What to Eat When You Want Low-Carb Pasta

Low-Carb Pasta Alternatives Are Often Healthier Than Real Pasta

zucchini pasta
"Pasta" made from strips of zucchini. Photo © Laura Dolson

The fear of pasta deprivation is one of the things that turns people away from low-carb diets. The cries ring out: "I can’t live without my pasta!" Fear not. There are many low-carb alternatives to pasta, and at least one possibly lower-carb pasta on the market.

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 they can think of.

But for most of us, plain pasta doesn’t cut it – it’s the sauces and toppings we want most. For us, pasta is mostly a vehicle for other flavors. So we need to find a different vehicle to fill that role.

Note: if you do eat regular pasta, be sure to cook it al dente, as this reduces the amount the pasta will raise your blood sugar. In the U.S., pasta is seldom cooked this way, so click on the link to find out what al dente is and how to cook pasta this way.

Enter: Vegetables

Many vegetables are bland enough to use as a “blank canvas” for pasta sauces, and most of them are far more nutritious than pasta ever thought of being. Take the classic, spaghetti squash. Cup for cup, it has fewer than 25% of the calories and carbs of regular spaghetti (even whole wheat) – AND beats out the pasta in most nutrient categories. Calorie for calorie, it simply leaves pasta in the dust, nutritionally speaking.

It’s delicious with pesto, creamy sauces, you name it. It can also be used in casseroles, like Turkey Tetrazinni. 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 just cut into ribbons with a peeler. To make them even more noodle-like, try my Zucchini "Pasta" recipe - great with pesto.
  • Cauliflower “Rice”
  • Cabbage - shredded and sautéed (nice with a little sliced onion in it)
  • Bean sprouts – lighted sautéed on their own, or throw them in with the cabbage for the final minute.
  • Use your imagination – many veggies have compatible flavors with sauces, such as green beans with pesto sauce or eggplant strips with marinara.

Have you Heard of A Spiralizer?

I'm just starting to experiment with a gizmo that turns vegetables into noodles, called a spiral slicer or spiralizer.  I hope to bring you more about this tool in 2016, but here are a couple of highly rated ones you might want to investigate, on Amazon.com:

Müeller Spiral-Ultra 4-Blade Spiralizer

Spiralizer® 4-Blade Vegetable Spiral Slicer

Low-Carb Asian Noodles

You may have to do some looking for these - or then again, maybe not. They are great for making Asian noodle dishes, and other dishes as well:

Shirataki Noodles – More and more widely available, (the Safeway near me carries it, as well as health food stores) this stuff is something of a miracle food.

The noodles are made from a plant called different things in different languages - you might see it called “yam noodle” or “Konnyaku”. The great thing about these noodles is that they are almost completely fiber – they hardly have any calories or carbs at all – plus there is some evidence that they may have other health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. It comes packaged in liquid, which you rinse off. If you run it under the hot water tap, it’s all ready to eat – no need to cook further! More about Shirataki Noodles and Where to Find Them

Tofu Noodles – I can only find these in Asian stores. Make sure that tofu is the only ingredient. Again, these come already cooked. I just put them in a strainer and run them under the hot water faucet while I separate them with my fingers. I 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 2011, I did an investigation of Dreamfields pasta from different angles. If you use this pasta, be sure to read this, and follow the advice at the end.

 

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