Nutrition Trend: Pasta Alternatives
Written by Kelli Baker | Reviewed by Alyssa Tucci MS, RDN, CDN, CLT
One of the newest nutrition trends on the rise has been the conception of alternative pastas. This newest trend has become particularly popular due to the increased interest in low carb, paleo and gluten free diets causing many people to gravitate toward swapping out their big bowl of wheat pasta for a substitute that has a similar taste and flavor without the high carbohydrate load. While we don’t necessarily prescribe to all the dogmatic reasons for their rise in popularity, these pasta alternatives provide many potential health benefits including lowering the calorie load of a traditional pasta dish, increasing vegetable intake, as well as elevating amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein to your day. These pasta dishes can be especially helpful to people dealing with conditions like diabetes who need special attention paid to their carbohydrate load and people with celiac who must eliminate gluten from their diets entirely. These substitutions give them and others looking for healthier dietary options the ability to enjoy a savory pasta dish without compromising intake needs.
One such pasta alternative is the bean pasta. These pasta replacements are particularly popular because they are reminiscent to the taste and texture of regular pasta with half the carbohydrate load and packing in some extra protein. For example, one 2oz serving of black bean pasta will provide you with a whopping 25g protein and 12g fiber, while decreasing the total amount of carbohydrates of traditional pasta from 48g to 23g. Many brands exist on store shelves today including Banza, Modern Table Meals, Tolerant, and Explore Cuisine each providing an array of different shapes and bean varietals. Some of the bean options include black bean, chickpea, green and red lentil, with shapes and sizes varying from penne, spaghetti, shells, fettuccini, macaroni, and rotini to name just a few.
Another great pasta substitute is the employment of vegetables like zucchini or yellow squash as a wheat pasta replacement. To make these vegetables more pasta-like you can julienne them into rods or use a spiralizer or peeler to create zucchini ribbons, then simply add your sauce and/or toppings. If you are not ready to go completely cold turkey with regards to your pasta, another option is to half the amount of traditional pasta you use and add the zucchini pasta as filler. Similar in idea is the utilization of either zucchini or eggplant to make lasagna. Instead of layering with broad flat pasta noodles you can slice the zucchini or eggplant into long, thin slices and layer your lasagna accordingly. These low-calorie pasta options are wonderful choices because they allow more veggies to be incorporated into your meal.
Last but not least is the favored spaghetti squash. This large, yellow-colored winter squash is unique because of its tangle of strands mimicking the texture of angel hair pasta. Additionally, it is easy to cook by cutting the squash in half, removing the seeds, and placing the halves in the oven for roughly half an hour at 400 degrees F. With one cup of this spaghetti alternative giving you only 42 calories, it is a guilt free and delicious choice for those who are looking to increase the nutrients and decrease their total calories.
If you are a pasta lover there are many fantastic healthy choices out there to try. All of the above options are quick and easy ways to get a healthy, nutrient filled meal on your table. The important thing is to have fun experimenting with all the different choices to see what you and your family like best!