Even devout religious leaders can’t avoid tabloid fat shaming. According to reports earlier this year, after gaining some weight, Pope Francis’ physicians suggested he lay off the ravioli and spaghetti. Seriously!? We’re all for keeping the 78-year-old healthy, but denying a holy man of his beloved carbs is just plain cruel—not to mention totally unnecessary.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to eat the Italian staple and still maintain a trim figure or lose weight rapidly. For carb-lovers, hearing that bit of news feels a bit like winning the lottery.
Better yet, whipping up a slimmed-down noodle dish isn’t time-consuming or difficult, nor does it drastically change the taste. No, this isn’t an elaborate joke; you’ve just got to learn the tricks of the trade—which we reveal below. Simply use our time-tested tips to whip up tasty, guilt-free pasta dishes and keep shedding those extra pounds. Plus, we’ve included a bunch of healthy and delicious pasta recipes to get you started. Buon appetito!
1. Go Al Dente
Save time and slim down: Taking your noodles off the stove a few minutes early and enjoying them al dente can help keep you fuller longer, which can make saying no to seconds that much easier. According to scientists, hot water breaks down starch molecule bonds, which makes it easier for the body to convert carbs into fuel—not a good thing! In turn, blood sugar increases and then subsequently crashes, leaving you starving just a few hours after eating. Al dente pasta, on the other hand, keeps glucose levels steady, which wards off diet-derailing dips in energy.
2. Pair It With A Side Salad
Before jumping into all the ways you can alter the actual pasta part of your dinner, let’s take a moment to talk about your side dish. Although your noodles’ plate neighbor may not seem important, it can actually greatly alter the slimming effects of your meal. Eating raw carrots with a starchy meal like pasta can lower after-meal blood sugar levels and boost satiety, according to Swedish researchers. Translation: Eating a side salad with some raw carrots and some of your other favorite veggies can help ward off after-meal hunger, which can help you consume fewer calories throughout the day and subsequently aid weight loss efforts. Bonus: Add a tablespoon of dressing to your greens. A bit of fat can help the body absorb cancer-fighting and heart-healthy nutrients like lycopene and beta-carotene. We like Cucina Antica Organic Ceasar because it fares well with Italian dishes, is void of cheap, unhealthy oils and is relatively low-cal. Keep it extra-light with one of these 22 Best Teas for Weight Loss.
3. Swap Your Noodle
The average American consumes 20 pounds of pasta each year—and most of it is the refined white stuff. What’s the trouble with that? This type of noodle is almost completely void of fiber and protein, two vital nutrients for weight loss. To boost the belly-filling fiber and hunger-busting protein in your meal, opt for a bean-based noodle like Banza Chickpea Shells (2 oz, 190 calories, 8 g fiber, 14 g protein) or Explore Asian Black Bean Low-Carb Pasta (2 oz 180 calories, 12 g fiber, 25 g protein). Alternatively, make the switch to Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Pasta (2 oz, 180 calories, 5 g fiber, 7 g protein). Eating whole grains can not only fill you up more than the refined stuff, but also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
4. Chill Out
Transform pasta from a diet no-no into a fat-frying champion simply by placing it in the fridge. When you cool down pasta, the drop in temperature changes its chemical structure into something called “resistant starch,” which, according to a study in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, promotes fat oxidation. Not into the idea of eating your supper cold? Here’s our suggestion: Go ahead and enjoy your first bowl of pasta hot, but make a commitment to eating all the leftovers chilled. Once the noodles have been reheated, the resistant starch—and their slimming powers—is destroyed.
5. Max Out On Veggies
In addition to eating a side salad on pasta night, you might also want to consider adding some vegetables to your pasta dish. Those who consume main dishes that incorporate veggies consume 350 fewer calories daily than those who eat their produce as a side dish, according to Penn State researchers. The likely reason: Veggies boost the amount of satiating fiber on your plate while also adding bulk. The result: You’ll likely feel satisfied while taking in fewer calories. Mixed spiralized zucchini with whole-grain spaghetti, or add chopped and sautéed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, tomatoes and onions to your penne plate. Typically add meat to your lasagna? Replace half of it with fresh spinach and slices of yellow squash and mushrooms. The options are truly endless! For tips on organic veggies, find out the 17 Cheap Organic Foods You Must Buy.
