I love pasta (who doesn’t?), but I don’t love how quickly the calories in it can add up. The standard serving size of pasta is ½ cup – cooked – although we often tend to serve ourselves 4 times more than that during a typical meal. Given that a ½ cup serving of pasta, without sauce, normally contains around 100 calories, if you’re not careful of how much pasta you eat and what you serve that pasta with, you could easily be looking at consuming over 500 calories worth of pasta in a single sitting. This is a scary statistic, especially for those who consider themselves “volume eaters.” However, there’s an easy and healthy way to get your pasta fix by swapping out your typical caloric pasta for one of these sneaky swaps:
On the outside, spaghetti squash looks like any other member of the squash family. What’s on the inside, however, is a completely different story. Spaghetti squash gets its name for the spaghetti-like strands it produces after it’s been cooked. To turn your spaghetti squash into, well, spaghetti, cut it in half, place it on a sheet pan, and bake it in a 375° oven for around an hour. After you’ve let it cool for a few minutes, flake it with a fork to create spaghetti-like strands. One cup of spaghetti squash contains just 42 calories, or five times less than an equivalent amount of pasta.
Zucchini makes a surprisingly good – and easy – pasta swap. While it doesn’t have spaghetti-like fibers inside of it, it can be made to look like pasta with the aid of a vegetable peeler. Just peel the zucchini into strips (bonus points if you want to turn it as you’re peeling to create a spiral effect) and either boil it for 2-3 minutes or sauté it in a little bit of olive oil for 4-5 minutes, and you’ll end up with something that looks and feels like pasta but only contains 20 calories per one-cup serving.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Although it contains a similar calorie count as regular white pasta, 100% whole wheat pasta is much healthier, and much more filling, due to its high fiber and protein content. By swapping out your regular white pasta for the whole wheat kind, you’ll be adding an extra 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein, which will help you feel full while eating less.
No matter which pasta swap you choose, make sure to keep the calories low and nutrition high by steering clear from sauces that are high in calories, fat, and sodium, such as pesto and alfredo, and by loading up your dish with healthy extras like even more veggies, beans, or a handful of nuts.