It's National Spaghetti Day! But before you start boiling up that starchy stuff, check out these insanely low-cal spaghetti swaps!
Sure pasta tastes good. But spaghetti has 200 calories and 40 carbs in every cup! So if you have trouble keeping portion sizes down or want to avoid super-starchy stuff, you may be in the market for some swaps. If that's the case, check out HG's picks...
(1 cup: 40 calories, <0.5g fat, 30mg sodium, 10g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g sugars, 1g protein = PointsPlus® value 0*!)
How it Stacks Up to the Real Thing: Spaghetti squash is a decent swap for spaghetti. It's got the same stringy texture, it's got some fiber, and it works pretty well in most recipes! It's got a nutty taste to it, which can be good or bad, depending on your taste buds. But you should know that squash is a vegetable (technically it may be a fruit, but it is considered a vegetable in the cooking world), not a noodle. So don't expect this stuff to taste exactly like a bowl of pasta. It won't.
Prep Tips: Baking these in the oven can take FOREVER, but they microwave in minutes! Cut your squash into quarters and remove the seeds. (HG Tip: If you can't cut into the squash easily, microwave it for 45 seconds to soften the skin.) Pour a 1/4-cup of water into a large microwavable dish, place the squash cut-side down, and cover with plastic wrap. Then just microwave for 7 - 10 minutes, allow to cool for a few minutes, and scrape out all that spaghetti-ish fun!
Works Best in: Soooo many things! Add fat-free tomato sauce and cooked mushrooms and peppers, and then top with a little reduced fat grated parmesan for a perfect pasta-y dish! Or, refrigerate cooked spaghetti squash until cool; then add fresh peppers, corn niblets and peas and drizzle it with some fat-free Italian dressing for a zesty cold "pasta" salad!
Tofu Shirataki Noodles
(4 oz.: 20 calories, 0.5g fat, 15mg sodium, 3g carbs, 2g fiber, 0g sugars, 1g protein = PointsPlus® value 0*!)
How They Stack Up to the Real Thing: Did you think we would have a spaghetti swap email and NOT talk about Tofu Shirataki noodles? Sure they come floating in weird lime water and some people think they smell funny, but once you learn how to work with 'em, the possibilities are endless. These low-calorie, low-fat, low-everything noodles are really versatile -- they pretty much take on the taste of whatever you mix 'em with. They're very noodle-y but are a bit slimier than the real thing. But we say these noodles are definitely the best pasta swap out there. Remember, you can have 20 times as much Tofu Shirataki for the same number of calories as spaghetti (see the Extra segment as a reminder!)
Prep Tips: Rinse these noodles well and pat them VERY dry. Use a hairdryer if you have to -- just get these noodles dry (and they'll be pretty, too!). Tossing them in a pan stovetop for just long enough to dry 'em is a good trick; just don't leave 'em on too long, or they'll become rubbery. Cutting them up a bit will also help to make them more manageable (unless you want to have a Lady and the Tramp moment, in which case, no cutting necessary). Also, no need for parboiling like the package says -- just nuke 'em. If you can get these simple tips down, these noodles may very well change your life.
(4 oz.: 6 calories, 0g fat, 35mg sodium, 1g carbs, 1g fiber, 0g sugars, 0g protein = PointsPlus® value 0*!)
How They Stack Up to the Real Thing: The obvious pro here is that these are absurdly low in calories. That being said, kelp noodles are a bit odd. This sea-spawn spaghetti swap is a little salty and bitter -- think clear, noodle-shaped seaweed. And they've got a definite crunch to them. If you can get past their seaweed-y-ness (or if you like that sort of thing), these are a fantastic low-cal noodle sub. If not, skip 'em. Trust us.
Prep Tips: They come ready-to-serve, which is a definite plus. But a rinse and a quick trip to the microwave will rid them a bit of their salty crunch (that sounds worse than it actually is).
Work Best in: These are good in cold Japanese-style dishes. Slice up some cucumber and drizzle the dish with rice vinegar. These are also good in soups like miso and hot 'n sour. If heating these, soy sauce, light teriyaki and garlic sauces make great marinades. Basically, anything that works with the salty flavor of these noodles instead of against it.
(1 cup: 25 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 5g carbs, 1g fiber, 3.5g sugars, 2.5g protein = PointsPlus® value 0*!)
How They Stack Up to the Real Thing: Believe it or not, bean sprouts are an awesome substitute for spaghetti. They're easy to find, simple to prepare, and always in season. They don't have a lot of flavor, so be sure to season and spice 'em up. They can be a bit too crunchy if you don't cook 'em long enough. And the insides are more watery than starchy. But all in all, they ROCK!
Prep Tips: Just stir-fry, steam, or boil them until limp. If stir-frying, be sure to add a little water to the pan and cook over low heat. That'll prevent 'em from burning.
Work Best in: Asian-inspired entrees. These are a great stand-in for lo mein noodles. Stir-fry them with your favorite veggies -- green onions, mushrooms, and broccoli work great -- and finish off with some light teriyaki sauce. But truthfully, we like 'em best with tomato sauce, mushrooms and a little reduced fat parmesan. Mmmmmmmm!
*All nutritional info. is for a serving of cooked/ prepared food.