6. Use Cheese As a Garnish
Some pasta recipes tell you to mix the cheese right into the pasta along with the sauce. Don’t do that. Most of the cheese that’s added before the cooking process will likely melt away into the depths of the dish, becoming nearly invisible. As a result, you’ll likely wind up adding even more to your portion once it’s plated. To healthify your dinner, only sprinkle the cheese on top of the dish after it’s on your plate. This ensures you’ll get a bit of cheese in every bite without taking in additional “invisible” cheese calories along the way. Besides cutting back on waist-widening calories, this tactic eliminates a fair share of the artery-clogging fat, without drastically altering the taste. One bummer: Cheese is listed as one of the 27 Foods That Kill Your Sex Drive.
7. Change Your Meat
We all love indulgent dishes like spaghetti carbonara and hearty toppers like meat sauce, but they aren’t exactly waist-friendly. No shocker there! Spaghetti carbonara recipes typically call for thick-cut bacon, which carries about 70 calories and 6 grams of fat in two slices. Using the same amount of prosciutto in its place can save you 40 calories and 2 grams of heart-harming fat. While that may not seem like a lot, the savings may be far more than that depending on your portion size. Plus, every calorie counts when you’re fighting back against the bulge. If meat sauce is your go-to, cut calories and fat without changing the taste with two simple steps: First, buy a lean ground cut of beef (that’s the obvious part), then, after browning the meat in a skillet, put it in a strainer and rinse it with hot tap water—before adding any sauces or seasonings. This helps wash away excess fat clinging to your dinner, which will help save you time at the gym burning off your meal.
8. Re-Think Your Red Sauce
Speaking of sauce, a lot of the canned varieties are filled with excess calories, mounds of salt and buckets of added sugar—not nutrients you want on your plate when you’re looking to get lean. Making your own simple pasta topper (by combining fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil and black pepper over a hot skillet) is ideal. However, if you’re short on time or not so skilled in the kitchen, opt for one of our favorite bottled varieties: Amy’s Light in Sodium Organic Family Marinara has just 80 calories, 290 milligrams of sodium and 5 grams of sugar in a half cup and Ragú Light No Sugar Added Tomato & Basil has 50 calories, 320 milligrams of sodium and 6 grams of sugars for the same serving size. Going with either of these options is sure to keep excess sugar, calories and blood vessel-harming salt off of your fork—which is more than these 20 Restaurant Desserts With More Salt Than a Bag of Pretzels can say!
9. Change Up Your Fat
Fettuccine alfredo is often referred to as a heart attack on a plate—and with good reason. The Cheesecake Factory’s chicken-filled take on the dish carries 2,300 calories and 103 grams of saturated fat. That’s the fat equivalent of 51 Chicken McNuggets! And buying a canned alfredo sauce isn’t much better. A mere half-cup of Newman’s Own Alfredo has 180 calories, half a day’s saturated fat and more than a third of the day’s sodium. Yikes! Next time the craving for something creamy strikes, whip up Eat This, Not That’s 540-calorie Loaded Alfredo with Chicken and Vegetables instead. Alternatively, make a creamy sauce by combining avocados, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a food processor. While this sauce is also laden with fats, they’re the heart-healthy kind that can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Avocados can also quell hunger pangs and fry stubborn belly fat, which is great news if you’re trying to slim down.
10. Add Heat
Arrabbiata sauce not only tastes great, but can also help you lose weight. What gives the classic pasta topper its better-body super powers? It’s made with red chili peppers, which contain a spicy, appetite-suppressing compound called capsaicin. The compound also helps boost thermogenesis—the body’s ability to burn food as energy—and keeps your metabolism going strong. Whip up a homemade version of the sauce yourself or pick up a bottle of Cucina Antica Spicy Arrabbiata. A half-cup of the stuff has 45 calories, 2 grams of fat and 3 grams of sugar—stats that put other jarred sauces to shame. If smothering all your noodles in Arrabbiata is too much for your tongue to take, try sprinkling red chili pepper flakes on your plate before digging in to reap the benefits.
