In my first sessions with clients, I typically ask them, “What food would you be most broken-hearted to find missing from your plan?” The answers, while sometimes surprising, generally range from chocolate and coffee to bread and fruit, but the answer I hear most often is pasta.
There is definitely something to be said for a high-carb vegan lifestyle. It is fantastic for athletes and fitness enthusiasts, helping to replenish muscle stores of sugars (glycogen) for better energy and next-level performance. The caveat I heartily suggest is that those energy-sustaining carbs should come in high percentage from whole foods, like squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, mangoes, dates, whole brown rice, quinoa, lentils, and chickpeas, among a plethora of other beautiful nutrient-rich sources.
For those of us who struggle with chronic stress, hormone imbalance, blood sugar fluctuations and monster cravings, easing up on carbs coming especially from processed or refined foods can do a world of good for getting us back on the path to good health.
But thankfully that doesn’t mean saying an absolute NO to noodles.
Here are some nutritionist-approved ideas for replacing grain-based pasta and noodles to make your mouth happy and satisfy your next craving.
Trendy with the high-raw set, vegans at large, and gadget-loving cooks everywhere, turning your zucchinis into curls that twirl onto your fork with virtually any sauce or topping is a nutrient-dense, low-carb, and tasty way to get your noodle fix. And it’s not limited to zucchini – try carrot, sweet potato, squash, or beets too! “Zoodles” are delicious raw, or you can lightly steam them (especially for crunchier veggies) before adding toppings if a more pliant noodle is desired.
Recipe: Raw Cashew Basil Cream Sauce
This type, made from legumes like black beans, adzuki, mung, edamame, lentils, and chickpeas, benefits from being not only low in carbs and calories, but high in protein, fibre, and antioxidants! They work beautifully for any pasta dish, as well as stir-fries and cold noodle salads. They also cook faster than regular pasta, so they’re a good nutritious quick-dinner option for busy people – just add sauce and veggies, and go.
Sea vegetable noodles
Noodles made with sea vegetables are generally a good source of minerals, like calcium and iodine. Kelp noodles are just that – noodles made from kelp. They are usually eaten raw, and work best in a crunchy salad. These are clear, firm noodles that don’t twirl as well as some other types, unless they’ve soaked in a sauce or marinade for a bit. Arame is a type of seaweed that is typically dried in strands that, when soaked in water for a few minutes, plumps up into a noodle-like form. It’s great to add to soups and salads for a mineral boost.
Shirataki / konjac / “miracle” noodles
These zero-carb noodles (what?!) made from konjac – a gelatinous fibre – or tofu are surprisingly filling, have the mouth-feel of ramen and rice noodles, and usually require little to no cooking to prepare. As such, they’re great for using in your veggie-loaded Asian-style soup recipes (think pho, tom yum, and ramen, of course!), salads, and fresh veggie rolls with peanut sauce, as well as pasta dishes. Some noodles can be quite long, so you may have to cut them as needed for your desired recipe.
Recipe: Viet-Thai Style Spring Onion & Greens Soup (“Sickie-Poo Soup”) (Note that this recipe doesn’t actually call for shirataki noodles, but they would work well here.)
Now go forth and enjoy your favourite noodle dish in a new healthy way!
Have you tried any of these nutritious noodles? Which is your favourite?