Is Pasta Bad For You?

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5 Best Healthy Pasta Substitute Recipes

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m sharing the best healthy pasta substitute and answering a viewer who asked: is pasta bad for you?

At the end of this post, I’ll also be sharing a few low calorie and low carbohydrate pasta recipes.

This is another post from our #TBT Q&A series.

These are questions from our #LLTV Q&A series, that we filmed for our Live Lean TV YouTube channel back in 2012.

So first, I’m going to share my answer to this question from 2012.

Then I’ll answer the same question again today, with more detailed recipes.

Alright lets first jump back to 2012…

Melanie from Facebook asks: what are your thoughts about pasta? I tend to eat spaghetti and macaroni once a week with minced vegetables?

Well if you’re only consuming pasta once a week, by all means, go ahead and do it.

6 Cheat Meal Rules

If you want, you can call that your cheat meal, or whatever you want to call it.

Just don’t eat pasta every single day or even every second day.

Pasta is very high in carbohydrates, and that’s going to throw your insulin levels all over the place.

fat burning

If you’re not familiar with your insulin, insulin is a hormone in your body that is often referred to as the fat storing hormone.

Therefore you really need to control your insulin levels to maintain your weight or lose fat.

Now here’s my answer 7 years later

Traditional forms of pasta, such as spaghetti and macaroni, are classified as processed and refined carbohydrates.

Other popular refined carbohydrates include bread, cereal, and other sweets and drinks filled with added sugar.

Speaking of bread, if you’re looking for healthy bread alternatives, I did a similar post on the best bread substitutes here.

Best Bread Substitute For Sandwiches

What are refined carbohydrates?

Refined carbohydrates are primarily made from highly processed grains that have been stripped of fiber.

Pasta is also referred to as a simple sugar because it is quickly digested by the body since most of the fiber has been removed.

Standard American Diet vs. Live Lean Diet

Unfortunately the standard American diet (SAD) contains a lot of calories from refined carbohydrates, especially comfort foods like spaghetti and macaroni and cheese.

Why too much pasta is bad for you:

Best Healthy Pasta Substitute

#1. Pasta is high in calories but low in nutrients and fiber:

Pasta, such as spaghetti and macaroni, are calorie dense, meaning they are high in calories, for a small amount of food.

Plus, they are low in overall healthy hunger crushing nutrients such as protein, fat, and fiber.

The 22 Best High Fiber Foods For Weight Loss

For example, a serving of pasta is usually over 200 calories, which is comprised mainly of refined carbohydrates.

A serving of grilled vegetables is closer to 50 calories, plus loaded with nutrients.

Plus your body doesn’t burn as many calories when digesting processed food when compared to animal protein and fibrous vegetables.

#2. Pasta spikes your blood sugar and insulin:

Turn Your Body Into A Fat Burning Machine For Life [Improve Insulin Sensitivity]

Since pasta is lower in fiber, it is quickly digested, thus spiking your blood sugar.

Since your digestive system is not built to digest that amount of sugar, at that rapid speed, it increases the production of the insulin hormone.

If you’re not familiar with insulin, it is often referred to as the fat storing hormone, because it stores excess sugar in the fat cells.

#3. Pasta can increase your hunger and cravings

How To Reduce Hunger Cravings For Weight Loss

When your blood sugar spikes, insulin is produced to quickly remove the excess sugar from your blood stream.

This can cause a blood sugar crash and alters your neurotransmitters, thus making your feel even hungrier and craving more calories throughout the day.

#4. Pasta makes you store extra water

How Much Water Should I Drink To Lose Weight Fast

Since carbohydrates increase water retention, by removing pasta from your diet, you’ll help your body in shedding unnecessary stored water weight.

This can help make you feel leaner, tighter, and less puffy.

#5. Pasta is even worse for you if you’re not active

Diet And Exercise Tips For Type 2 Diabetes

A diet high in refined carbohydrates, like pasta, can cause metabolic programs as well as increasing the risk of diabetes.

When you’re not active, this increases your risk even more.