We’ve rounded up 20 portion-controlled pasta dishes full of flavorful, fat-burning ingredients that will fill you up without filling you out.
11. BUTTERNUT SQUASH & SAGE PASTA
Nutrition per serving: 438 calories, 5.2 g fat, <1 g saturated, 25 mg sodium, 84 g carbs, 13 g fiber, 5 g sugars, 15.6 g protein
‘Tis the season of butternut squash, a fall superfood that’s brimming in flavor, potassium, fiber and vitamin A. The latter underrated nutrient is essential for proper immune-system function, tissue growth and repair and bone strength. Luckily for you, this dish provides nearly 4 days’ worth of A. And if that’s not enough, butternut squash is rich in carotenoids that fight heart disease, asthma and arthritis, and promote, healthy vision and skin.
12. BROWNED BUTTER PASTA WITH ROASTED ROOT VEGGIES
Nutrition per serving: 458 calories, 5.7 g fat (<1 g saturated), 129 mg sodium, 93 g carbs, 15.2 g fiber, 15.5 g sugars, 11.3 g protein (calculated with 2 tbs of olive oil, 1 lb of organic whole wheat rigatoni and no parmesan cheese)
We could learn a thing or two from our ancestors’ athletic physiques, lifestyle and eating habits. Namely, their food consumption aligned with the seasons. Consuming root vegetables throughout the fall and winter stokes our bodies with nutrients. And what’s better than a hearty meal for less than 500 calories, just 6 grams of fat and 129 milligrams of sodium? Plus, there are 15 grams of belly-slimming fiber, which will keep you fuller longer and prevent overeating.
13. ROASTED EGGPLANT TOMATO ORZO PASTA
Nutrition per serving: 448 calories, 22 g fat (3.8 g saturated), 385 mg sodium, 54 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 8.5 g sugars, 12 g protein
Fight cancer and slim down with this delicious eggplant-based pasta dish. The purple veggie contains chlorogenic acid, a powerful antioxidant that scavenges disease-causing free radicals. Here, eggplant is paired with fiber-rich whole-wheat orzo pasta, crumbled feta, appetite suppressing pine nuts and fresh herbs, making it the perfect addition to any meal.
14. BLACKENED BROCCOLI PASTA WITH CHARRED LEMON & GOAT CHEESE
Nutrition per serving: 544 calories, 33 g fat (12.4 g saturated), 171 mg sodium, 46 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugars, 16 g protein (calculated with 4 oz goat cheese and 3 tbsp unsalted butter)
Heat things up with this fat-fighting cajun broccoli pasta. Cajun seasoning contains one of the most powerful waist-shrinking spices on the planet—cayenne. Fiery capsaicin, the compound that gives chiles their signature kick, has been shown to increase body heat, boost metabolic rate and decrease appetite. Researchers at Purdue University found that just 1 gram of red pepper (about 1/2 a teaspoon) helps to manage appetite and increase post-meal calorie burn. (And this recipe calls for six teaspoons!) Looking to slim down this dish further? Cut goat cheese and butter by half to save 163 calories, 15 g fat and 127 g sodium.
15. PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE
Nutrition per serving: 330 calories, 14.8 g fat (8 g saturated), 208 mg sodium, 37.5 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3.4 g sugars, 13.2 g protein (calculated with whole wheat ziti, organic cheddar cheese and plain Greek yogurt for heavy cream)
You had us at pumpkin and mac n’ cheese. If you too have fallen victim to the pumpkin trend, you’ve struck gold. For just 330 calories, 208 milligrams of sodium and 3 grams of sugar, you can savor a guilt-free bowl of comfort food. Plus, each serving dishes up two days’ worth of vitamin A. To lower the fat content, substitute plain greek yogurt for heavy cream, and swap in an organic, grass-fed cheese. We still aren’t over how heavenly this dish is.
