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Easy fixes for a healthy pasta night

ThinkstockPhotos-476768382 (1)Pasta has a bad reputation when it comes to planning healthy meals. Oftentimes, that’s warranted. Spaghetti dishes loaded with cheeses, heavy sauces or greasy meat is a high-carb, high-calorie plate not conducive to healthy eating. But that’s not to say that all Italian-inspired pasta dinners are bad. When done properly, they can provide runners with ample amounts of nutrients and be a smart way to get in those needed servings of fresh vegetables. Penne on the menu? Here are some tips to keep in mind before you get cooking:

Add in more vegetables. Bulk up the meal by adding more vegetables than you normally would and cutting down the portion of pasta. The flavours will remain the same and you won’t even miss the smaller helping of noodles. Mix up the produce that you choose to include in the sauce. Need ideas? Eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, kale, onion, mushrooms and peppers will always blend well with a basic marinara sauce.

Brown is better than white but only if not refined. Brown wheat pasta beats white pasta however, when shopping for the ideal spaghetti, look for a brand that uses 100 per cent whole grain. Like bread, anything with the word “refined” has stripped some of the grain’s goodness away.

Swap the noodles for veggie substitutes. This is a smart tip for runners looking to lose weight or just cut down on the carbs. What you need is a spiralizer or basic vegetable peeler. Whittle away at zucchini, eggplant or carrots until you have a pile of ribbons. Use those instead of the pasta or to supplement a smaller portion.  Of course, the good ol’ spaghetti squash also comes into this category.

Put green salad on the side. Make a big, crunchy garden salad to put on the side so you don’t just load up on that second serving. Eating salads is always satisfying when athletes can come away with that light-but-full feeling. Don’t make it boring– add in favourite nuts, seeds, an herb goat cheese or dried cranberries. Eating healthy shouldn’t be a chore.

Go lean. Protein that comes in the form of chickpeas, lentils or chicken gains triathletes a gold star in nutrition. Your standard beef/veal/lamb combo in meatballs or traditional bolognese, not so much.

Do away with cream sauces. Chunky veggie-heavy sauces are smart. Sauces that rely on butter, cream and cheese do nothing other than make the taste buds happy. If that’s what you’re going for, fair. Triathletes work hard and should indulge every so often. But if you want something that’s going to make the body happy, shelf the Alfredo.