Make Over Your Favorite Pasta Dishes

If pasta is your favorite go-to meal, you’re in luck! Starting on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet, you can enjoy a variety of healthy whole-wheat, whole-grain, or spelt pastas, or one of the newer gluten-free varieties made from brown rice, corn, or quinoa. In fact, pasta can be a very nutritious meal as long as you choose the right add-ins. Fresh vegetables, reduced-fat cheese, and/or a lean protein, such as turkey meatballs, shrimp or other shellfish, or grilled chicken or turkey breast, are all healthy choices. Here are some delicious ways to prepare your favorite pasta dishes South Beach Diet-style:

  • Try a Phase 1-friendly “pasta.” An easy pasta swap for Phase 1 is to halve and seed a small spaghetti squash, microwave or bake it, and use a fork to scrape out the “spaghetti-like” strands. Serve with tomato sauce and a little freshly grated Parmesan.

     

  • On Phase 2, go for healthy pasta. Prepare homemade pasta using whole-wheat flour instead of regular white flour. Alternatively, you could purchase a whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta at the supermarket. Unlike white pasta, which is made from refined wheat flour and has had most of its fiber and other nutrients removed, whole-grain pastas have their fiber intact and will consequently help keep you feeling full longer. You can find many styles of whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta, including penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, lasagna, linguine, fettuccine, and elbow macaroni in most large supermarkets. Look for brands with 3 grams or more of fiber per serving and stick with 1/2 cup cooked as a serving. If you’re on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet Gluten Solution Program and are gradually reintroducing whole grains, enjoy gluten-free brown-rice, soy, or quinoa pasta or brown rice couscous.

     

  • Add lean meats and seafood, tofu, or beans. Prepare homemade meatballs, using extra-lean ground beef or pork or ground turkey or chicken breast, which can be enjoyed on all Phases; add whole-wheat bread crumbs, if you like, on Phase 2. Or grill or poach a chicken breast, cut it into half-inch cubes, and toss the cubes into your pasta dish. Seafood, such as shrimp, clams, or grilled tuna, is also an excellent protein addition, as is sautéed firm tofu or cooked beans.

     

  • Add grilled, roasted, steamed, or sautéed vegetables. In addition to protein, you can pair your pasta dish with vegetables, such as asparagus, zucchini, spinach, kale, tomatoes, squash, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, eggplant, and/or bell or hot peppers. Vary your choices depending on what’s freshest at your market.

     

  • Stick with tomato-, pesto-, or other vegetable-based sauces. Make your own tomato sauce, using fresh tomatoes or tomato purée, tomato paste, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh or dried basil, oregano, and thyme, and freshly ground black pepper. Or, if you prefer to purchase canned or jarred tomato sauce at the supermarket, be sure to choose reduced-sodium varieties with a minimum amount of added sugar (ideally 3 grams of sugar, or less, per serving). You can make pesto using parsley, arugula, cilantro, or the traditional basil. And for a real change of pace, purée a cooked vegetable, like broccoli or butternut squash, with some lower-sodium broth, and toss with the pasta.

     

  • Top your pasta dish with a healthier cheese. Look for reduced-fat cheeses, such as part-skim mozzarella or goat, or use freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago. You can also mix a dollop of part-skim ricotta cheese or nonfat plain Greek yogurt into your sauce for a creamier texture.

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