What to Eat When You Want Low-Carb Pasta

Low-Carb Pasta Alternatives Are Often Healthier Than Real Pasta

Zucchini Noodles pasta with vegetables
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The fear of pasta deprivation is one of the things that turns people away from low-carb diets. If you think you can't live without spaghetti, macaroni, or ramen, fear not. There are many low-carb alternatives to pasta.

The Role of Pasta

There are some true hard-core pasta-lovers. These people would just as soon sit down to a serving of plain pasta as anything else. But for many people, plain pasta doesn’t cut it—it’s the sauces and toppings they want most.

For them, pasta is mostly a vehicle for other flavors. If you are one of them, you need to find a different vehicle to fill that role.

If you eat regular pasta, be sure to cook it al dente, so it is slightly firm rather than soft. This reduces the amount the pasta will raise your blood sugar, the glycemic index.

Vegetables as Pasta Substitutes

Many vegetables are bland enough to use as a blank canvas for pasta sauces, and most of them are far more nutritious than pasta. Spaghetti squash easily separates into spaghetti-like strands after cooking. It has less than a quarter of the calories and carbs of regular spaghetti (even whole wheat)—and surpasses pasta in most nutrient categories. It’s delicious with pesto and creamy sauces. It can also be used in casseroles, like turkey tetrazzini. If you've never cooked spaghetti squash before, have no fear; it’s easy.

Other veggies that serve as good “beds” for pasta sauces:

  • Zucchini or other summer squash, shredded, julienned, or cut into ribbons with a peeler. To make them even more noodle-like, try making zoodles with a spiralizer. Zoodles are great with pesto.
  • Cauliflower rice: You can grate, finely chop, or process it in a food processor to produce cauliflower rice. Then steam it in the microwave, saute, or roast it before using it as you would use rice.
  • Cabbage can be shredded and sautéed to use as your base. Adding some sliced onion gives even more flavor.
  • Bean sprouts can be lightly sautéed on their own, or add them in with the cabbage in the final minute of cooking.
  • Use your imagination. Many veggies have compatible flavors with sauces, such as green beans with pesto sauce or eggplant strips with marinara.

Spiralizer Tool for Making Vegetable Noodles

A spiralizer or spiral slicer is a simple kitchen tool that turns vegetables into noodles, called a spiral slicer or spiralizer. Here are a couple of highly-rated ones you might want to investigate on Amazon:

Low-Carb Asian Noodles

There are a couple of low-carb options for making Asian noodle dishes, although you may want to see how they translate to other pasta cuisines.

  • Shirataki Noodles: These noodles are made from a plant called different things in different languages - you might see it called “yam noodle” or “Konnyaku.” These noodles are almost completely fiber. They hardly have any calories or carbs. Plus, there is some evidence that they may have other health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. Shirataki noodles come packaged in liquid, which you rinse off. If you run them under the hot water tap, they are ready to eat and don't require cooking.
  • Tofu Noodles: Look for these at Asian groceries. Make sure that tofu is the only ingredient. These come already cooked. Just put them in a strainer and run them under the hot water faucet while you separate them with your fingers. You can use them for almost any pasta application, including pesto.

Dreamfields Pasta

Dreamfields is a widely-available pasta, which works well for some people, but overall people have had mixed reactions to it. In 2014, a class action suit settlement required them to remove their claim that they were low-carb or had a reduced glycemic index.

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Sources:

Glycemic Index and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html

Sood N, Baker WL, Coleman CI. "Effect of glucomannan on plasma lipid and glucose concentrations, body weight, and blood pressure: systematic review and meta-analysis." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. October 2008 vol. 88 no. 4 1167-1175.

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