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Spiralized zucchini, carrot and beets

New Trends in Noodles

Giving up white flour pasta doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite pasta dishes — thanks to healthy pasta alternatives

For many people, a plate of spaghetti can be a big no-no. Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance makes pasta made with white flour or wheat off limits. Maybe you’re trying to clean up your diet and switch to foods that give you more nutritional bang for your buck. If so, white flour pasta is likely one of the first foods to go. Thanks to processing that strips white flour of its grain and bran, along with the fiber, protein and other healthy nutrients, pasta as most of us know it, doesn’t offer much in the way of nutritional oomph.

Fortunately, there’s a slew of alternative noodle options available today, so your favorite pasta dishes don’t become just a memory. Even better, they’re packed with the fiber and nutrients white flour pasta is missing, making them much more than a carrier for your grandma’s beloved pasta sauce. Here are a few options to take out for a test twirl:

Vegetable Pastas

Spiralizers are the newest craze to hit the kitchen and healthy eating. The gadget spins zucchini, sweet potatoes and scads of other vegetables into oodles of noodles. No, veggie noodles taste nothing like pasta, but the noodles work great as a replacement for traditional pasta, or you can throw them into salads and other dishes raw.

Cooking methods vary depending on the vegetable. Zucchini, for instance, naturally holds a lot of moisture and becomes mushy if cooked too long. Sauté zucchini noodles for two to three minutes, using tongs to move them around until they’re heated through. Boiling for two to three minutes heats them up and helps hold in the moisture. (Who knew?)

Other vegetables like spaghetti squash can get noodled easily, too. Cut the squash in half, drizzle with a little olive oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees until the squash is soft — about an hour. Use a fork to scrape roasted flesh, and it comes out in long, angel hair pasta-like strands.

Quinoa Pasta

If you’re looking for pasta that’s gluten-free, quinoa pasta is a great choice. Although quinoa is often called a grain, it’s actually a seed. Quinoa pasta comes packed with fiber, protein and iron, and bonus — it tastes surprisingly like its glutened, white-floured variety. It cooks quickly without getting mushy. Check the label on the box to make sure quinoa is the main ingredient and not diluted with corn or rice.

Buckwheat Pasta

Despite what its name implies, buckwheat isn’t wheat or related to wheat so it’s gluten-free. Buckwheat noodles are also called soba noodles. They’re often used in Japanese dishes, either hot or cold. Buckwheat noodles are lower in calories and carbohydrates than white flour pasta. Some manufacturers cut corners and mix in different processed flours, so look for brands that are 100 percent buckwheat.

Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are also called miracle noodles because they have near-zero calories and carbohydrates. They’re made up of mostly water and contain the soluble fiber glucomannan, which helps you feel full.

They taste nothing like pasta, so they’re best in stir-fries, soups, or recipes that include other ingredients like vegetables, meat and cheese. They can be rubbery and carry a foul odor if they’re not prepared correctly. Rinse them well and pan-fry them without oil or other liquid to remove as much water as possible, which improves the texture.

Bean and Legume Pastas

Pasta made from beans such as black beans, chickpeas, mung beans, edamame and lentils are loaded with fiber and protein. It’s gluten-free, with fewer carbohydrates, but packs about the same calorie punch as traditional pasta. Again, check labels to make sure beans are the main ingredient.

Brown Rice Pasta

If you can’t eat foods that contain wheat or you need to eat a low FODMAP diet due to a digestive condition like irritable bowel syndrome, brown rice pasta is a great alternative. Brown rice hits a trifecta as a good source of carbohydrates, fiber and protein. It has a milder flavor than its whole wheat cousin, and it doesn’t get mushy.

Want to talk nutrition with one of our dietitians? Give the McConnell Heart Health Center a call!

Infographic depicting healthy swaps for certain noodle dishes


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