Picnic pasta salads are traditionally doused with mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-based dressing, neither of which are healthy nor conducive to being outside for several hours on a hot summer’s day. For your BBQs and summer picnics this year, try making these tasty yet healthy alternatives to the classic pasta salad.
Making Healthy Pasta Salads
Load up on veggies
One of the easiest ways to make pasta salad healthier is to add lots of vegetables. Tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, courgettes or avocado [among many others] make great additions to a pasta salad. No matter what kind of pasta salad you are making, you can always toss in some extra veggies in for bulk, texture, flavour and nutrition.
Add healthy protein
Any lean protein is ideal in a pasta salad. Canned tuna or beans, grilled chicken and grilled salmon are all examples of healthy protein that can add flavour to a pasta salad without adding loads of calories and fat.
Herbs add lots of flavour
Chopped fresh herbs sprinkled over the pasta salad or into the dressing will add great fresh flavours, again without adding fat, calories, or sodium. Be sure to always use fresh herbs instead of dried. Rosemary, basil, dill, thyme, or parsley will help to make any pasta salad pop.
Swap mayo for mustard
To get the creamy taste and texture of a mayonnaise-based dressing, substitute mayo for whole grain or Dijon mustard. Not only is mustard lower in fat and calories, but it also has a delicious tangy flavour. If you absolutely must use mayonnaise, you still can reduce the amount needed by substituting about half for sour cream or buttermilk. Both are good substitutes for mayonnaise, but be sure to keep pasta salads made with these ingredients on ice.
Vinegar-based dressings are probably the best way to go as they are low in fat and calories and don’t need to be kept chilled. You can make a simple olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing and add lots of herbs and spices that will create bold flavours and keep fat and calories at bay.