Smart swaps for your spaghetti

Healthy eating on National Spaghetti Day

It’s a day for pasta-lovers to rejoice – Friday January 4 is National Spaghetti Day.

While traditional spaghetti made with refined flour may not be the best choice for our waistlines, according to Lindsay Malone, RD, of Cleveland Clinic, there are plenty of other nutrient-rich options to choose from.

“One of my favorites is spaghetti squash,” she said. “It’s a yellow, round squash that when cooked, the inside flesh of the vegetable resembles spaghetti noodles. But, it has far more vitamins, minerals, fiber, than your traditional spaghetti.”

Malone said there are also spaghetti noodles that are made from beans – including chick peas, black beans, and soy beans. These options have more protein, more fiber, and more iron than traditional spaghetti.

There are also a variety of kitchen tools that can enable people to make their own noodles out of vegetables.

Malone said vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, and even beets can be made into noodles.

For those who don’t have the time to DIY their own noodles, she said most grocery stores carry pre-made vegetable-based noodles, which are typically located in the produce section.

Keep in mind that the nutritional value of a spaghetti dish doesn’t end with the noodle choice.

Malone said the sauce on top of the spaghetti matters too.

“With what you put on top of your pasta, you really want to be thinking about choosing either a healthy fat, like olive oil or avocado oil; or maybe even some pureed cashews, which can make a nice cream sauce,” she said.

Malone advises steering clear of the heavy cream-based sauces, like Alfredo sauce, because they have unhealthy animal fats. And when shopping for red sauce in the grocery store, look for one that doesn’t have any added sugar. If there is oil in it, make sure it’s extra virgin olive oil.

Another way to boost the nutritional value of a spaghetti dish is to add vegetables.

“One thing that I often recommend is adding more vegetables,” said Malone. “Take your typical serving size of pasta -somewhere around a half of a cup, to a cup – and then pump up your bowl with a lot of colorful vegetables.”

Malone recommends using vegetables such as roasted eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers which are all good choices that pair well with pasta.

She said parmesan cheese is a nice topping, but remember a little bit goes a long way. A tablespoon or less is fine without adding too much unhealthy fat.