While people love pasta, unfortunately the words pasta and diet usually don't belong in the same sentence. Italian cuisine is among the top three ethnic foods in the United States, and its popularity continues to grow. Not to mention, it’s warm, comforting and delicious. But, ever since Adkins became a household name and the low carb craze took over the nation in the late nineties, the word pasta seems synonymous with diet disaster.
Pasta shows up repeatedly on most “bad lists”; it’s high in calories and carbs, and fairly low in protein. And, that’s just the noodles! You still have to beware the danger of the buttery, creamy, indulgent sauces that tend to accompany the dish. However, by substituting your usual pasta dish for one of the following 3 pasta alternatives, you can cut calories and increase nutrients, while still indulging in your Italian craving!
1. Spaghetti Squash Pasta
Maybe you’ve picked up one of these interesting looking squashes in the grocery store. Most likely, you promptly put it back down because you had no idea what do with it. Next time a pasta craving hits, confidently pick out a squash and jar of marinara sauce and hit the checkout. Slice the squash in half and cook it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted easily. Let it cool and then scoop out any seeds in the middle. Take a fork and scrape the inside of the squash. The stringy squash pieces will resemble spaghetti and have a similar consistency. Top with your desired sauce and enjoy! Calorie savings? Major. A cup of spaghetti squash has only 50 calories compared to the 200 plus that can be found in the same amount of pasta.
2. Zucchini Pasta
This is a great dish, especially during the summer when zucchini, or summer squash as it is also called, is readily available. For this recipe, you need about a half pound of zucchini per person. Slice the zucchini very thin either with a knife, mandolin or vegetable peeler. Heat the sliced zucchini in a pan with a touch of olive oil for a few minutes until the slices begin to turn translucent and soften. Top with a healthy marinara sauce, add a touch of salt and pepper, and you have a healthy summer meal! Calorie savings? Even better than spaghetti squash; zucchini only has 20 calories per cup. Feel free to have seconds!
3. Whole Wheat Pasta
If veggie alternatives aren’t going to cut it and your heart is set on the real deal, make a healthy choice and select whole wheat pasta. Nearly all varieties of noodles can be found in a whole wheat version and the health benefits are significant. The difference between whole wheat and regular pasta is that the whole wheat goes through less processing so the noodles retain more nutrients, including diet friendly fiber! Calorie savings? Not much. Whole wheat and regular pasta are similar in terms of calorie count, but whole wheat is a much better choice nutritionally.
When done right, pasta doesn’t have to be a bad word! Happy eating!