Spaghetti, penne, and fettuccine: these are some of the all-time comfort foods. Too bad they’re not so diet friendly. Fortunately, a crop of healthy pastas as risen up in the last few years. But how do they taste? And are they really all that healthy?
There’s nothing like a big bowl of noodles. But in our current low-carb diet mindset, empty processed carbohydrates have become the enemy. And while no food should be off limits, empty refined carbohydrates like pasta should be kept to a minimum.
So today I’m going to go over some of my favorite healthy pastas. And get to the bottom of how they stack of from a nutritional perspective. And also evaluate how fulfilling they are as a noodle substitute. To help you decide which of these healthy pastas to choose.
So here are some of my favorite options marketed for the health conscious consumer. Identify which ones are just hype. And discover healthier ways to fulfill your spaghetti cravings!
Lentil/Garbanzo Bean Pasta
Trader Joes Organic Red Lentil Sedanini
These bean pasta options are making appearances everywhere. Almost every brand has a variety. But how do these noodles taste? And are these legume based options really healthy?
First the taste test. They taste pretty similar to the wheat based variety. They have a somewhat softer texture. But the taste is pretty darn close to the real thing.
So now let’s get to the important question – how do they stack-up nutritionally? Well first let’s look at the positive. They have quite a bit more healthy fiber. And they have a few grams less carbohydrate which is good for blood sugar. But they aren’t low-carb.
Additionally, they have tons of protein which is great in theory. However I wonder how the composition of the protein is altered when turning a whole bean into pasta. Meaning how much of the protein in bean pasta is usable to the body?
The bottom line is these are healthier pasta options. But they aren’t a health food. They’re a better pasta for when cravings arise. But you want to eat these noodles in moderation since they are still processed carbohydrates. And don’t depend only on your healthy pastas for protein.
Sea Tangle – Kelp Noodles
These kelp noodles are another popular, trendy option. You’ll find kelp noodles in everything from salads to healthier versions of popular stir fries and pad thai. They’re in the vegetarian section of your market, or at your favorite online retailer.
So let’s get to the important question of taste. These kelp noodles have a bit more of a firm texture than whole wheat noodles. But after you let them sit and marinate in the sauce for a few hours, they quickly begin to soften and take on more of the texture of rice noodles.
Kelp noodles are more of a cold pasta dish kind of thing. I can’t imagine these being very appetizing once cooked. And because they need to marinate to taste their best, they’re not ideal for last second recipes. But they can be great if you plan ahead.
Now let’s talk about nutrition. If you don’t know, kelp is a form of sea vegetable. So it has a super healthy reputation. But kelp noodles don’t share all the nutrition of regular kelp since they must be heavily processed to turn them into noodles.
However, kelp noodles are very low calorie. And there’s nothing in them that’s unhealthy. So they’re a great pasta fill-in.
Miracle Noodle Shirataki Konjac Pasta
Miracle noodles are popular because they are compliant with so many diet plans. Are you keto? No problem. What about paleo? Sure thing. Are you diabetic? These are great for blood sugar. Miracle Noodles can fit into almost any type of healthy diet.
Miracle Noodles are made from something called glucomannan. This is a natural soluble fiber found in konjac fiber. These are a processed food, so they don’t contain all the nutrients of a whole food. But they also don’t contain anything that’s bad for you. So they’re pretty diet friendly.
Now let’s get to the taste. They look exactly like old fashioned wheat pasta or rice noodles. When you dig in, you expect them to taste like the pasta you’ve grown to love. But the taste is definitely not a conventional pasta taste. I would label the texture as being chewier and more slippery than conventional pasta. Some people may love it. Others not so much.
Additionally, they take a bit more prep than other healthy pastas. They come in a bag of liquid. To prepare them you must drain the liquid, rinse them, and then dry them. And only then are you ready to throw them in your favorite recipe.
But if you like the texture (we all have different opinions when it comes to these things), this can be a great, diet-friendly option. They don’t contain anything bad for you. They’re low-calorie. And they’re relatively inexpensive per bag.
Whole Foods Market Zucchini Noodles
Zucchini and other veggie spirals have become so popular that you no longer need to get your own spiralizer. Many food brands offer them pre-spiralized. And this is terrific news for those who are busy, or who can’t be bothered preparing foods from scratch.
Let’s start with the texture. Once these healthy pastas have been able to cook and marinate in a sauce, they can take on a somewhat angel-hair texture. However if you eat them raw, they’ll retain more of a vegetable texture obviously. So I find this a good pasta substitute only when cooked.
If you’ve found yourself unimpressed with veggie spirals in the past, try this trick. Cook a half cup of a more conventional pasta. In the last few minutes of cooking, throw a half cup of veggie spirals into the mix. You might enjoy spirals more when mixed with a more traditional pasta. And this is a great way to get extra veggies.
These noodles offer more nutrients than any of the other pastas. They’re only lightly processed, helping retain almost all of the nutrients. Just be careful not to overcook them or you’ll cook out much of the nutritional value.
So this is my round-up of healthy pastas. While some of these pastas are much healthier than others, any of these options would be a step up from conventional wheat pastas. So if your healthy diet has left you with unbearable pasta cravings, never fear. You finally have a way to more nutritiously enjoy pasta again!
(This post contains affiliate links)
RoseMary Griffith says
Erica, can I tell you how much I love these type of post? I am a label reader, but that doesn’t mean I always understand what I’m reading, so when you explain more about the nutrition in a product–it helps me understand. I love pasta. I would eat it every day if I could, but of course that doesn’t happen. So I will be adding the TJ’s product to my shopping cart to give that a whirl. I already opt for the gluten free pastas–which has sure had some hits/misses on the taste. I love veggie spirals, but often forget about them!
Rose Mary – so glad this was helpful! I’d eat pasta every day too if it were healthy!