5 ways to eat pasta (almost) every night and still be healthy

Want to shed a few pounds in the New Year? You may think pasta is a no-no, but there’s really no reason to pass up a delicious bowl of penne or farfalle. Here are some easy tips to make pasta a healthy staple in your weekly meal rotation.

1. Measure Your Pasta
When cooking, it’s hard to estimate portions of pasta, especially when poured straight out of the box. Pulling out a kitchen scale or measuring cups will help keep your serving sizes in check. A reasonable pasta portion is 2 ounces dry, which works out to about 1 cup cooked.  

2. Load Up On Veggies
Increase your veggies to pasta ratio to 3 to 1 or even higher. Veggies are low in calories, rich in vitamins and minerals, and best of all, add lots of volume to help you feel full. Some great pasta-friendly vegetables are kale, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and broccoli rabe. And while you’re at it, throw in some lean plant-based proteins like chickpeas or cannellini beans, which are rich in satiating fiber.

3. Switch to Whole Grain
The nuttier taste of whole grain pasta might take a little getting used to, but making the switch will add more fiber to your diet, along with important minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. The chewy texture of the pasta means you’ll have to chew a little longer, giving your body that much more time to register that you’ve had enough. Not all brands of whole grain pasta taste alike, so try a few before settling on your favorite.

4. Go Red
If you’re having trouble choosing between sauces, these numbers should help tip the scale. A quarter cup of creamy alfredo sauce clocks in at 140 calories and 12 grams of fat, more than half of which are saturated. Compare that to ½ cup of marinara, which only has 70 calories and 1 gram of fat.* Plus, tomato sauce is brimming with lycopene, an important antioxidant that’s been shown to help fight cancer and heart disease. Seems like a no-brainer! (*Comparison between Buitoni Alfredo Sauce and Classico Sweet Basil & Marinara Sauce)

5. Be Choosy with Cheese
It’s easy to pile on mild cheeses like ricotta or mozzarella, but these toppings can quickly pack on calories and fat. Get more bang for your caloric buck by sprinkling on a small amount of a stronger cheese, such as asiago, parmesan or pecorino. You’ll get the flavor you crave without all the guilt. And instead of mixing it in, leave cheese for the top of your pasta so you can better “taste” with your eyes.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.