Cleaning up your diet?
Pasta is the foundation of so many favorite recipes—from spaghetti and lasagna to goulash to tuna casserole to Pad Thai. Yet, many people are turning away from pasta to cut carbs, cut calories, avoid gluten, or just to lighten up the dinner menu to prevent feeling heavy, bloated, and lethargic. After all, a one-cup serving of traditional pasta can weigh you down with 221 calories and 43 grams of carbs with a mere 2.5 grams of fiber. But it’s
so hard to give up your favorite dishes. Enter low-carb pasta alternatives. There are numerous choices available. So, what are the best pasta alternatives? Even if you aren’t waging war against carbs (including pasta), there are other delicious options that can set the stage perfectly for your favorite “pasta” dishes. Some of them can also help increase the amount of vegetables, fiber, and protein to boot. Thanks to Sue Mosebar for these great ideas. Let’s dig into the best low-carb pasta alternatives… 1. Spaghetti Squash Could it be any more obvious how perfect this squash
is as one of the best pasta alternatives? Once cooked, just use a fork to separate the strings, which look, as the name suggests, very much like spaghetti. A one-cup serving provides a mere 31 calories, 7 grams of carbs (1.5 grams being fiber), and a full serving of vegetables. It takes up to 45 minutes to bake a spaghetti squash, but it can also be boiled in 20 minutes or microwaved for 6 to 8 minutes. And it takes just seven minutes. Now all you have to do is decide if you want to top it with your favorite marinara, butter and cheese, or Thai topping.
2. Zoodles (and Other Spiralized Vegetables) Another veggie-rich option is to spiralize vegetables. Zucchini gained a reputation as a simple low-carb pasta alternative (aka zoodles), but many vegetables can be used in this way, including carrots, turnips, beets, and even cucumbers. The easiest way to spiralize vegetables is using, well, a spiralizer. However, a vegetable peeler works as well. And many food processors now come with a spiralizing option to give you a pile of your low-carb pasta alternative in secon
ds. Two cups of zoodles made with zucchini provide just 66 calories, 12 grams of carbs (with 4 grams of fiber). Don’t bother peeling your vegetables first as that’s where you find most of the nutrients. 3. Eggplant If you’re a fan of lasagna and think there are no other options, consider eggplant (aka aubergine) to replace your big fat lasagna noodles. Just cut the eggplant lengthwise into thin slices (if you have one, a mandoline slicer makes fast work of this and keeps the slices more uniform for cooking), add a little salt to help pull out some of the water content, wipe off the moisture and excess salt, and they’re ready to layer in your lasagna dish.
If you want a firmer “noodle,” brush or spray the eggplant slices with some olive oil and place in the oven to roast until they’re golden (turn once while cooking) before they become your low-carb pasta alternative. Per one-cup serving, you’ll find a mere 20 calories, 4.8 grams of carbs, including 2.5 grams of fiber. Your lasagna will be lighter in calories and carbs but still loaded with the taste you love.
4. Shirataki Noodles Shirataki noodles are long, white noodles. They are often called miracle noodles wonder noodle or konjac noodles (sometimes blended with tofu too). They’re made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from the root of the konjac plant. Konjac grows in Japan, China and Southeast Asia. It contains very few digestible carbs — but most of its carbs come from glucomannan fiber. “Shirataki” is Japanese for “white waterfall,” which describes the noodles’ translucent appearance. Shirataki noodles contain a lot of water. In fact, they are about 97% water and 3% glucomannan fiber. They’re also very low in calories and contain no digestible carbs. Glucomannan is a highly viscous fiber, which is a type of soluble fiber that can absorb water to form a gel. In fact, glucomannan can absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, as reflected in shirataki noodles’ extremely high water content. These noodles move through your digestive system very slowly, which helps you feel full and delays nutrient absorption into your bloodstream. This also means it won't spike your blood sugar the way a wheat pasta does. Viscous fiber functions as a prebiotic. It nourishes the bacteria living in your colon, also known as the gut flora or microbiota. In your colon, bacteria ferment fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which can fight inflammation, boost immune function and provide other health benefits. Their viscous fiber delays stomach emptying, so you stay full longer and end up eating less. What’s more, taking glucomannan before consuming a lot of carbs appears to reduce levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. In addition, fermenting fiber into short-chain fatty acids can stimulate the release of a gut hormone that increases feelings of fullness. Shirataki noodles can be a powerful weight loss tool. Since a typical 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of shirataki noodles contains about 1–3 grams of glucomannan, it’s essentially a calorie-free, carb-free food.
6. Legume and Lentil Pastas If you want your pasta to bring in the plant-based protein, fiber, and flavor (without the gluten), then bean- or lentil-based pasta hits the mark. Even at your local grocery store, you’re likely to find pastas made with chickpeas, lentils, black beans, and more. Check the labels carefully, though, as you’ll want to look for one that’s made with just one ingredient (e.g., black bean flour in Trader Joe’s Organic Black Bean Rotini); watch out for those that have a number of other additives, like tapioca and xanthan gum, which can increase the carb load. Lots of new and interesting ideas to try here! Hope you have some fun cooking. As always... here's to your best health, Dr. Linda
FUN FACT Gordon Ramsay holds a pasta World Record. In 2017, the British celebrity chef set a new Guinness World Record for the longest pasta sheet rolled in 60 seconds – and he caught it all on camera for an episode of his show The F-Word. The sheet he produced was 144.78cm long. That’s 57 inches for us north Americans.