16. SOY SAUCE NOODLES
Nutrition per serving: 278 calories, 19.3 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 353 mg sodium, 22.4 g carbs, 1.7 g fiber, 6 g sugars, 5 g protein (calculated with low sodium soy sauce).
If Friday night means Chinese takeout, you might want to hit the grocery store on the way home from work instead. This dish has less than 300 calories a serving, contains a day’s worth of vitamin A and is ready in just 30 minutes (about the time you would have waited for your order). And this dish contains just 353 milligrams of sodium, compared the 2,990 milligrams in an order of PF Chang’s garlic noodles!
17. CREAMY CAULIFLOWER VEGAN ALFREDO
Nutrition per serving: 502 calories, 23.3 g fat (4.5 g saturated), 40 mg sodium, 64.6 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 3.6 g sugars, 18 g protein ( calculated with 14 oz elbow pasta and divided into 6 servings).
Cauliflower is an incredibly versatile swap for pasta, and its high fiber content helps shed pounds. When you consume fibrous foods, you’re satiated longer and take in fewer calories. According to Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, the corporate dietitian at Medifast, “Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower have shown to possibly help reduce the risk of certain cancers, namely prostate cancer, be a cause of their high antioxidant activity.” Bonus: when you whip up this one, you’ll have sauce left over for tomorrow’s lunch!
18. BEET “PASTA” WITH LEMON-CREME SAUCE AND BROILED SALMON
Nutrition per serving: 417 calories, 18.2 g fat (9.5 g saturated), 953 mg sodium, 41.6 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 25 g sugars, 26.7 g protein (calculated with unsweetened coconut milk and a 3 oz salmon serving, per USDA standard)
Whether you’re in need a low-carb noodle alternative, gluten wreaks havoc on your digestive system, or you just feel plain daring, this beet “pasta” recipe has you covered. If you’re on an athlete’s eating plan, you want to pay close attention: A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that runners who ate baked beets before a 5k ran five percent faster. Just make sure to consume potassium to counteract the sodium count.
19. CREAMY CAJUN CHICKEN PASTA
Nutrition per serving: 540 calories, 19 g fat, 7 g saturated, 312 mg sodium, 55 g carbs, 3.7 g fiber, 8 g sugars, 38 g protein (calculated with linguine and non-fat plain greek yogurt in place of heavy cream).
It’s not very often that a pasta dish offers a hefty 38 grams of protein per serving, and when it comes to weight loss, this amino acid is a key player. Protein increases satiety, revs metabolic activity and helps the body retain muscle while burning fat. This recipe serves up 87% of your daily vitamin C needs, and it’s sky-high in vitamin B6, which helps balance hormone levels and fight stress, two helpful factors when it comes to slimming down.
20. SWEET POTATO RAVIOLI WITH KALE PESTO
Nutrition per serving: 579 calories, 42.6 g fat (4.3 g saturated), 264 mg sodium, 43.3 g carbs, 7.5 g fiber, 3.3 g sugars, 12.3 g protein (calculated with 1/4 cup olive oil)
Dropping temperatures and shortening days are a natural match for savory dishes like these homemade sweet potato ravioli. And with a day’s worth of both vitamins A and C and just 3 grams of sugar, they’re a healthy indulgence. The kale pesto is rich in pine nut oil, which has been linked to appetite suppression, aiding in weight loss.
21. VEGETARIAN PASTA CARBONARA
Nutrition per serving: 637 calories, 23.9 g fat (8 g saturated), 620 mg sodium, 77 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 7 g sugars, 31.4 g protein (calculated with 2 servings of Lightlife Fakin’ Bacon Tempeh Strips)
Knock out three days’ worth of your vitamin A needs and 43% of your daily calcium quota with this hearty vegetarian dish. Sweet roasted butternut squash contrasts smokey bacon and parmesan flavors. And with 31 grams of protein, you’ll be truly satisfied.
