Green Veggie Pasta Sauce in a pan on a hot surface

From red marinara full of tomatoes to fresh basil pesto, pasta dishes are common in most households, but have you ever had green pasta sauce that’s loaded with healthy vegetables?

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and National Nutrition Month, NCHPAD Registered Dietitian Emily McAllister has a fresh new green veggie pasta sauce recipe to add to your weekly routine!

Making your own pasta sauce at home is a good way to try something new, and you can make it to your preferred taste. When you make your own sauce, you can control what ingredients go in it instead of getting pre-made sauce that may be high in saturated fat. Store bought pasta sauces can also be loaded with sodium or sugar, depending on the brand.

With the right recipe, cooking at home is a fun and creative hobby that can add lasting health benefits! Try this sauce below and see if it becomes your new go-to recipe!

The Recipe:

Ingredients: (5 servings)

  • 12 oz pasta (we used penne noodles)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 diced yellow onion
  • ½ tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup spinach (or kale)
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 cup original almond milk (or soy milk/1% regular milk)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • ½ block of soft feta (or any cheese you like)


  1. In a pan on medium heat, saute garlic, onion, broccoli, peas, spinach and olive oil for about 10 minutes until veggies are tender.
  2. Add sauteed veggies into your blender or food processor with basil, parsley, milk, broth, lemon, salt, pepper and blend!
  3. Begin melting feta on the same pan.
  4. Pour the sauce back into the pan and continue melting cheese until the sauce becomes creamy.
  5. Pour sauce over pasta and enjoy!

*feel free to season with onion powder and garlic powder!

Nutritional Benefits

  • Spinach is rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and necessary vitamins A, C and K.
  • Peas are a good source of zinc, vitamins C and E, and other immune-boosting antioxidants.
  • Vegetable broth is often high in fiber and lower in fat compared to other broths.
  • Broccoli is rich in vitamins and minerals, good for heart health and has nutrients that reduce inflammation.
  • Depending on the type of almond milk, it can be lower in calories and carbs than milk from a cow and be a good source of magnesium and vitamin E.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is full of antioxidants and contains healthy fats.

Move out of your comfort zone and try some new recipes with us this month and experience the joy of cooking!

A graphic divided into three photos. A photo of a bowl of zucchini noodles on the left, a bowl of greek yogurt and fruit in the middle, and a bowl of popcorn on the right

Sticking to a healthy diet can seem overwhelming. You might crave a certain food or need to change a pattern in your diet that leads to unhealthy behavior. Luckily, there are some easy, satisfying swaps that make any diet not just healthy but delicious, too.

Here are a few of our favorite food swaps.


Plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Use yogurt instead of anywhere you’d use sour cream for an extra dose of protein. Protein keeps you feeling full and helps build and repair muscle. Think tacos, chili, dips and more. The possibilities are endless.

Use plain Greek yogurt and sweeten it with fruit. Full of probiotics, yogurt is a great breakfast or snack. But some flavored yogurt is full of added sugar. Try adding fruit to plain Greek yogurt for extra protein as well as nutrients and fiber from the fruit. Think blueberries, shredded apples, chopped mangoes, strawberries and more.


Try popcorn or nuts instead of potato chips. Popcorn is high in fiber and lower in fat and calories than potato chips and other salty snacks. Nuts are nutrient dense, providing heart-healthy unsaturated fats and other vitamins and minerals.


Try sparkling water instead of sugary sodas. Sparkling water comes in a variety of flavors and usually contains no calories or sugar.

Add flavor to water to make water taste – and look – more interesting. Check out our flavored water video series for some fun ideas.

Love fruit juice? Try eating whole fruits instead of just fruit juice. Whole fruits have more nutrients than juice – like fiber – to make you feel full.


Try zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash! Zucchini noodles, or zoodles, can work as a substitute in a variety of pasta dishes, and so can spaghetti squash. Check out this zucchini noodle recipe!


Cauliflower rice has substantially fewer calories than rice. Try cauliflower rice instead of rice. Or try a mix of half cauliflower rice and half brown rice.


Lower your saturated fat intake by swapping a mixture of lentils and mushrooms for ground beef. Lentils contain high amounts of protein and fiber, and mushrooms have a meaty flavor and texture.


A bowl of cereal is a staple breakfast for many people, but most cereals are high in sugar and lack nutrients like protein and fiber. Try oatmeal for a healthier alternative that you can sweeten with fruit.


White bread offers little nutritional value. Swap it for whole grain bread that can offer you fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.


Love chocolate? Try eating dark chocolate, which is full of disease-fighting antioxidants. And the darker the better. You can tell how dark your chocolate is by the percentage of cacao listed on the wrapper. Health experts recommend eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate with 72% cacao or higher.

A Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie in a glass jar with a straw. The words "Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie, a sweet and healthy treat!" on it.

Want to enjoy something sweet AND healthy this Thanksgiving? Our pumpkin cheesecake smoothie recipe gives you lean protein and healthy fat – and is full of great fall flavor!

Pumpkin isn’t just a delicious holiday pie flavor. While pumpkin does add delicious flavor to many recipes, it also provides some key nutrients. Pumpkin is full of beta-carotene that helps promote healthy vision and immune function, and pumpkin is also a great source of fiber.

To top it off, adding heart-healthy oats will keep you fuller for longer and add even more heart-healthy fiber, and the low-fat yogurt and protein powder add plenty of lean protein.

“Pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamin A, which is important to preserve vision, fight infections and maintain healthy skin,” said NCHPAD Registered Dietitian Emily McCallister. “Pumpkin is also a great source of fiber – a nutrient that helps stabilize blood sugar, along with potassium, which helps with muscle contraction, blood pressure and mineral balance within our cells. Be sure to purchase 100% pumpkin puree to receive all its health benefits without the added sugar.”

Watch the video below and check out the ingredients below the video.


1 cup canned pumpkin

½ frozen banana

1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 cup fat-free milk

½ cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon ground flax seed

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Sprinkle of nutmeg

Sheet pan with roasted veggies

For individuals with diabetes, reducing your carbohydrate intake and managing your blood sugar levels are vitally important. But what healthy meals are out there that are also delicious? For National Diabetes Month, we’ve got three sheet pan meals that are easy to make, packed with flavor and contain well-balanced portions – a key component to keeping a healthy blood sugar level.

“Lifestyle modifications like eating consistent meals throughout the day and having a balanced plate can help manage blood sugar,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “A balanced plate contains half non-starchy vegetables, a quarter lean protein and a quarter whole grains or starchy vegetables.”

Each of the following recipes contains a balanced plate, including healthy carbohydrates, fats and protein. “When managing blood sugar, it’s important to choose carbohydrates that are fiber-rich, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, peas and beans,” says Gammon. “Pair carbohydrates with a protein and healthy fat to slow digestion and prevent high spikes in blood sugar.”

All three recipes are also perfect for meal prepping, so try them out – and save the leftovers for later in the week!

Watch the video and check out the ingredients & instructions for each recipe below.

1) Chipotle Chicken, Veggies, & Brown Rice | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 medium lime, halved, divided
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 can of chipotles in adobo
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving
  • 1.5 cup broccoli
  • 1.5 cup sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Place the juice from the chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, garlic, oil, honey, cumin, juice of half a lime, and salt in a bowl and stir until smooth.
  2. Place the chicken, sweet potato, and red onion in a large zip-top bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat everything in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.
  4. Place the chicken and the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the chicken registers 165°F in the thickest part of the meat not touching bone and the vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, squeeze the remaining lime half over the chicken and vegetables, and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve over rice.

2) Lemony Salmon, Asparagus, and Carrots | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 4 (6-oz.) skin-on salmon fillets
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
  • ¼ cup low-fat, non-flavored yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 lemon), divided
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • ¼ cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. small carrots with tops, cut lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place salmon, skin side down, on half of prepared baking sheet. Stir together yogurt, mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper in a medium bowl. Spread over salmon fillets in an even layer; top with panko, and press lightly to adhere. Spray with cooking spray.
  2. Toss together asparagus, carrots, olive oil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Place vegetables on empty side of baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until salmon is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 18 minutes. Serve with brown rice and lemon wedges.

3) Southwestern Sweet Potato & Black Bean Bowl | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 1 cup microwavable brown rice
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, chopped into 1” pieces
  • ½ red onion, chopped into 1” pieces
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained, rinsed and towel-dried
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional toppings:

  • Sauce: honey-chipotle or honey-dijon from previous recipes
  • Avocado
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauce
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook the rice according to package directions
  3. Combine the broccoli, sweet potato, red onion, chickpeas, black beans, olive oil and spices in a large mixing bowl. Gently toss together until evenly coated.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  5. To serve: place the roasted sweet potatoes and beans over a bed of brown rice. Top with any of the optional toppings. Enjoy!

Written by Sydney Colligan, UAB Dietitic Intern

Fall season has arrived, so you know what that means: all things pumpkin! Often thought of as a vegetable, pumpkin is actually a fruit that is full of nutrients and health benefits. Because of pumpkin’s rich antioxidant content, it can also reduce inflammation – especially important for individuals with disabilities.

