Dish Makeover: Pasta Salad

A summer barbecue isn't complete without a big spoonful of cool, creamy macaroni salad next to your grilled favorite. But with ingredients such as mayonnaise, ham, and pickles, it doesn't exactly shout flavor or nutrition. 

Our solution? Ditch the mayo dressing for something lighter and brighter. While you're at it, get rid of the salty stuff. Toss in some fresh, colorful vegetables and herbs, and you end up with a power-packed pasta salad that tastes great with any fare.

Pasta-and-Vegetable Salad

Be Generous with Herbs
Measure by the spoonful -- not the typical "sprinkling" found in many recipes. Basil and parsley supply a decent dose of vitamin K (important for blood clotting and bone health), not to mention a bunch of disease-fighting antioxidants.

Think Outside the (Pasta) Box
With extra fiber and antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium, whole-grain pasta is a nutritional step up from white. Upgrade another level by using pasta made from Kamut, which provides more energy and protein than other types of wheat.

Switch the Veggies
Boost the health quotient with broccoli, radicchio, and cherry tomatoes instead of the usual celery and pickles. Along with crunch, these veggies contain such nutrients as cancer-fighting sulforaphane and heart-healthy folate -- plus antioxidants.

Dress it Better
Mayo and ranch dressing bump up the dish's saturated fat-and dominate other flavors. Instead, freshen this side with a lower-fat vinaigrette made with flax oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. The flax oil also has omega-3s, which can help reduce inflammation and protect your heart.

Before and After
Calories: 287 down to 257
Fat: 20 grams down to 10 grams
Saturated fat: 3 grams down to 1 gram
Cholesterol: 19 grams down to 0 grams
Protein: 7 grams up to 10 grams
Fiber: 2 grams up to 6 grams
Sodium: 819 grams down to 447 grams

The "before" salad includes rotini, celery, ham, peas, olives, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, basil, and salt.

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