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Which is healthier potato salad or pasta salad?

Potato salad and pasta salad are two popular summertime dishes that are often brought to barbeques, picnics, and other gatherings. But when it comes to nutritional value, which one is actually healthier? There are pros and cons to both that need to be considered.

Potato Salad Nutrition

The main ingredients in traditional potato salad are potatoes, mayonnaise, eggs, vegetables like celery and onion, and seasonings. Here is the nutritional breakdown for a typical serving (1 cup) of potato salad:

Calories 365
Total Fat 26g
Saturated Fat 4g
Sodium 488mg
Total Carbs 28g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 2g
Protein 5g

Potatoes are high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and fiber. The egg also adds protein. However, much of the fat and calories come from the mayonnaise, which can account for up to 80% of the calories in potato salad. The sodium content is also quite high due to seasonings, salt and ingredients like pickles.

Pasta Salad Nutrition

Pasta salad typically contains pasta, vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and onions, cheese like cheddar or feta, and dressing such as Italian, ranch or vinaigrette. Here is the nutrition for 1 cup of basic pasta salad with Italian dressing:

Calories 166
Total Fat 6g
Saturated Fat 1g
Sodium 471mg
Total Carbs 24g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 3g
Protein 5g

Pasta salad has less fat and calories than potato salad since it does not contain mayonnaise or egg. The sodium is also lower without pickles, eggs, etc. Pasta provides carbohydrates and some protein. The vegetables add key nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber. However, keep in mind that pasta salads with creamy dressings or cheese can have higher fat and calories.

Potato Salad vs Pasta Salad: The Winner?

When comparing the basic nutrition facts, pasta salad is lower in calories, fat, and sodium compared to potato salad. However, potato salad contains more potassium and vitamin B6.

Some variations to consider:

  • Potato salad can be lightened up by using greek yogurt or mustard instead of mayonnaise.
  • Pasta salads can have more calories and fat if heavy creams, cheeses or meats are added.
  • Additional vegetables like broccoli, carrots, spinach or avocado can boost the nutrients in both types of salad.
  • Watch out for high-calorie, fatty dressings and toppings.

So which one is healthier? Overall, basic pasta salad has a slight edge over potato salad based on having lower calories, fat and sodium. But it depends on the specific ingredients used. Both salads can be healthy options when made with nutritious whole food ingredients and sensible portions. Moderation is key, since large portion sizes can lead to excess calories regardless of which salad you choose. Either type of fresh salad is a better option than fried foods or heavy casseroles at a summer meal.

Healthy Additions for Potato & Pasta Salads

Here are some healthy mix-ins you can add to lighten up potato or pasta salad:

  • Greek yogurt or avocado – Use as a creamy, lower fat substitute for mayo.
  • Mustard – Adds flavor without calories or fat.
  • Lemon juice – Brightens flavor and avoids need for salt.
  • Vinegar – Brings acidity and tang without many calories.
  • Herbs – Fresh basil, dill, parsley add flavor without fat, salt or sugar.
  • Non-starchy veggies – Onion, celery, bell pepper, carrots, broccoli.
  • Leafy greens – Spinach, arugula, kale.

Making either type of salad with a lighter hand by lowering the mayo or dressing and adding more veggies can transform it into a healthy, waistline-friendly dish.


When comparing traditional recipes, pasta salad tends to be a bit healthier than potato salad due to lower calories, fat and sodium. However, both dishes can be made nutritious by using fresh ingredients and limiting high-calorie sauces or toppings. To lighten them up, try swapping the mayo for greek yogurt or reducing the amount used. Adding more non-starchy vegetables is an easy way to boost fiber and nutrients without adding many calories. So go ahead and enjoy potato, pasta or another favorite summer salad – just stick to reasonable portions and fill your plate with healthy fixings.