Wheat based pastas are easy and quick meal bases that nearly everyone has incorporated into their life at some point (especially if you're on the college budget diet!). But eating traditional wheat pastas on the daily can actively work against your weight loss goals, especially if you are carbohydrate sensitive.
Just 1 cup of spaghetti contains around 40g of net carbs and only 2-3g of fiber. And let's be honest... who ever eats the 1 cup suggested for pasta? I know I personally could eat 2-3 cups of pasta without feeling very full.
Compare this to one of the alternatives on this list: zucchini noodles. You would have to eat about 11.5 cups of zucchini to achieve the same number of net carbohydrates. But even if you DID eat 11.5 cups of zucchini, this would be packed with around 24 grams of fiber that would greatly slow the release of the glucose into the blood supply.
Now, this isn't to say that an occasional bowl of pasta isn't good for the soul every now and then (you guys know I love my homemade pasta!). But if you're looking to achieve a weight loss goal, this is one of the easiest tweaks to your diet that you can make.
With this in mind, I'm sharing my top 6 pasta alternatives that you can use to help stabilize blood glucose levels, tap into fat burning mechanisms and feel GOOD again!
Zucchini Noodles [Pre-Made + Budget-Friendly Options]
One full zucchini contains around 2g of fiber and 4g of net carbohydrates. This is a really great carbohydrate to fiber ratio to slow the release of glucose into the blood supply.
Okay, so I have a trick that I personally have found makes zucchini noodles so much more... noodley. After spiraling the zucchini (or you can purchase pre-"noodled" zucchini, such as with the brand pictured above), place the noodles in a pot of salted and boiling water for about 20-30 seconds, then immediately remove and plate the noodles or throw them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. This helps to make the zucchini noodles more flexible and... noodley!
My favorite way to use zucchini noodles is in the form of a pesto pasta. I use the homemade pesto from the Level Up Guide to toss the zucchini noodles in, then. pair it with a high quality protein source (typically meatballs or a baked or grilled chicken).
Shirataki Noodles [Pre-Made]
These noodle alternatives are made with an extremely high fiber ingredient called glucomannan. This is mixed with water and formed into noodles. Because it is so incredibly high in fiber, it has been found to help stabilize blood glucose levels (which is extremely important for weight loss and diabetes prevention). (1) It's also been found to help keep you fuller longer - something we know is important to reduce snacking and therefore insulin levels between meals.
I've only recently started experimenting with shirataki noodles, but these can typically be found at most health food stores.
Shirataki tends to have a fishy odor from storing, so it's important to rinse it well before using. You can use shirataki noodles in place of many traditional noodles for spaghetti or in a veggie and noodle stir fry.
Note: this is not going to be a "whole food" product as glucomannan is an extract from the Konjac plant. Some people can experience a high level of bloating from shirataki noodles due to the high level of fiber. So if you plan on experimenting with shirataki noodles, you might want to start off with a smaller amount first and see how your body responds.
Cauliflower Couscous [Pre-Made + Budget Friendly Option]
Who's tried the Tabbouleh Salad from my Autumn's Nerdy Kitchen Cookbook?! Traditionally, tabbouleh would be paired with the wheat based bulgur or couscous as the base. However, each of these will be fairly high in starchy carbohydrates (around 28g and 33g per cup, respectively) and depending on your carbohydrate sensitivity will likely not be a great daily addition if you're looking to achieve a weight loss goal. This is where fresh cauliflower rice can be an excellent substitute.
1 cup of cauliflower rice has around 2g of fiber and 2g of net carbohydrates. I prefer using it raw when using it in salads (such as the one pictured above) or cooked if using it in recipes like my Asparagus Cauliflower "Risotto".
Kelp Noodles [Pre-Made]
Ironically, kelp noodles aren't actually just strips of kelp! They're typically made from kelp, water and sodium alginate (a brown-seaweed-derived substance). One serving contains nearly zero nutrients... you're essentially eating air. Which might sound like a good thing, but personally I've found that if you fill up on non-satiating items such as kelp noodles, it tends to only increase sugar cravings later in the day. My main concern with kelp noodles is that it will be the focus and it won't be paired with high quality sources of protein and fat to trigger the hormonal sense of satiety and keep you full. So if you do choose to use kelp noodles, remember that it's only a small component of your meal and it's still important to get enough protein (and possibly fat) to feel satiated and allow your body to naturally tap into fat burning mechanisms.
Just like shirataki noodles, kelp noodles can be used as a replacement for many standard "noodle" recipes. I personally have liked to use it in stir fry recipes and sauté it with veggies, gluten-free soy sauce and chicken for a quick meal.
Spaghetti Squash [Budget Friendly]
Another classic noodle swap! Spaghetti squash actually come "pre-noodled" naturally after baking! The texture of spaghetti squash is much more fine than the other listed noodle options - in fact, it tends to be more similar to angel hair pasta. This is an excellent option to pair with homemade meatballs (like the Spanish Meatballs from the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle) or top with a bolognese. I personally enjoy spaghetti squash most with a tomato based sauce, but you can also pair it with pesto or another sauce of your choosing.