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The best healthier pasta alternatives

These three veggie and grain alternatives to your favorite pastas are both delicious and versatile

<p>A tasty alternative take of Spaghetti Bolognese with tofu shirataki noodles.</p>

A tasty alternative take of Spaghetti Bolognese with tofu shirataki noodles.

Pasta is one of my favorite foods. Honestly, I could eat pasta every day for the rest of my life –– from spaghetti bolognese to mac and cheese or penne alla vodka. However, sometimes you might want to add a little variety to your meals and substitute your normal pasta noodles for something a little bit healthier. As a self-proclaimed pasta fanatic, I have searched for the best pasta alternatives, and I’ve narrowed my findings down to three options that never seem to disappoint. 

The first alternative is spaghetti squash — a variety of winter squash that comes in many different shapes, sizes and colors. It is a nutrient-dense food, which means that it is low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is also high in fiber, which may help promote digestive health. Even better, spaghetti squash is easy to prepare and meal prep for a week of delicious pasta meals. Spaghetti squash can be found in the produce section of your local grocery store.

Zucchini noodles are another great option. Zucchini is a green summer squash that is high in a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — such as potassium, vitamin C and iron. Spiralized zucchini noodles have definitely made a splash in our society, with foodies and non-foodies alike raving over the health benefits in comparison to regular pasta. Grocery stores now sell zucchini noodles, both fresh and frozen.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical of tofu shirataki noodles when I first saw them. However, I am now a huge fan of these noodles and would consider them one of the best pasta alternatives. Tofu shirataki noodles are Japanese noodles made of konjac yam root and tofu. These noodles are low in calories but high in fiber and omega-3s. Additionally, tofu is also a great source of protein. These noodles come in a variety of different forms, but my favorite is the fettuccine. While I have had some luck finding these noodles in my local grocery store, your safest bet will be a health food store like Whole Foods. These noodles can also be ordered online on Amazon.

While these three pasta alternatives are versatile and can be prepared in any way, I’m going to share my favorite way to cook each. 

Kale and Turkey Spaghetti Squash

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1 small spaghetti squash

4 ounces ground turkey

1/2 cup white onion

2 cups kale, packed

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup, to taste

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, to taste

1/2 teaspoon onion powder, to taste

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out all of the seeds.

3. Coat the outside and inside of the spaghetti squash with olive oil and season the inside with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Place the spaghetti squash on a pan flesh side down and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, flip the squash and bake for another 25 minutes.

5. While the squash is cooking, prepare the kale and ground turkey. Heat a pan over medium heat and add the olive oil after about 30 seconds — once the pan is hot. Dice onions and add to the pan. Saute until translucent, about three minutes.

6. Add the ground turkey, break it up and season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

7. Once the turkey is mostly cooked through, add the kale and season with maple syrup and rice wine vinegar.

8. When the spaghetti squash is done, poke it with a fork to check if it’s soft. If it feels soft enough, take it out of the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Once cooled, use a fork to scrape out the strands.

9. Add the spaghetti squash into the pan with the turkey and kale, and mix it together. If needed, add more maple syrup and rice wine vinegar to taste.

10. Enjoy!

Shrimp Pesto Zoodles

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1 pack of zucchini noodles, fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons pesto

4 ounces of shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste

Optional: Parmesan cheese, for topping

Instructions

1. Heat a pan over medium heat and add half of the olive oil after about 30 seconds — once the pan is warmed up.

2. Add the shrimp and season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for two to three minutes, or until the shrimp is pink and opaque.

3. Once the shrimp is cooked, place on a plate and cover. Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan and add the zoodles. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Cook for about three to four minutes until the zoodles are tender. Once the zoodles are cooked, add the shrimp and the pesto. My favorite pesto brand is Buitoni, but any pesto brand will work.

5. Mix together and top with parmesan or your favorite kind of cheese and enjoy!

Tofu Shirataki Bolognese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1 package tofu shirataki noodles

4 ounces ground turkey or ground beef

1 cup of tomato sauce of choice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, to taste

1/2 teaspoon onion powder, to taste

1 teaspoon salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste

Optional: Parmesan cheese, for topping

Instructions

1. In a large pot, boil water and salt.

2. Using a colander, rinse the noodles for about one to two minutes.

3. Once the noodles are rinsed, add them to the pot of boiling water and cook for about two to three minutes.

4. While the noodles are boiling, heat a pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pan after about 30 seconds — once the pan has warmed up.

5. Add the ground turkey or beef to the pan and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.

6. Add the noodles to the pan with the meat and add the tomato sauce. Mix together until the noodles and meat are fully coated.

7. Top with parmesan cheese or your favorite kind of cheese and enjoy!

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