Whether it’s fresh or canned, pumpkin is an amazing addition to your diet. Try the recipe below to reap all the health benefits pumpkin has to offer!

Fall in a Bowl Smoothie


  1. ¼ cup pumpkin purée, frozen
  2. ¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt, frozen
  3. 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  4. 1 tablespoon almond butter
  5. 1 banana, frozen
  6. ½ cup almond milk, more as needed


  1. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until a creamy consistency forms.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Want even more pumpkin? Try our savory and delicious pumpkin ravioli with sage brown butter sauce.


You may have been told to “eat the rainbow,” meaning to eat colorful fruits and vegetables to get a variety of important vitamins and nutrients. This is generally a good rule to follow, and it’s especially true with colorful berries like blueberries.

Research shows that 1 cup of blueberries a day has been shown to decrease the type of inflammation that causes heart disease, stroke, cell death (that causes cancer) and poor cognition.

Blueberries (and other blue and purple foods) get their color from a phytochemical called anthocyanin – and anthocyanin is a powerful nutrient with many health benefits. In addition to blueberries, other foods like blackberries, grapes, plums, purple cabbage and red onion are all good sources of anthocyanin. “Just keep in mind that nutrients found in highly processed foods can make inflammation worse,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator, “so target whole fruits and vegetables for your vitamin and nutrient needs.”

Want to incorporate more blueberries into your diet? Try these three recipes:

Watch: Blackberry Blueberry Mint Water

Recipe: Heavenly Blueberry Smoothie


  • 1 frozen banana, thawed for 10 to 15 minutes
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 cup vanilla fat-free yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons flax seed meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries


  • Cut banana into small pieces and place in blender. Add the soy milk, yogurt, flax seed meal, and honey.
  • Blend on lowest speed until smooth, about 5 seconds. Gradually add the blueberries while continuing to blend on low.
  • Once the blueberries have been incorporated, increase speed, and blend to desired consistency.


Recipe: Simple High-Fiber Snack


  • 1/2 17-ounce box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran Cereal or Shredded Wheat
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried berries (strawberries, cranberries, cherries, blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup natural pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup broken walnut pieces or almonds


Combine all ingredients in a large zip-lock bag and gently shake mixture. Best if consumed within 4-5 days and kept in an air-tight container or zip-lock sealed bags.

3 Anti Inflammatory meals in 15 minutes or less

Looking for delicious and nutritious meals that combat inflammation? We’ve got you covered with three easy-to-make recipes that are not only packed with anti-inflammatory goodness but can also be prepared in just 15 minutes!

“Decreasing inflammation in your body decreases risk for heart disease, stroke and certain cancers,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “From fatty fish and dark, leafy greens like kale to nuts, watermelon and sweet potatoes, these recipes feature many ingredients that can help decrease inflammation and support your health.”

In this video, we’ll guide you through the process of creating a refreshing watermelon arugula salad, a delicious seared tuna salad with fruit and hummus dressing, and a hearty sweet potato hash with broccoli and walnuts.

Watch the video and check out the recipes for each meal below.

Watermelon salad

Serving size: 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes


  • 2 cups watermelon, diced
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1 cucumber, diced into ¼” cubes
  • 1 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)


  1. Dice watermelon in ½” cubes and set aside.
  2. Toss arugula in bowl with half of the oil, season with salt and pepper and arrange on a plate to form a mound in center. Place cubed watermelon around base.
  3. Sprinkle goat cheese evenly around salad. Place cucumber around watermelon and drizzle the rest of oil over cucumber and watermelon.
  4. Drizzle balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze to finish. If looking for more crunch, sprinkle 1 teaspoon toasted, sliced almonds, pumpkin seed, walnuts, or personal preference.

Seared tuna salad with fruit and hummus dressing

Serving size: 1

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes


  • 1, 4-6 oz. tuna fillet
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 ½ cups kale
  • ¼ apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup assorted berries, (strawberries, blueberries, pomegranate, etc
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup hummus
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil


  1. Place kale in bowl, add apple slices and berries. In smaller bowl, mix hummus with vinegar and pour over salad.
  2. Heat pan on high heat. Season tuna on both sides with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan and sear tuna 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Pull tuna off heat and let cool 2 minutes. Slice thinly and add to top of salad.

Add-on or substitutions:

Tuna may be replaced with salmon or chicken. Assorted berries may be used according to season. Kale may be replaced with spinach or other lettuces.

