Mmmm … eating (or slurping) a bowl of pasta is delicious and satisfying. But most of the time, you’re probably eating white pasta (made from white flour,) which is a not-so-good-for-you, refined carb and has lots of calories and not enough nutrients on its own.
Choosing other options, like whole-grain pastas, sea vegetable noodles and noodles made from vegetables will actually be more satisfying and healthier, too. Plus, you can top these options with your favorite flavors, like marinara sauce, or try something entirely new.
When it comes to healthy alternatives to white pasta, you have a lot of options, so don’t worry, you’re sure to find some you like. And you’ll find some good recipes below as well.
Ways to make pasta healthier
It’s fine to have white pasta occasionally, but when you do, take the following steps:
- Add white beans for extra protein, which will slow down the digestion of carbs
- Choose red sauces, pesto or vegan white sauces rather than cream- or milk-based sauces
- Add herbs, spices and veggies
- Cooking pasta al dente will help stabilize blood sugar levels
- Eat it as a side dish rather than a whole meal
Whole-grain and sprouted-grain pastas
Choosing whole grain over white is better for you. You’ll get more fiber, more nutrients and antioxidants and more protection from diabetes, cancer and more. Many of these pastas are gluten free, too, if that’s something you’re looking for.
Try soba noodles, spelt pasta, quinoa pasta and other whole grain pastas besides whole wheat. Sprouted-grain pastas are even better for you — they’re a complete protein, which is good for vegetarians and vegans. (Read more about sprouted grains, and why they’re good for you.)
When dining out, you can often find whole-wheat pasta, buckwheat pasta or soba noodles (usually made with buckwheat or buckwheat and wheat combined).
Sea vegetable pasta
These are called sea vegetable noodles or kelp noodles, and they’re all-natural, gluten free and carb free. They have a translucent appearance and a firm, slightly gelatinous texture, which makes them especially good for cold pasta dishes or in soups.
Seaweeds are alkaline — which helps balance the acidity of our modern diets and makes us feel better — and they help remove heavy metals from our bodies. They also have naturally occurring iodine and other trace minerals.
Pasta made from vegetables
When it comes to pasta made from veggies, you can buy products or make your own. One brand to check out is Explore Asian. They make gluten-free, vegan noodles, such as black bean spaghetti and mung bean fettuccine.
Another type of noodle to check out is Shirataki noodles. They’re made from the konjac plant and often contain tofu as well. These flavorless noodles come in all shapes, but you need to rinse them in water to get rid of the fishy smell before eating them. They are low-calorie, with no fat and no cholesterol. But if you do eat them, drink plenty of water with them because they have a lot of insoluble fiber called glucomannan. In Asian stores, you can also find noodles made entirely from tofu.
You can also use vegetables, such as zucchini, to make noodles. This way, you’re eating more veggies without the carbs, calories and time it takes to prepare regular pasta.
Types of vegetables you can use for making your own pasta:
Most noodles made from the following veggies can be eaten raw or cooked slightly by sauteeing them for about five minutes with a little oil. You can also mix a few of these together.
Spaghetti squash. This oblong type of winter squash forms strands like spaghetti when cooked. Spaghetti squash is low calorie and has folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene.
Zucchini. The most popular veggie used to make noodles. You’ll have to peel it first, then cut it into noodles. Zucchini is an excellent source of antioxidants, such as manganese and vitamin C, and it helps regulate blood sugar.
Cabbage. Shredded cabbage makes a good spaghetti alternative when topped with marinara sauce. It’s full of B vitamins and antioxidants. Add some chopped up onions and saute.
Sweet potato. Peel, slice, and then cook noodles made from sweet potatoes. They have antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients and blood sugar-regulating benefits.
Carrots. Peel carrots and then slice them. They are high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, but they also contain other antioxidants and cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits.
Parsnips. This veggie is a close relative to the carrot, and is a good source of vitamin C, folate and manganese.
Beets. Beets are high in many nutrients, vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, fiber, iron, folic acid and vitamins A, B and C.
Cucumber. Cucumbers have phytonutrients, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.
Jicama. This fleshy, taproot vegetable is good raw. It’s low calorie, an excellent source of dietary fiber and rich in vitamin C.
Pumpkin. Pumpkins are packed with vitamin A and fiber and low in calories. It’s also a good source of vitamin K.
Tools used to make noodles from veggies:
Each of these will make noodles of different sizes.
- Spiralizer. These spiral vegetable slicers are the most expensive option, but they makes creating veggie pasta easy, by turning veggies into spiraled, curly, pasta-like strands.
- Mandolin. Use the julienne blade and slice the veggies into noodles.
- A box grater. Use to slice veggies into strands.
- Julienne peeler. This is a cheaper way to create veggie noodles.
- A good knife. Peel the veggie if needed, and then slice it thinly and cut it into strips.
Healthy, vegan noodle recipes to try
1. Sundried Tomato Pesto Zucchini Pasta with Corn, Beans and Spinach
This super-quick zucchini pasta recipe says to use a Spiralizer to create zucchini pasta, but you could also use one of the tools above if you don’t have a Spiralizer.
2. Raw Zucchini Pasta with Creamy Avocado-Cucumber Sauce
This raw spaghetti squash pasta recipe is creamy and delicious but also good for you.
3. Gluten-Free Zucchini Pesto Pasta
This gluten-free zucchini pasta recipe is easy and yummy.
4. Spaghetti Squash with Alfredo Sauce
This spaghetti squash recipe uses raw cashew nuts to make a cream sauce without all the guit.
5. Spicy Kale Pasta with Zucchini Noodles
This zucchini noodle recipe also has excellent-for-you kale.
Do you have any other tips or ideas for eating noodles other than white pasta?
Image Source: rayb777/Flickr