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Q: I grew up eating a lot of pasta, which has kept me about 30 pounds overweight for most of my life! A few years ago, I found out I was gluten-sensitive and made the switch to rice, quinoa, and lentil pastas. That helped my digestive issues, but I haven’t lost any weight. In fact, I’ve gained a few pounds. Are there other types of low-carb, grain-free pastas I can try?
A: I’m happy to say that there are more options than ever that fit your grain-free pasta needs. The key to reducing the carbs and calories in pasta is to ditch those made from high-carb grains and legumes and substitute grain-free, legume-free alternatives. Most of the lower-carb substitutes that follow are made from non-starchy vegetables, which provide a high amount of essential vitamins and minerals relative to the carbs and calories they supply—so they’re a healthy addition to any diet.
Spiralized Vegetable Noodles
With a registered tagline of “Simple but Twisted,” Cece’s Veggie Co. sells noodled veggie varieties that you can find in the produce section in natural food stores. They’re super-easy to prepare: simply sauté them in oil for a few minutes.
Cece’s Noodled Organic Zucchini is the lowest in carbs, with only 3 grams of carbs and 15 calories per serving. Its Cece’s Noodled Organic Butternut and Organic Beets both contain about 7 grams of carbs and 35 calories per serving, but the Butternut Spirals add 160 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin A and 25 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin C, and the Organic Beets are a good source of iron and vitamin C.
Cece’s also produces Zucchini Marinara and Zucchini Pesto Veggie Meals, ready-to-make, vitamin-packed dishes that are substantially lower in carbs and calories than what you find in typical on-the-go packaged products.
As the name suggests, spaghetti squash is a great substitute for spaghetti. But preparing it from scratch can be time-consuming.
Fortunately, Solely, Inc., offers a ready-made solution: baked and oven-dried spaghetti squash that you can prepare in a fraction of the time. Simply boil this pasta substitute in water for about five minutes, until cooked al dente. Then rinse and combine with the sauce of your choice.
The package supplies the noodles from one whole spaghetti squash. A serving of one-quarter of the squash—or one-half cup cooked—contains about 6 grams of carbs and just 30 calories.
Look for this shelf-stable product in the pasta section of the store.
Hearts of Palm Pasta
In the world of grain-free pasta substitutes, Palmini Hearts of Palm Pasta is the new kid on the block. The line includes linguine, angel hair, and lasagna (shown here). Though some hearts of palm products are not produced sustainably, Palmini cultivates and harvests their raw ingredient in an environmentally sustainable way.
Hearts of palm noodles can be taken out of the package, rinsed with water, and heated as-is with a pasta sauce. They can also be boiled until a desired texture is achieved. The noodles are a good source of minerals such as potassium and calcium. They contain 4 grams of carbs and 20 calories per serving. Look for these shelf-stable products in the pasta section of the store.
Produced by the Sea Tangle Noodle Company, kelp noodles are a combination of the sea vegetable kelp and sodium alginate (salt extracted from a brown seaweed). Kelp noodles, which are in the refrigerated case of the store, have a non-fishy, completely neutral taste. They pick up the flavors of whatever foods they’re combined with. They’re rich in iodine and almost completely carbohydrate- and calorie-free.
To use, just open the bag, drain, and add them at the last minute to soups or stir-fries, or toss with pesto or sauce of your choice.
Made from the root of the Konjac (Asian white yam) plant, shirataki noodles are very low in calories and carbs. They also contain glucomannan, a soluble fiber that turns into a gel-like substance once you eat it, leaving you feeling full longer. This fiber can also slow down the rate at which the body absorbs carbs (good for preventing blood sugar spikes). It also acts as a prebiotic that promotes healthy bacteria growth in the colon.
Shirataki noodles are about 3 percent fiber and 97 percent water. They come in a variety of shapes, and they’re available either dry or in water. Look for them in the pasta section or refrigerated case. Common brands include Miracle Noodles Ready-to-Eat Noodle Spaghetti, NOoodle No Carb Pasta, and House Foods Traditional Shirataki Noodles.
Follow package directions. You’ll need to drain and rinse the wet varieties before boiling or briefly sautéing them.
Almond Flour Pasta
Cappello Pasta is a combination of almond flour, tapioca flour, and eggs, which gives it a rich flavor and silky texture that tastes more like traditional pasta.
This Certified Paleo food isn’t super low in carbs, but it is lower than wheat pasta. Compared to a serving of traditional spaghetti, which has 41 grams of carbs, a serving of Cappello’s Almond Flour Spaghetti has only 24. It also has 9 grams of protein and 14 grams of fat, making it a substantial pasta substitute that can be a meal all by itself.
Cappello’s pasta cooks in boiling water in as little as 75 seconds. Look for it in the frozen aisle.
In the Mood for Lasagna?
Roasted Eggplant Lasagna Sheets: Cut an eggplant lengthwise into thin slices. Brush both sides with oil and roast the slices until soft and golden, turning once. Use these roasted eggplant slices instead of pasta sheets when making lasagna.
Roasted Zucchini Lasagna Sheets: Cut a zucchini lengthwise into ¼ inch-thick slices. Bake at 375°F for about 15 minutes, until fork tender. Allow briefly to cool, then use in place of traditional pasta sheets.
Make it! — Grain-Free Pasta Recipes