The fear of pasta deprivation is one reason why many individuals may shy away from low-carb diets. The cries ring out, “I can’t live without my pasta!” But is it really the pasta that you crave? There are some true hardcore pasta-lovers. These are people who do not mind eating it plain. However, for most of us, plain pasta just do not cut it. It is the sauces and the toppings that most of us want. So, when we pause and really consider pasta, it is mostly a vehicle for other flavors. Thus, when we want to follow a low-carb diet, what we need to do is find a different means to fill that role. And, fear not! Here are some alternatives.
Shirataki noodles are made from konjac yams and largely composed of water-soluble dietary fiber. Some have tofu mixed in and are referred to as tofu noodles. The ones with just konjac yams are usually a little chewier than the ones with tofu added, so it just depends on how “al dente” you prefer your pasta to be. Shirataki noodles have always been a regular part of traditional Asian cooking but are becoming more and more widely used due to their no net-carb benefit. Some evidence also suggests that shirataki noodles can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Shirataki noodles usually comes packaged in liquid and are ready to eat – no cooking required! You can rinse the noodles under hot water, pour your favorite pasta sauce on top, and enjoy it as part of your low-carb diet.
Various vegetables can be used in place of traditional pasta, too. Many vegetables are bland enough to use as a “blank canvas” for pasta sauces, and most of them offers more nutritional value. The classic choice is spaghetti squash. Cup for cup, it has fewer than 25% of the calories and carbs of regular spaghetti (even whole wheat) AND beats out the traditional pasta in most nutrient categories. It is delicious with pesto as well as creamy sauces. If you need some inspiration, try out this Spaghetti Squash Bake.
Other vegetables that can serve as good “beds” for pasta sauces are summer squashes that can be shredded or thinly sliced. This Noodle-Free Lasagna, for example, uses zucchini as a base. You can also use shredded and sautéed cabbage (tastes great with a little onion) or sautéed bean sprouts. Numerous vegetables have compatible flavors with sauces, such as green beans with pesto sauce or eggplant strips with marinara. Use your imagination to create delicious “pasta” options for your low-carb diet.