So based on all this, why is the government’s food pyramid telling us to eat 6-11 servings of pasta, bread, cereal per day?

food pyramid

*shake my head*

Well if you’re eating a lot of pasta, I recommend you swap out refined pasta with fibrous carbohydrates.

The following fibrous carbohydrates are the best pasta substitutes.

4 Best Healthy Pasta Substitutes

If weight loss is your primary goal, a few of these pasta substitutes are also lower in carbohydrates and calories.

Healthy pasta substitute #1: Zucchini

Best Healthy Pasta Substitute

Zucchini is packed full of fiber and nutrients, and very low in carbohydrates and calories.

This makes spiraled zucchini noodles the perfect spaghetti or linguine substitute.

Use a vegetti to make the zucchini into noodles or slice thinly with a peeler.

Best Healthy Pasta Substitute

Tastes great, won’t spike your fat storing insulin, and is a free food, so eat as much as you like.

Low Carb Paleo Zucchini Pasta: Shrimp Spinach Linguine

Try this Low Carb Paleo Zucchini Pasta: Shrimp Spinach Linguine.

Print Recipe
Paleo Zucchini Pasta: Shrimp Spinach Linguine
If you love pasta, you're going to love this low carb paleo zucchini pasta option.
LOW CARB PALEO ZUCCHINI PASTA: SHRIMP SPINACH LINGUINE
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
LOW CARB PALEO ZUCCHINI PASTA: SHRIMP SPINACH LINGUINE
Instructions
  1. Trim off both ends of the zucchini, then spiralize the zucchini to create the noodles (we used the veggeti on the thick side).
  2. Dice the garlic cloves, then over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp of the coconut oil in a pan, then add the diced garlic, and cook until soft.
  3. Add the drained diced tomatoes to the pan with the garlic, mix together, then add red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and salt. Mix together and continue cooking over medium heat to bring the sauce back to a slight boil.
  4. Dice up the fresh basil, turn the heat down to low, then add the basil to the sauce.
  5. Over medium heat, add the remaining 2 tbsp of coconut oil to another pan.
  6. In a bowl, add a dash of sea salt and all the paprika to the shrimp, stir it all together, then add the shrimp to the pan, and heat throughly for 1-2 minutes (if the shrimp is raw, follow the package directions on the shrimp to cook throughly).
  7. Add spinach to the shrimp until it begins to wilt, then add shrimp mixture to the pan with the sauce and mix.
  8. Using the same pan that you cooked the shrimp in, add the spiralized zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes or until soft, then remove both pans from the heat and mix the shrimp sauce with the cooked zucchini.
  9. Add the food to plates and top with a dash of black pepper. Take a bite and yell, "Damn That's Good!".
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Info (per serving):

Calories: 344

Protein: 27g

Carbs: 5g

Fat: 24g

Live Lean Macaroni and Cheese recipe

In our Live Lean Macaroni and Cheese recipe, we also use zucchini as the macaroni and squash as part of the cheese mixture.

We used swapped out spaghetti noodles for thinly sliced sweet potatoes in this delicious paleo pasta bolognese recipe.

May sound strange, but it’s delicious.

Live Lean Mac n Chz!

Here’s the full Macaroni and Cheese recipe.

