December 8, 2012 5:47:08 PM
What is it about cold weather and comfort food? Whenever I'm needing something warm and soothing I tend to crave a big bowl of hot pasta. It doesn't even matter what kind -- my Nana's homemade spaghetti, mac and cheese from a box, or even one of my lighter healthier pasta creations. But, my oh my, all of those empty carbs! Not that I have a problem with carbs, I just usually try to go for the whole grain, high fiber, high nutrition varieties as opposed to plain white pastas. Thankfully there are lots of pasta alternatives theses days to please every pasta lover's palate.
Whole Wheat Pastas
For the times when I just have to have real pasta, a healthier choice that's surprisingly similar in taste and texture to al dente white pasta is whole wheat pasta. A serving of whole wheat pasta has three times the amount of fiber as white pasta, which will help satisfy that pasta craving with less and for longer. Whole wheat pastas are readily available in many different shapes and sizes and are comparable in price to regular pastas.
Another alternative to white pasta are the new fortified pasta varieties. These pastas have been enhanced by adding a flour blend that includes egg whites and legumes for more protein, barley and oats for increased fiber, and flaxseed for heart healthy omega-3 fats. Fortified pastas contain almost twice the protein and fiber in the same amount of calories as white pasta.
Quinoa is one of my favorite pasta alternatives and I've talked about it before. It's the only whole grain that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. Plus, it has lots of other good stuff, too, like fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins. I use it in place of rice and pasta and prefer the red variety as it has a bit more fiber.
Barley is another whole grain that is a great substitute for white pasta. The texture of cooked barley is very similar to smaller pasta varieties. Try barley as a substitute in pasta salad recipes or throw it in soups and stews. Once barley is cooked it tastes great hot or cold.
When you shred cooked spaghetti squash with a fork the texture is similar to angel hair pasta. It's the coolest thing. Because it's low calorie you can enjoy a larger portion size than with pasta without feeling guilty or too heavy. Just think of it as an extra serving of veggies.
Use a vegetable peeler to produce "ribbons" of nonstarchy vegetables to use in place of white pasta for a light and healthy alternative. Some good ones to try are zucchini, yellow summer squash, eggplant, peppers and cabbage. Serve the ribbons raw or steamed covered in your favorite pasta sauce. As with the spaghetti squash, enjoy a larger portion of low calorie veggie ribbons in place of regular pasta.