When it comes to your health, it’s all about balance. There are going to be days when your body feels satisfied with a hearty salad and grain bowl, and others when you’re just craving a comforting bowl of mac and cheese. It’s important to let yourself enjoy the foods that you put on your plate, and you can often do this by finding options that both satisfy your cravings and pack a nutritious punch.
Eating well means staying mindful of nutrient ratio as well as portion size, and when you find balance to prioritize healthier eating the majority of the time, it will allow some wiggle room for you to indulge in the foods you crave from time to time. It’s important to be conscious of and enjoy the food that you put in your body, helping nourish both body and soul. You’ll be more inclined to stick to a healthy routine when you don’t feel like you’re restricting yourself.
Thankfully, pasta lovers will find that there are many alternatives to the traditional refined pasta that can spike blood sugar levels and leave you feeling hungry after just a couple of hours. From red lentil to chickpea to quinoa-based pastas, these noodle options can boost any meal with key nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals that provide more sustainable energy. These options are also plant-based, meaning they are great source of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which help reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and aid in heart and cardiovascular function.
7 healthy pasta alternatives to make your next noodle dish a bit more nutritious:
Edamame is typically eaten as an appetizer or crunchy snack, but it also makes for a protein-rich noodle that can pair well with many flavors. This soybean contains vitamin K, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your blood lipid profile.
- Edamame noodles are made of edamame bean flour, and are soy-based, vegan, and gluten-free
- A 1-cup serving of edamame noodles has 25 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber
Try edamame noodles at your next meal by adding fresh pesto or old-fashioned tomato sauce for a flavorful, antioxidant rich meal!
Chickpea noodles are a hearty substitute for any wheat-flour pastas. It’s nutty flavor pairs well with a cream or mushroom sauce, or plain with a little olive oil and salt! This option is low on the glycemic index, keeping your blood sugar more stable and helping lower cholesterol levels.
- Chickpea noodles are gluten-free (safe for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance), and low in carbohydrates
- One serving contains 25 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber
Toss with olive oil and fresh herbs, add a sprinkle of feta cheese, spinach, and tomato for a Mediterranean-inspired dish.
Typically added to salads or side dishes, quinoa noodles are filled with essential nutrients. This healthy noodle option is high in potassium and fiber, helping optimize digestive function and reduce hunger by keeping you full for longer.
- Quinoa noodles – made of quinoa flour – are gluten-free, and contain resistant starch that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut
- High in protein, iron, and contains all 9 essential amino acids (these are the amino acids that our body must get from our diet!)
Try making a pasta primavera, loaded with fresh vegetables like sauteed zucchini, red peppers and summer squash.
Red Lentil Noodles
Made from legumes, red lentil noodles are high in protein, iron and fiber. This option will keep your body full for a longer period of time and prevent a blood sugar swing that will make you crash and feel hungry soon after. With the right sauce and flavors, this alternative tastes almost like the real thing!
- Red lentil noodles are gluten-free and vegan
- One serving contains 21 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, as well as a healthy dose of folate, a B vitamin that is needed to make red and white blood cells and convert carbohydrates to energy
The flavor of red lentil pairs well with spicy flavors. Try recreating a classic spaghetti Bolognese with a bit of chili powder and a lean protein like turkey.
Black Bean Noodles
Instead of adding black beans in your salad, try eating them in noodle form! This is another legume-based option, containing vitamin B6, folate, and other phytonutrients that lower cholesterol and support heart health.
- Black bean noodles are gluten-free, high in fiber, and versatile to mix with many flavors
- One serving contains eight times the amount of protein and fiber than regular white pasta
Black beans pair well with Mexican flavors, so you can try topping your bowl with some avocado for a dose of healthy fats.
Soba (Buckwheat) Noodles
These thin noodles are made from the grain buckwheat, traditionally used in Japanese cuisine. Buckwheat contains high levels of the amino acid lysine, which helps the body produce important enzymes and antibodies.
- Soba noodles contain key minerals like manganese, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron
- One cup of soba noodles has 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber
Try creating a dish with soba noodles, snap peas, and tofu for a light yet delicious meal.
These noodles are keto-friendly and perfect for those watching their carbohydrate intake, as they have less than one gram of carbohydrate per 1-cup serving. Made from konjac flour – the starchy root of the konjac plant, typically found in East Asian countries – and water, they are a great way to fill up on a large volume of food with fewer calories.
- Shirataki noodles are translucent, jelly-like noodles, made almost entirely of water and glucomannan fiber (a soluble dietary fiber).
- One cup of noodles contains 6 grams of fiber.
As a low-calorie noodle, you'll need to add extra protein and fats for a well-rounded meal. Try making a stir fry with peanut sauce and broccoli, with an added protein like chicken or tofu to make it more substantial.
The importance of eating nutrient-dense foods.
It’s fun to shake up your routine and integrate new foods, food groups, and flavors. You can navigate this by fueling yourself properly each day by choosing foods full of complex carbohydrates, and high protein and fiber.
A bowl of noodles doesn’t have to be a “cheat meal.” There are many alternatives that your body may need to rebuild muscle following a tough workout, or use to feed the gut and improve digestive health. At IIN, we teach the concept of bio-individuality, a concept that empowers you to find the foods that work best for your body. Whether you are gluten-intolerant, vegan, or just looking for something low-carb—there's a noodle for everyone.
Download the Curriculum Guide today to find out more on how a Health Coach education can give you the tools to make individualized nutrition choices for your daily life.