Print Recipe
Paleo Macaroni and Cheese
Paleo Macaroni and Cheese
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Paleo Macaroni and Cheese
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven for 400F.
  2. First step is to chop the onion in half. You'll use half of the onion for this part of the recipe and the other half for a later part. Cut half of the onion into cubes or squares, then throw it into a large mixing bowl. Set the other half of the onion to the side for later use.
  3. In the same mixing bowl add 2 cups of the pre-cut butternut squash, 1 tbsp of coconut oil, 1/2 tsp of Himalayan pink salt, and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Stir this mixture together until the coconut oil is distributed throughout the mixture.
  4. Lay the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove one chicken breast from the package and season it with pink salt and black pepper on both sides.
  6. Lightly coat a medium sized pan with coconut oil cooking spray and place it over medium heat. Add the chicken breast and let it cook for a 3-5 minutes on each side, until it's cooked throughly. Add it to a cutting board and cut into small cubes.
  7. Next step is to make the macaroni out of the other half of the onion and zucchini. Cut the end off of the onion and remove the skin. Chop the onion finely into smaller than bite-sized pieces.
  8. Cut the ends off of both zucchinis, slice it down the center length wise, then flip it and slice it again down the center. This will make small quarter sized pieces.
  9. In a larger saute pan, spray a light coat of coconut oil cooking spray, then saute the onions and zucchini. Keep stirring the mixture so the vegetables get cooked evenly on all sides.
  10. For the sauce, use the s-blade in your food processor. Then add the full can of coconut milk. Coconut milk is the secret ingredient that makes it really creamy. Side note: be careful when adding the coconut milk because it has a thick layer of coconut fat on the top, with a watery mix underneath. I usually take a big scoop out with a spoon, then pour the remaining water in so it doesn't make a big splash.
  11. Next, add 1 tsp of ground or fresh thyme, 1/2 tsp of ground mustard seed or regular mustard, 1/2 tsp half of turmeric powder (this is so healthy for you), 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast (this is what gives it the cheesy flavor), a dash of Himalayan pink salt, and a dash of ground black pepper. Put the lid on and blend.
  12. After the butternut squash and onions are finished baking and cooled, add them to the food processor and blend until saucy.
  13. Add the cooked zucchini, onions, and chicken to a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour the sauce over top of the mixture and mix everything together until it's fully combined.
  14. Add the mixture onto a serving dish and give it an extra little sprinkle of nutritional yeast. That's it.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 186

Protein: 10g

Carbohydrates: 14g

Fat: 10g

Healthy pasta substitute #2: Squash

How To Cook Spaghetti Squash

Use spaghetti squash, winter squash, or summer squash in your favorite pasta recipe.

How To Cook Spaghetti Squash: Spaghetti And Meatballs

If you’re wondering how to cook spaghetti squash, check out this spaghetti and meatballs recipe.

Print Recipe
Tasty Spaghetti Squash And Turkey Meatballs
Tasty Spaghetti Squash And Turkey Meatballs
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Tasty Spaghetti Squash And Turkey Meatballs
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to it's highest heat (typically 500-550F).
  2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise.
  3. Add the spaghetti squash to a glass baking dish and fill it with enough water so the spaghetti squash is submerged in 1 inch of water.
  4. Bake the spaghetti squash in the oven for approximately 20-30 minutes.
  5. As the spaghetti squash bakes in the oven, prepare the turkey meatballs coating by adding broken up pieces of bread (or ground almond flour/meal), crushed red pepper, black pepper, Himalayan sea salt, and fresh cilantro to a blender and blend. That is your turkey meatball coating.
  6. Next up is making the turkey meatballs. Dice up the red pepper and mushrooms and add to a dish. Put some of the mixture aside as we'll add it to the spaghetti at the end. Add the turkey meatballs coating to another dish. Add 2 egg whites to a third dish which will help the coating stick to the turkey meatballs.
  7. In the video I made 4 turkey meatballs, but you can make smaller meatballs if you like. Simply grab some lean ground turkey and roll it into a ball with your hands.
  8. Then grab a handful of the red pepper and mushroom mix and mix it into the turkey meatball.
  9. Coat the turkey meatball in the egg whites, then add the meatball to the coating mixture dish to fully coat the meatball. Repeat with the other meatballs.
  10. Once the 20 minute timer goes off, remove the spaghetti squash from the oven and allow it to cool down while you cook the tasty and delicious turkey meatballs.
  11. Add a little bit of cooking spray to a frying pan, place it over medium heat, then add the turkey meatballs and cook for 8-10 minutes, flipping occasionally to ensure it's cooked throughly.
  12. As the turkey meatballs cook, remove the spaghetti squash from the water. If it's still hot, grab the spaghetti squash with a towel, and in the other hand, use a fork to remove the seeds by scraping them out and throwing them away.
  13. To make the spaghetti noodles out of the spaghetti squash, continue scraping down with the fork inside the spaghetti squash. The spaghetti noodles will come out stringy and with the same texture as traditional spaghetti pasta.
  14. Add a cup of spaghetti squash to each plate, then top with the sliced mushrooms and diced red bell peppers, that you set aside earlier. Next, add a handful of spinach, then the turkey meatballs.
  15. (Optional) top with a dash of hot sauce if you like it spicy.
  16. Add some spaghetti squash and a piece of the turkey meatball to your fork and give it a taste. If you love it like I did, yell, DAMN that's good 😉
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Info (per serving):

Calories: 411

Protein: 46g

Carbohydrates: 14g

Fat: 19g

Healthy pasta substitute #3: Sweet potatoes

Sweet Potato - Fitness Super Food #9

Although higher in calories and carbohydrates than zucchini and spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals.