Sweet potato, broccoli and walnut hash

Service size: 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes


  • 1, 6 oz bag of prechopped sweet potato (or 2 small sweet potato, cut in to cubes)
  • 1 cup prechopped broccoli
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup halved walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup low sugar craisins
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Chop fresh vegetables into equal sized pieces. About ½” cubes.
  3. Spread ingredients on to a prepared baking sheet.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil and mix until all ingredients are covered. Add walnuts.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender, lightly caramelized, and walnuts are toasted.
frozen food with a smiling face

Navigating the frozen food section can be tricky. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid is key to making healthy choices. Frozen vegetables without seasoning are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. They are frozen at their peak ripeness, so they maintain much of their vitamin, mineral and fiber content.

“Frozen foods that have added sauces or seasonings are often higher in fat and sodium than other healthful nutrients, but check the ingredients list,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “The fewer ingredients and additives there are on the label, the more confident you can feel about making a healthy choice.

If you find yourself struggling with low energy, a lack of focus or constant fatigue, these delicious and nutrient-packed dishes can help. Each recipe is easy to make and features frozen food as a main ingredient, making meal prep a breeze.

Watch the video and check out the ingredients for each recipe below.

Teriyaki Shrimp Stir Fry


  • Brown Rice
  • Frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • Frozen shrimp
  • Teriyaki sauce or soy sauce
  • Ginger
  • Garlic

Turkey Meatball Sub Sliders


  • Frozen turkey meatballs
  • Hawaiian bread
  • Marinara
  • Low fat cheese
  • Frozen green beans

Loaded Southwest Sweet Potato


  • 2 baked sweet potatoes, halved
  • 1 bag southwest protein blend
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese
  • Cilantro

Meeting your protein needs is beneficial to prevent muscle loss – and keeps you feeling full for longer. “People with disabilities experience muscle loss more frequently than those without disabilities,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “And building muscle can help improve mobility and decrease pain.”

Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day, and it’s true that breakfast is a great opportunity refuel your body and start your day right. And adding some extra protein to your breakfast can help prevent muscle loss.

How much protein do you need?

Generally, 30-35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein sources. Some good protein sources are beans, beef, tofu, chicken, peas, turkey, nuts and seeds. “Keep in mind that exceeding your protein needs without accompanied exercise could lead to weight gain,” says Gammon. “Excess protein not being utilized is stored as fat.”

Try protein powder

Protein powder is an easy way to add more protein to your diet. When looking for a protein powder, try to make sure it has at least 20 grams of protein per scoop (not serving) and fewer than 5 grams of carbohydrates per scoop. “But make sure you choose a protein powder that meets your health goals,” says Gammon. “Not all supplements are created equal.”

Here’s what you should consider:

  • Is it a reputable brand? Protein powders are not regulated by the FDA. Do you research about a brand before picking up just any protein powder.
  • What type of protein is being used? Soy, whey, egg, milk, pea?
  • Is there added sugar in the product? Are there any additional fillers?
  • Does it provide a variety of amino acids? If not, you will need to get other sources of protein throughout the day.
  • Does it have a biological value or protein digestibility on the label? This is an estimation of how well your body will absorb the protein.

Try these three healthy high protein breakfast recipes if you are having trouble eating or meeting your protein needs.

Chocolate Chip Protein Muffins:

  • 2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk or milk substitute
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup nut butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Vanilla Protein Smoothie:

  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup milk or milk substitute

Overnight Protein Oats:

  • 1.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
  • 2 cups milk or milk substitute
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Blueberries for topping
kale on a cutting board

Calcium plays a major role in bone health, and kale is chock full of calcium. Did you know that kale even has more calcium than a glass of milk? Leafy greens like kale, also full of vitamin K, can help prevent or slow bone disease like osteoporosis, especially important for people with disabilities.

“Individuals with disability may be at greater risk for developing bone disease,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “If you have limited mobility, a sedentary lifestyle, smoke cigarettes, vape, take blood thinners or corticosteroids, or are over the age of 65, consider focusing on your calcium and vitamin D intake to prevent bone loss. It’s never too late to start putting your health first!”

Kale is also very versatile. You can eat it raw or cooked in several different ways. These two recipes are delicious, nutritious and simple – each has six ingredients or less: For our appetizer, we have easy kale chips. And for our main dish, we’re making salmon with a side of lemony garlic kale and white beans.

Try these two simple and delicious recipes to keep your bones strong! Check out our Nutrilab video, and then find the ingredients below.


Kale chips:

  • 1 medium-sized bunch of kale
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of garlic powder
  • Kale and white beans:
  • 2 large bunches of kale
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
  • 1 lemon

Baked salmon:

  • 2 pieces of salmon
  • 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 small lemons
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher
  • 4 cloves garlic salt & pepper