The fear of pasta deprivation is one of the main reasons people despise low carb diets. But guess what? There are many low carb, high fiber and gluten-free alternatives to pasta on the market. So skip the standard white pasta and reach for a healthier alternative! Here are some of my favorite white pasta substitutes along with some useful tips to help you stay in check.
Shiritaki noodles are a low-carb Japanese noodle made from konnyaku root, which is part of the yam family. An entire container is just 40 calories! Just make sure to follow the cleaning instructions for a fabulous addition to your meal. Kombu noodles are green noodles made from seaweed and are also surprisingly low in calories. Both are plain in taste and therefore work well with seasonings in soups, salads or used as the main star of your meal in a stir fry or with pasta sauce. You can buy them at Whole Foods in the refrigerated aisle next to tofu products.
Favorite preparation: I love making a stir-fry with noodles. Before putting them in my wok, I make sure to rinse them in a colander and then put them in a pot of low sodium chicken or veggie broth until hot, then drain out the broth and pat the noodles dry. Then, add the noodles to the wok with peppers, broccoli, water chestnuts and some lite soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and a touch of sesame oil. For an extra protein punch, choose between slices of chicken, shrimp or tofu. Delish!
Tip: Instead of reaching for a fork, use chopsticks to not only slow you down, but to make the eating experience fun.
Cup for cup, spaghetti squash has fewer than 25% of the calories and carbs of regular spaghetti and is nutritionally superior. One cup of plain cooked, boiled or baked spaghetti squash has about 40 calories and is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins C and B.
Favorite preparation: For an easy vegetarian option, mix the spaghetti squash with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Yum!
Tip: Jam-pack your noodle dish with a variety of veggies and lean protein like chicken or lean ground turkey to bulk up the dish the healthy way. Although spaghetti squash takes longer to cook whole rather than cutting the squash before cooking, it’s much easier to cut open afterwards. Just make sure to pierce the squash several times before microwaving in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Let the squash stand for 5 minutes before cutting it open and removing the seeds and pulp. Separate the spaghetti squash strands with a fork.
Quinoa pasta is a corn and quinoa flour blend has a mild nutty flavor and tastes similar to whole wheat pasta. It's loaded with protein, is very low in sodium and cooks in 4-6 minutes. Quinoa stands alone as a complete protein grain and is high in protein, thiamin and riboflavin. And it’s also gluten-free! Quinoa pasta comes in a variety of pasta shapes.
Favorite preparation: Add ½ cup cooked quinoa pasta with ½ cup of tomato sauce, ¼ cup of part skim ricotta and for meat lovers – add some lean turkey meatballs.
Tip: Only portion out what you need. The more you make at one time, the more you’ll likely eat! Since ½ cup is a portion of pasta, portion out ¼ cup of dry pasta per person. Make it a side dish instead of the main focus of your meal.