Cook Delicious Paleo Pasta Bolognese

We used swapped out spaghetti noodles for thinly sliced sweet potatoes in this delicious paleo pasta bolognese recipe.

Print Recipe
Paleo Pasta Bolognese
paleo pasta bolognese
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
paleo pasta bolognese
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add diced onion, red pepper, and mushrooms to pan and sauté for 5 mins.
  3. Add ground beef to the pan, crumble, and cook throughly.
  4. Sprinkle black pepper, sea salt, and oregano over top of the mixture.
  5. Once beef is cooked, with a peeler, begin peeling the sweet potatoes into thin strips directly into the pan.
  6. Add crushed tomatoes on top and mix together.
  7. Lower heat and simmer for 15 mins.
  8. Top with more oregano (if needed) and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories: 481

Protein: 40g

Carbohydrates: 42g

Fat: 17g

Healthy pasta substitute #4: Carrots

8 Best Healthy Airplane Travel Snack Ideas

Simply use a peeler to thinly slice up some carrots and you’re good.

Check out this carrot pasta recipe here.

Print Recipe
Carrot Pasta and Turkey Meatballs
carrot pasta and turkey meatballs
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
carrot pasta and turkey meatballs
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a bowl, mix 1 lbs of ground turkey, 1/2 medium finely diced onion, 2 sliced garlic cloves, and 1 tsp of thyme.
  3. Form the turkey mixture into golf ball sized meatballs, then add to a baking sheet lined with foil.
  4. Bake the meatballs for approximately 20 minutes, or until cooked throughly.
  5. While the meatballs bake, use a peeler to peel the carrots into a bowl. This will turn the carrots into pasta.
  6. In a pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of coconut oil, 1 clove of diced garlic, and the peeled carrots. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the carrots are heated throughly, then set aside.
  7. Once the meatballs are finished, add them to the pan with the carrot pasta, and top with 1 cup of pasta sauce. Stir everything together and enjoy.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories: 476

Protein: 43g

Carbohydrates: 31g

Fat: 20g

If these pasta alternatives don’t do it for you, stick to these tips:

  • Try to choose gluten free pasta options.
  • Swap out pasta for your favorite grilled vegetables.
  • Include a high protein and fat food to your pasta dish, for example: meatballs.
  • Combining proteins and fats with high glycemic carbohydrates like pasta, will help balance blood sugar and insulin.
  • Eat until you’re satisfied. Don’t stuff yourself.
  • Rather than cutting pasta out of your diet on day 1, simply reduce the portion of pasta by 1/3.

Is whole grain pasta a healthy pasta substitute for white pasta?

Sure, whole grain pasta contains more nutrients than white pasta.

However, whole grain pasta is only a few points lower on the glycemic index, so be aware.

Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load Food Chart

Make sure you use a pasta sauce with no added sugar

Pasta sauce is a classic example of a hidden sugar bomb, as some brands contain over 10 grams of sugar per serving.

3 Common Hidden Sugar Bombs

The pasta sauce ingredients list should only include:

  • vegetables
  • herbs
  • spices
  • healthy oil such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil

Earn your pasta

Lastly, please make sure you earn your pasta, and turn it into gains, by following a properly structured workout program.

To find the best workout program specific to your goals, fitness level, and access to equipment, go take our Live Lean Body Quiz.

I’ll put the link in the video description below.

And in the comments below tell me, what is your favorite healthy pasta substitute?

Thanks for watching and keep Living Lean.


READY TO BEGIN YOUR LIVE LEAN JOURNEY?

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Question For You:

  • What is your favorite healthy pasta substitute?

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