22. SPIRALIZED ZUCCHINI PESTO PASTA WITH PEAS AND PANCETTA
Nutrition per serving: 382 calories, 21.9 g fat (4.9 g saturated), 922 mg sodium, 15.6 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 6.6 g sugars, 17.5 g protein (calculated with Kite Hill Dairy-Free Ricotta)
Zoodles, or noodles made from zucchini, have taken the healthy-foodie world by storm. Once you substitute this versatile squash into your pasta dishes, you’ll be liable to ditch the carby, floury stuff. Zucchinis contain riboflavin, a B vitamin essential for red blood cell production and carb burning. This dish is straight from Italy with its pesto sauce, diced pancetta and ricotta cheese, but it contains less than 20 grams of carbs! If you’re concerned about sodium count, skip the pancetta and opt for a fresh piece of fish or chicken instead.
23. LOW FAT ALFREDO SAUCE
Nutrition per serving: 426 calories, 12.3 g fat (7.3 g saturated), 241 mg sodium, 60 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 18 g protein (calculated with gluten-free linguine).
Blame the saturated fat and sodium of heavy cream, milk and cheese — alfredo sauce has a reputation for being the opposite of low fat. But all it takes is a few substitutions, 20 minutes of your time and less than 10 ingredients, and you’ve made a flavorful sauce so creamy, you’ll think you’re sinning. For less than 450 calories, 12 grams of fat and just 241 milligrams of sodium, being bad never felt so good.
24. 4-INGREDIENT CREAMY VODKA STEAK PASTA
Nutrition per serving: 403 calories, 23.6 g fat (10.5 g saturated), 1421.8 mg sodium, 22.6 g carbs, 6.7 g fiber, 16.2 g sugars, 29 g protein (calculated with organic vodka sauce).
Mouthwatering steak, creamy vodka sauce, butter, and zoodles — with just four ingredients, you can create a restaurant-quality dish for less than 500 calories and just 22 grams of carbs, and you’ll pack in 29 grams of fat-burning protein. Make sure to use grass-fed beef. According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, it contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, than the regular variety. Bonus: this meal covers 105% of your daily vitamin C needs.
25. FIRE-ROASTED TOMATO PASTA
Nutrition per serving: 567 calories, 23.1 g fat (3g saturated), 19 mg sodium, 85.6 g carbs, 9.3 g fiber, 8.7 g sugars, 8.4 g protein (calculated with 12 oz whole wheat spaghetti and divided into 4 servings)
Whip up a flavorful homemade pasta sauce with less than five ingredients and serve it over whole-wheat spaghetti for a fat-burning dinner that’s ready in just 30 minutes. Always opt for whole-wheat pasta varieties over traditional. Why? They contain three parts of the grain, all nutrient rich and fiber-filling, making them one of the best carbs for weight loss. If you can spare the extra change, go organic — research suggests organic tomatoes may have higher levels of disease-fighting polyphenols and immunity-boosting vitamin C.
26. BAKED SPAGHETTI LASAGNA
Nutrition per serving: 442 calories, 15.5 g fat (8.5 g saturated), 1035 mg sodium, 46 g carbs, 2.7 g fiber, 9.3 g sugars, 29 g protein (calculated with part skim mozzarella, non-fat greek yogurt, and no sausage).
This dish puts a quirky twist on traditional lasagna. Opting for spaghetti over lasagna noodles adds more texture and leaves more room for nutrient-rich veggies and 29 grams of protein. When it comes to weight loss, fat burning and fitness fuel, few foods are more powerful than Greek yogurt. Here, it enhances the creaminess of mozzarella and Parmesan while cutting the calorie count.
Ditching refined noodles and heavy sauces can slim down pasta dishes but enjoying noodles chilled instead of hot off the stove is a proven strategy. When pasta cools, the drop in temperature changes its chemical structure into something called “resistant starch,” which promotes fat oxidation and weight loss, according to researchers.
The best part is, there are tons of chilled pasta salad recipes that make eating a plate of cold noodles delicious and satisfying. Here, some of the tastiest—and healthiest—recipes.
