Low Carb Pasta Replacements

Imagine going to college for a degree in nutrition with plans on becoming a registered dietitian. Now imagine, when discussions on various diets come up, that you talk about low carb (that’s LOW not NO carb) or paleo. Think of all the dirty looks you might get, the eye rolling, the comments about how completely unhealthy it is to follow either one of these diets/ways of eating and then imagine what is said when you say something like “I don’t eat pasta”.

Oh my, the horror! Besides the numerous comments about how some people absolutely CAN NOT live without pasta (hmmm…slight addiction perhaps) then you also have to deal with the people telling you about all the incredible nutrition that you’re missing if you don’t eat the stuff. Please. Inform me about what I’m lacking.

Passing on the pasta will not leave you nutritionally deficient in any way. It won’t. Really.

I’d love to hear what vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals or macronutrients are found in pasta (of any variety) that can’t be found in something else. To me, pasta has always been a vehicle for the sauces, meats, veggies and cheese that topped it. I enjoyed it while I was eating it but I didn’t just eat it for the love of pasta.

Now, I’ve kept all the good stuff I loved when eating pasta (the stuff that goes on it) and simply replaced it with things that are far more nutritious then pasta could ever hope to be. Check out some of the kick ass replacements that can be used:

SPAGHETTI SQUASH

While looking like a rather large summer squash, once cooked, the insides of this baby separates into spaghetti like strands. They aren’t smooshy like regular pasta and instead are a bit firmer than pasta cooked al dente. As for taste, there really isn’t much, which is why it makes it a perfect pasta replacement. Toss your favorite toppings on some cooked spaghetti squash and enjoy!

Cooking a spaghetti squash is easy as pie. Actually, it’s probably easier. Simply pierce the skin with a knife in several spots and put the whole thing in the microwave. Cook on high for 12 to 14 minutes. Once it’s done allow the squash to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the microwave, carefully cut in half (it will still be hot inside), scoop out the seeds then use a fork to scrape the inside to separate the strands.

Want to bake it? Then Cut the squash in half the long way and scrape out the seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 375 F. Remove from oven, allow to cool for several minutes and then use a fork to separate the strands.

Here’s a few pictures of a microwaved spaghetti squash:

 

Here’s a close up of the squash strands:

 

 

I hear you can also cook it in a crock pot on low for 8 to 10 hours (put squash in whole, pierce skin several times and add a cup of water). But I haven’t tried this method myself.

How’s spaghetti squash compare to pasta?

1 cup of spaghetti (pasta) has 221 calories, 43 total carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein

1 cup of spaghetti squash has 42 calories, 10 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein

Spaghetti squash not your thing? How about zucchini?

Zucchini and summer squash also have a mild enough flavor that all of your favorite pasta toppings taste great over them. You can simply cut the zucchini into rounds and boil them for several minutes to soften them up. Soften….not turn them into mush! Better yet try making some zucchini strands or ribbons.

ZUCCHINI STRANDS OR RIBBONS

Picture: by fritish

Use a vegetable peeler to peel ribbons off the zucchini. Work your way around the squash and stop when you begin to reach the seeds. They can be as wide as you would like. Put the ribbons in a colander and sprinkle a little salt (perhaps 1/2 teaspoon) over them. Use your hands to toss the zucchini to coat them with the salt. Leave the colander in the sink or place it over a bowl. The salt will pull the excess moisture from the zucchini giving them a more al dente pasta like texture. Leave them sit for an hour or place in the refrigerator and let them sit overnight. When your ready to use them wash off the salt and gently squeeze the water out. You can also blot them with a towel to remove the moisture. Use the zucchini pasta as they are or gently warm them up in some boiling water. Remember you don’t really want to cook them or they will become too soft and mushy. Top with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

You can also make zucchini strands that look something like this:

You can run the zucchini over the larger holes of a cheese grater or try using something like the World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer. I don’t have one of these just yet but it is on my future to-be-purchased list.

How does zucchini stack up to regular pasta?

1 cup of spaghetti (pasta) has 221 calories, 43 total carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein

1 cup of zucchini has 19 calories, 5 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein

Even if I wasn’t skipping the pasta because of the carbs (which helps maintain better blood sugar control) and I was totally hung up on calories then one can easily see that using a veggie replacement kicks pastas ass every time. And besides, aren’t we always being told that we (people in general) aren’t eating enough veggies? Why not kick pasta to the curb and put some healthy, vitamin rich veggies on your plate instead.

FREEZER TIP: cooked spaghetti strands freeze well. Allow the strands to cool off and package into freezer bags. To use allow them to thaw and then gently warm up. The zucchini doesn’t seem to hold up as well and the texture changes a bit when frozen. If your going to freeze the zucchini it’s better when completely cooked when unfrozen.

When talking about pasta replacements Dreamfields Pasta is always tossed out as an alternative. It’s not. It contains the same ingredients as regular pasta. I don’t care how many claims they make about it not affecting your blood sugar in the same way as regular pasta. I’ve tested it. It does the same thing that regular pasta does to my blood sugar and that of many others. Don’t believe me. Here’s a link to a Swedish doctor who tested it and see what it did to his blood sugar. And he’s not even diabetic or have any type of metabolic issues such as reactive hypoglycemia. If your going to eat it because you feel it won’t affect your blood sugar (and your diabetic) then please do your own tests. You’ll be surprised at what you discover!

This post shared at Read Food Wednesdays.

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