If you love pasta, then we have good news and bad news. The bad news is that traditional pasta, in traditional large portions, is best avoided if you want to lose weight. If you really can’t live without pasta, then you could have the occasional small portion and smother it with a healthy tomato, garlic and vegetable based sauce. The good news is that less fattening pasta substitutes are available, such as seaweed pasta, konjac pasta and – our favourite – spiralized courgette/zucchini zoodles.
Why is pasta fattening?
Pasta, cooked al dente, provides almost 160 kilocalories per 100 grams. Made from semolina flour, a third of its weight consists of starchy carbohydrate.
|Cooked Pasta||Per 100 gram serving|
|Energy||158 kcals (661 kilojoules)|
|Total fat||1 gram|
|Total carbohydrate||31 grams|
Even though it is high in carbs, cooked pasta has a lower than expected glycemic index (GI) (white pasta GI 45; wholegrain pasta GI 42). During digestion, the carbohydrate in pasta is broken down to release a steady stream of sugars, but without causing a sudden upswing in blood glucose levels. This is because of the way in which starch granules become trapped within a mesh of gluten protein within the pasta dough. This effect is more pronounced in firm pasta, so aim to cook your pasta al dente (firm to the bite) rather than too soft.
Even so, in the long-run, carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin which, in turn, stimulates fat storage and switches off fat burning. It’s therefore wise to go easy on the pasta when following a weight loss diet. Only have a SMALL serving.
Low carbohydrate pasta substitutes can help you lose weight as they are significantly less fattening than traditional Italian pasta, and provide additional weight loss benefits rather than just acting as a pasta alternative.
Seaweed such as kelp naturally comes in long strips and makes an ideal pasta substitute, fitting into most diets, including low carb, vegan, gluten-free and Paleo. Not only is seaweed spaghetti or kelp noodles full of vitamins and minerals (including calcium, iron and iodine), they are also brimming with protein and soluble fibre which readily fills you up. in fact, kelp supplements are widely recommended as a weight loss aid in its own right, as it contains fucoxanthin – an antioxidant pigment that stimulates the rate at which your metabolism burns fat.
|Seaweed tagliatelle||Per serving (1/4 pack)|
|Energy||45 kcals (188 kilojoules)|
|Total fat||0.6 gram|
|Total carbohydrate||0.1 grams|
With brand names like Slim Pasta, Skinny Pasta and Zero Noodles, pasta made from konjac root flour does exactly what it promises – filling you up while providing little in the way of calories (or any form of nutrition, come to that). Konjac, or glucomannan, is a soluble fibre obtained from the elephant yam which is a traditional weight loss aid with science to back it up. Konjac root flour swells on contact with water and can be used to make pasta that has a similar consistency to wheat pasta but is slightly more gelatinous. Konjac is so effective at filling you up and reducing food intake that there is an authorised EU health claim that, in the context of an energy restricted diet, konjac glucomannan contributes to weight loss. Do drink plenty of water to help it work properly.
|Konjac||Per serving (100g)|
|Energy||9.5 kcals ( 40 kilojoules)|
|Total fat||0 gram|
|Total carbohydrate||0 grams|
Spiralized Courgetti, Zucchini or Zoodles
Spiralized vegetables are our favourite pasta substitute, as they are fresh, full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as taste. They also feel more natural, somehow. You can spiralize courgette/zucchini to produce long, slender, spaghetti like strips which can be added raw to salads, or cooked for just a couple of minutes in boiling water to soften.
|Spiralised Zoodles||Per serving (100g)|
|Energy||16 kcals (67 kilojoules)|
|Total fat||0 gram|
|Total carbohydrate||3 grams|
A whole range of spiralizers are available – some have different blades to create different sized pasta strips, or to quickly produce enough vegetable pasta for a whole family. A simple hand-held version is great for preparing a meal for one.
How do you cope without pasta on your diet?