27. AUTUMN CRUNCH PASTA SALAD
Nutrition per serving: 341 calories, 15.6 g fat (1.8 g saturated), 25 mg sodium, 45.6 g carbs, 7.6 g fiber, 12.5 g sugars, 7 g protein (calculated with whole wheat organic shells).
Looking for a refreshing autumn dish whose flavors are complex as the season’s foliage? Try this sweet, salty and savory pasta salad packed with belly-slimming ingredients: Apples, heart-healthy pecans, antioxidant-rich cranberries, mandarin oranges and bloat-banishing spinach. One Penn State University study found that snacking on an apple pre-meal can reduce overall calorie consumption by 15%. Pair this with a lean protein for a balanced meal that will leave you satisfied.
28. BBQ PASTA SALAD
Nutrition per serving: 390 calories, 14 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 449.5 mg sodium, 56 g carbs, 2.7 g fiber, 7.8 g sugars, 12 g protein (calculated with bowtie pasta, low fat mayo and organic BBQ sauce).
It doesn’t have to be summer for you to enjoy a BBQ-inspired meal. All hail the crock pot! If you love pulled pork, this recipe removes all the work, requiring just 20 minutes. Along with the shredded meat, this flavorful recipe includes Roma tomatoes, celery, cheddar cheese, apple cider vinegar and metabolism-boosting spices like chili, garlic, and cayenne pepper.
29. Mandarin Pasta Salad with Teriyaki Dressing
Nutrition per serving: 377 calories, 14.6 g fat, 2.3 g saturated fat, 397 mg sodium, 51 g carbs, 3.2 g fiber, 7.37 g sugar, 10.3 g protein (calculated with 1/3 recipe of olive-oil based dressing, no craisins)
Next time a craving for Chinese food strikes, whip up this pasta salad instead. It packs muscle-building spinach and cashews and is light in calories, sugar, sodium and fat—something orange chicken and Kung Pow shrimp can’t claim.
Eat This! Tip: To ensure the sugar count of this dish stays low, nix the craisins. There are so many other strong flavors mixed in with the noodles that you won’t even miss ’em—promise!
30. Asparagus and Arugula Pasta Salad
Nutrition per serving: 301 calories, 9 g fat, 2.4 g saturated fat, 153 mg sodium, 45.7 g carbs, 6.5 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 10.8 g protein (calculated with crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts)
Packed with peppery arugula, creamy feta and crunchy asparagus, a potassium-rich veggie that helps the body flush out bloat, this tasty salad is a nutritional winner that can help give you that flat-belly look you crave.
31. Greek Pasta Salad
Nutrition per serving: 353 calories, 16.7 g fat, 3.3 g saturated fat, 430 mg sodium, 45 mg carbs, 7. 4 g fiber, 2.9 g sugar, 11.3 g protein
What do you get when you combine classic Greek ingredients like kalamata olives, capers and tomatoes (a veggie that can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and skin damage) with fiber-rich whole-grain pasta? This crowd-pleasing Mediterranean-style pasta salad. This dish makes a tasty, nutritionally-sound addition to any outdoor barbecue.
32. Southwest Pasta Salad
Nutrition per serving: 515 calories, 2.4 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 175 mg sodium, 79 g carbs, 20.4 g fiber, 9.1 g sugar, 28.1 g protein (calculated with one avocado for garnish)
This creamy pasta salad relies on black beans, Greek yogurt and Ancient Harvest Red Lentil & Quinoa Pasta to deliver its massive protein- and fiber-filled punch. The addition of chipotle pepper and chili powder adds a kick of Southwestern spice and will send your metabolism soaring.
33. Sugar Snap Pea and Carrot Soba Noodles
Nutrition per serving: 336 calories, 13.6 g fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 740 mg sodium, 44 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 8.4 g sugar, 16 g protein (calculated with peanut oil)
At Eat This, Not That! we’re big fans of soba noodles. Made from naturally gluten-free buckwheat, a complete protein that boasts magnesium (which aids protein synthesis and increases lean muscle mass) and satiating fiber. The addition of snap peas, carrots and edamame contribute a huge nutritional punch—and a satisfying crunch.
