Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wrap-Up: Low carbohydrate Pasta Alternatives

What do Gluten-free, Paleo, Dukan, Whole30, and Atkins diets all have in common? Most of us have heard about these diets or lifestyles, but if you haven’t they all discourage the use of wheat products (along with other restrictions). Many of my clients are trying to reduce the amount of pasta they consume, but the reasons may vary. Some may be trying to follow a different lifestyle (as listed above) or are trying to decrease their carbohydrate intake for blood sugar control, while others are trying to reduce calories for weight loss/maintenance.

My general philosophy with food is that we should eat a variety of balanced foods that taste good and make us feel good. Though I often encourage whole grain varieties of pastas and grains, the occasional refined grain can be part of a healthy diet.

For some people wheat does not make them feel good, if that is the case I encourage those individuals to avoid it. You know your body best. Just to clarify, gluten-free pasta varieties (brown rice, rice, quinoa/corn etc) do contain carbohydrates. Use the nutrition facts label to identify and compare products for carbohydrates and fiber to make better choices. I’ve put together a list of my favorite low-carb pasta alternatives for you to try for yourself.

Spaghetti Squash
A tried and true easy alternative. Spaghetti squash has a mild flavor and goes with almost any sauce that you would put over pasta. Slice in half and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or cook in the microwave to 10-12 minutes. Shred with a fork I love garlic, olive oil and sundried tomatoes or pesto with it!

Vegetable Noodles
These can come in a variety of shapes depending on the variety of vegetable and how you’ve cut your vegetables. Without any special tools you can thinly slice zucchini, summer squash, or eggplant lengthwise to use as lasagna noodles or use a vegetable peeler lengthwise to make thin wide noodles. Top with your favorite sauce!

If you start making vegetable noodles a lot you might consider purchasing a Spiralizer. These gadgets vary in price and size. Depending on the model it may make different shapes and sizes for you. I have one of the handheld less expensive types but am considering investing in one of the larger tools. The handheld varieties cost about $15.00 while the kitchen-size ones run $40.00 to $50.00.

Vegetable “Boats"
Another great option is to slice a summer squash or zucchini in half, scoop out the seeds, stuff with your favorites meats, sauce, or cheese and bake! This can also be done with large portabella mushrooms.

Shirataki Noodles      
Also known as “miracle noodles” or “skinny noodles”. These originate from Japan, but can be typically purchased in the produce section of most grocery or health food stores. They are made of water and a water-soluble dietary fiber called glucomannan and are very low in carbohydrates and calories (about 15 calories per cup, and 0 net carbs). Some varieties include tofu for increased protein, most varieties are gluten-free. While they have a fairly mild flavor their texture is not appealing to some people. Try with your favorite Asian sauce or in a stirfry.

 Black Bean Pasta
Don’t let the appearance of this pasta turn you away. It is made of black beans and water making it a good source of protein, fiber, and a lower carbohydrate choice. 1 cup or 2 oz provides about 15 g carbohydrates  per cup, and 180 calories. Because it does have a stronger taste than the other varieties I don’t think it pairs as well with tomato based sauces. Instead I will use it in stirfries and in Mexican inspired dishes.

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