Now that’s a bowl of fresh spaghetti! I present here today a healthier alternative to your standard white pasta, which is a highly processed food that (in my humble opinion) should be consumed in moderation, if at all. Pasta began as a very healthy food– when it was wheat berries. But think about the radical changes it endures to transform into the fiber-less, empty-calorie shapes you see in boxes on the supermarket shelf. All the good stuff has been processed out. True, some nutrients are added back in through enrichment, but it’s not the same as what naturally occurred. When you eat regular pasta, you are fueling your body with the starchy carbohydrate-rich endosperm of the wheat. It’s basically like eating white bread and the effect it can have on your blood sugar levels is not unlike eating white sugar. The carbohydrates are very quickly released into your bloodstream. White flour products like pasta can also wreak havoc with your triglycerides. The whole wheat version is definitely better since it retains all the parts of the wheat including the bran and germ which provide fiber and vitamins…but still, it scores pretty low in nutrient density compared to summer squash.
How to know which foods are the most supportive of superb health? The little formula I love from Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live book is: H=N/C (health equals nutrients per calorie). Translated: Everything we eat has a certain nutrient level as well as a certain calorie content. For optimum health, you want to eat mainly foods that provide a high level of nutrition in proportion to their calories. Fruits and veggies fall right into this category since they have an abundance of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and so forth…. for relatively few calories. Pasta, on the other hand, has comparatively few nutrients for the number of calories it supplies. And when you eat wheat pasta NOT made from WHOLE wheat, most of those nutrients are artificially added to it since so much of the original goodness has been processed out. All nutrition equations aside… don’t you just basically FEEL better when you eat wholesome foods?! YES!
Brief nutrition lesson over… and now on to an idea for an easy, nutrient-packed, low-calorie meal!
To make these healthy squash noodles you will need a spiralizer. You can find them on Amazon– take a peek at them here. Spiralizers are easy and fun to use! (You can also use a vegetable peeler for fettuccine-like noodles.)
Start with some summer squash like zucchini or yellow squash. If your squash is large, cut it in half, place it in the prongs of your device…
…and crank away!
Voila~ an instant bowl of fresh noodles:
You can make all kinds of raw sauces to top your noodles with. Search online or in a book for ideas. I’ve made amazing raw tomato sauces as well as insanely delicious raw alfredo type sauces that you would never guess were made from a base of cashews plus other healthy ingredients and NO cheese. Perfect for a light summer dinner that does not involve turning on the stove or oven.
I like to eat these noodles raw but you can also steam or boil them for a softer, less al dente style. I used my leftover noodles in a stir fry the next day and they tasted great with a variety of other vegetables!
Instead of a traditional sauce, I decided to go with salsa. I have been eager to whip up a fresh salsa from my own garden tomatoes which have just begun to ripen. I got a jalapeño and a sweet pepper from a farmers market to add to the mix along with a regular store-bought onion. I pre-chopped everything into chunks before adding them to my food processor:
For seasoning I decided to go with a pizza blend by Frontier that I LOVE as well as some garlic salt. No, not your standard salsa recipe but I like to get creative with my food:
Fresh garden salsa in seconds:
We have been grilling TONS of white eggplant and squash lately. I also had made my favorite homemade bbq baked beans recipe by Carrie On Vegan, so we had leftovers of both in the fridge. Don’t be afraid to put together what you’ve got in the house for a meal. You don’t need to cook something new every single night. While not a customary pasta dinner, believe it or not, this was a very delicious concoction that left me feeling great (and not weighed down like regular wheat pasta can). Plus, it’s very light on the calories so you can have room for a healthy dessert (ahem, like the last of a chocolate strawberry cashew cream cake)
Does this sound like something you would ever eat? Or do you feel like it is so far removed from your current food reality that you would never consider it? It’s just an idea and while I thrive on this stuff, it’s not for everybody. If you’re not quite ready to give up your pasta just yet, how about making a bowl of half squash and half wheat pasta? Most people’s pasta portions are 2-3X what they need– this is a great way to fill your stomach with the volume of food it is used to, only for much fewer calories and for much more nutrition!
I know many people out there struggle with the (what should be) simple act of feeding themselves. I repeatedly hear over and over how people don’t know what to make for dinner. Or they *think* they don’t have enough time to make a nutritious dinner. Trust me, you CAN do it.
First of all, figure out what you already LIKE eating and then work out something you can tweak for an improvement. Perhaps you normally eat things like hot dogs and macaroni and cheese every night. Reflect on if you are really feeling good eating like that and if it is helping your health or weight loss goals. I would place my bets on NO. All that sodium, animal fat, refined grain and preservatives aren’t in alignment with a healthy lifestyle and consequently can lead to serious health issues.
Once you’ve determined that you are ready to take action, make small changes and don’t overwhelm yourself. If your goal is to eat healthier, establish an initial step you can take to set you off in that direction. Say you are the above mentioned hot dog/macaroni and cheese eater. Maybe you eat two hot dogs and half the box of pasta and call that dinner. Now say you also like broccoli. Or maybe you prefer salad. What if you heated up some frozen broccoli florets or put together a bowl of salad to have with your dinner while only having one hot dog instead of two? Perhaps the next step would be to buy a whole wheat macaroni and cheese. Or possibly a package of brown rice or quinoa pilaf. You could consider replacing your hot dog with a higher quality source of protein like shrimp, fish or chicken– things that are just as easy to heat up and prepare. There are an endless number of routes you could take on your way to your goal. The best one is the one that you are going to follow and stay on!
Figure out a plan for yourself or meet with a dietitian. That’s what we are here for. We have your health goals in mind while at the same time knowing that we need to keep things realistic and do-able so that you will actually be able to make these habit changes happen.
Have you made any positive changes to your diet and how did you go about doing it?