint container) of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved, 1/2 cup of chopped carrot, and 1 cup each of raw or roasted broccoli florets and chopped red bell pepper. Then, mix in 1 small can of sliced olives, 1/2 cup of diced onion, 4 ounces of cubed low-fat cheddar or mozzarella cheese, and 2 ounces of shredded low-fat parmesan cheese. Toss it with 1/2 cup of light Italian dressing.

10. Breakfast

Of course you can have pasta for breakfast! Any of the above ideas are fine. Or start your day with breakfast pasta salad with cottage cheese, cinnamon, sliced banana or other fruit, and chopped walnuts. 

Losing a few extra pounds can be a great goal. Weight loss can boost health, energy, and confidence. It can be simple. And it can happen as part of your regular lifestyle. You can even eat your favorite foods and lose weight.

Lark makes weight loss simple and fun. With Lark, weight loss and healthy living happen when you make small changes that fit into your lifestyle. Lark offers tips, tracking, instant feedback, and friendly suggestions. Over time, small healthy changes can become habits for long-term success. Your personal Lark coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone so you can get expert tips, track meals, physical activity, and weight loss. 

The entire program may be available at no cost to you if your health insurer covers it. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.

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