34. 5-Ingredient Simple Green Pasta Salad
Nutrition per serving: 259 calories, 15 g fat, 4.8 g saturated fat, 367 mg sodium, 19.8 g carbs, 2.7 g fiber, 2.5 g sugar, 12.2 g protein (calculated with pesto and macaroni)
With just five ingredients and a mere 260 calories per serving, this recipe makes it beyond easy to whip up a healthy flat belly dish. If you can’t get your hands on a jar of Oliviers and Co. Basilic—the pesto-esque sauce the recipe calls for—simply sub in traditional pesto and ease up on the parm.
35. Vegan Macaroni Salad
Nutrition per serving: 243 calories, 5 g fat, 0. 5 g saturated fat, 116 mg sodium, 41.9 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 10.1 g sugar, 8 g protein (calculated with agave and grapeseed oil)
Macaroni salad is a summer staple, but it can be hard on the waistline, and it’s not vegan-friendly by any means. This spin on the classic dish is light on fat and — thanks to the addition of tofu — heavy on protein, a nutrient that boosts satiety and aids weight loss.
36. Spinach Orzo Chicken Salad
Nutrition per serving: 219 calories, 6.8 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 236 mg sodium, 22.6 g carbs, 3.7 g fiber, 1.9 g sugar, 16 g protein
Spinach and chicken have not only complementing flavors but also waist-whittling superpowers. While spinach owes its muscle-growing powers to its iron levels, chicken has its sky-high protein content to thank. This recipe pairs both ingredients with orzo, onions, tomatoes, basil, goat cheese and a homemade vinaigrette—and we must say, the result is quite delicious.
37. Kale Caesar Pasta Salad
Nutrition per serving: 359 calories, 9 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 424 mg sodium, 56 g carbs, 4.1 g fiber, 9.9 g sugar, 13.9 g protein
If you’re a fan of the classic salad for which this recipe is named, you’re sure to love this savory, flavor-packed dish. The best part — besides the taste — is that it’s packed with vital nutrients. Just one serving provides 70 percent of the day’s vitamin A and 15 percent of the day’s calcium, a bone-building electrolyte that promotes satiety. Sounds like a great excuse to dig in!
38. 5-Ingredient Pasta Salad
Nutrition per serving: 395 calories, 15 g fat, 4.8 g saturated fat, 416 mg sodium, 47 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 18 g protein
Five ingredients and 15 minutes are all you need to whip up this easy, pesto- and mozzarella-infused recipe. Pair with flame-grilled chicken or garlic butter mussels (both primo sources of metabolism-revving protein) to round out your fat-fighting meal.
39. QUINOA PASTA SALAD WITH CHICKEN SAUSAGE
Nutrition per serving: 427 calories, 15.4 g fat (2.3 g saturated), 448 mg sodium, 60 g carbs, 6.5 g fiber, 7 g sugars, 15 g protein
If you suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity, traditional pasta dishes might be limited, but this one is far from traditional. Gluten-free lentil-and-quinoa pasta fills in for the often nutrient-devoid white stuff. Quinoa’s protein, essential amino acids and fiber, and lentils’ potassium content aid in muscle recover. Those belly-slimming ingredients are combined with veggies and chicken sausage and drizzled in an Italian dressing for a satisfying wholesome meal.
40. TACO PASTA SALAD
Nutrition per serving: 570 calories, 25 g fat (13 g saturated), 805 mg sodium, 46 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 6 g sugars, 40 g protein (calculated with 12 oz of rigatoni and 1 cup of zucchini to lower carb count by 10 g per serving) Add 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt for just 30 calories and no fat!
Tacos and pasta may sound like a diet disaster, but if you’re looking for a comfort meal that won’t undo your weight loss goals, try this Taco Pasta Salad. Looking to cut carbs but maintain volume? Reduce the rigatoni count and double up on the zucchini. Opting for 12 ounces of pasta saves you 10 grams of carbs per serving. Add 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for just 30 calories and no added fat!