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Healthy eating is about consistently making choices of nutritious foods, creating a pattern or a way of life to eat foods that nourish our bodies.

There are several eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and plant-based meal plans that are promoted for better health based on research. They may have some differences but the meal plans emphasize many of the same eating practices:

  • Increase vegetable intake
  • Increase whole fruit intake
  • Choose whole grains
  • Enjoy meatless meals that include beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Limit or avoid refined starch, sugary drinks, trans fat, saturated fat and salt.

Make changes one at a time

Changes are hard to make! It might be easier to make small changes which add up to a big change over time. The recipe below is an example of how to change two or three items to make a difference.

Notice this recipe swaps regular pasta for whole wheat pasta, decreases the grains and increases vegetables, and decreases the feta cheese.

Recipe Swap Example: Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Original Recipe Recipe with small changes
3 cups cooked orzo pasta 2 cups cooked whole wheat orzo pasta
1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ red onion, diced 1 red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced 1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced 1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
½ cup sun dried tomatoes, drain oil ½ cup sun dried tomatoes, drain oil
2 tablespoons oil (reserved from tomatoes) 2 tablespoons oil (reserved from tomatoes)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Mediterranean Pasta Salad


  1. Drain oil from sun dried tomatoes jar, reserving 2 tablespoons of oil.
  2. Place tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  3. Heat reserved oil in a skillet, adding garlic, onion and peppers. Sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Place pasta in a bowl, add pepper mixture, sun dried tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Mix well.
  5. Sprinkle feta cheese on top.

Dish can be served warm or cold.

Yield: 6 servings   Serving size: 1 cup

Nutrition information per serving:

Original Recipe Modified Recipe
260 calories 210 calories
3g saturated fat 2g saturated fat
5g fiber 7g fiber
340mg sodium 230mg sodium

Notice the modified recipe has an estimated 50 fewer calories, 110mg less of sodium, 1g less of saturated fat, 110mg less of sodium and an additional 2g of fiber.

These recipe modifications aren’t big changes. But if a person can make small changes several times over the course of a week, throughout the year it can add up into a healthy reward!

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Article by: Beth A. Ackerman, R.D.

Beth Ackerman, R.D., is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator with the UofL Physicians – Diabetes and Obesity Center. Beth is on the team of educators of the ADA-approved diabetes education team at UofL Physicians. She has counseled people with diabetes for more than 25 years. Ackerman serves as the Diabetes Prevention Program Workgroup co-chair for the Kentucky Diabetes Network and volunteers at Camp Hendon, a diabetes camp for children.

All posts by Beth A. Ackerman, R.D.
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