I previously wrote a blog post about my current weight loss goals for 2023 and shared with you my journey with calorie counting. I’ve had a great first week and it has pushed me to continue on my journey. I have found calorie counting quite easy to adapt to and it works well for me as there are no real restrictions as long as I stay in a calorie deficit. Of course, the best way to be successful and healthy whilst calorie counting is to eat foods that are nutrient-dense because even though you can lose weight eating unhealthy foods like chocolate and fast food if these foods make up the main basis of your diet you will end up feeling lethargic, sluggish and not well.
Although I have found calorie counting to be unrestrictive it has got me thinking about ways to reduce my calorie intake by using alternatives in my favourite foods. I am a huge pasta lover and enjoy nothing more than a massive bowl of pasta as my evening meal but due to its carbohydrate nature pasta is calorie heavy and although you can absolutely eat this on a calorie deficit if you swap out the pasta for an alternative it will give you more calories to consume throughout the day on other foods. So this got me thinking about alternatives that are still tasty but lower calories and I thought it would be great to share with anyone else on a weight loss journey right now.
Courgetti, also known as “zoodles,” has gained popularity as a low-calorie pasta alternative. Now don’t shrink away in disgust just yet if the idea of eating courgette sounds gross – I felt exactly the same when I first considered this swap. I really am not a courgette fan and often pick it out of meals but a couple of years ago someone recommended it and I have to admit it is a game changer. I still don’t like courgette but spiralised with pasta sauce it is actually quite delicious!
With a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler, we can transform fresh courgettes into noodle-like ribbons in seconds. Courgetti is light, refreshing, and incredibly versatile, making it an excellent substitute in a wide range of pasta recipes. You can top it with our favourite tomato sauce or experiment with pesto for a delicious, low-calorie meal. The great thing about courgetti is if you are adding a warm pasta sauce to the top there is no need to cook the courgette in advance making it a fast meal idea for those mid-wee meals too!
Another great alternative to spaghetti is vegetable spaghetti, made from spaghetti squash. When cooked, spaghetti squash yields tender strands that resemble traditional pasta noodles. It does have a mildly sweet flavour which is a great additin to acidic sauces and has a tender texture making it an ideal substitute for pasta. Simply bake or microwave the squash until it’s tender, then use a fork to scrape out the noodle-like strands. Top it with a flavorful sauce or toss it with some olive oil, garlic, and herbs for a simple yet satisfying dish.
*Konjac noodles, often called “miracle noodles,” are made from the konjac yam and are incredibly low in calories and carbohydrates. These noodles have a slightly chewy texture and readily absorb the flavours of the sauces they are cooked with. While they may feel different compared to traditional pasta, konjac noodles are an excellent option for those of us seeking a low-calorie alternative. I’ll be entirely honest and say that these are a desired taste – unlike the courgette and vegetable spaghetti this is a love-it-or-hate-it product but certainly worth a try. I wouldn’t actively choose this over pasta if I wasn’t trying to reduce my calorie intake which is worth mentioning where as with the squash and courgette for example I would.
I feel like the world went a little bit crazy for cauliflower rice a few years ago and although its popularity has reduced it is still a great staple to lean into when trying to reduce calories. personally, I am a huge cauliflower fan and when in season this vegetable is flavourful and affordable which is always a bonus. Cauliflower rice is a versatile ingredient that can replace regular pasta in numerous dishes. By grating or processing cauliflower into small rice-like pieces, it’s easy to create a low-calorie and nutrient-packed base for our favourite sauces. Cauliflower rice pairs exceptionally well with stir-fries or curries, but is also a great pasta substitute too!
Legume-based pasta, such as chickpea or lentil pasta, offers a significant protein boost compared to traditional wheat pasta. These alternatives are typically gluten-free, higher in fibre, and have a lower glycemic index. With various shapes and sizes available, legume-based pasta provides a satisfying and nutrient-dense option to enjoy with our favourite sauces.
*Seaweed noodles, also known as kelp noodles, add a touch of oceanic goodness to our meals while reducing calorie intake. Again, the thought of seaweed in my Italian dishes did make me want to shrink up into a ball and cry however it really is more delicious than it sounds. Made from nutrient-rich seaweed, kelp noodles are incredibly low in calories, gluten-free, and rich in iodine and minerals. They have a slightly crunchy texture and can be enjoyed raw or lightly cooked, making them a refreshing addition to salads and Asian-inspired dishes as well as your favourite pasta meal.
When trying to reduce your calorie intake swapping out your favourite pasta side for something lower calorie can make a huge difference and these alternatives are a great place to consider that. I think it is important to note that no food is ‘bad food’ and eating regular calorie-dense pasta is absolutely fine and if you want to enjoy your favourite dish with your favourite pasta then do! Calorie counting and weight loss are a personal journey and you should do ultimately what makes you happy. There is no point swapping out a food for something that then makes you detest the meal. Enjoy your food and eat balanced and you can’t go too far wrong. If you have any other pasta alternatives to share id love to hear about them so please feel free to comment them below. I am always on the lookout to find alternatives to my favourite foods and where I was quite a picky person in the past I am becoming more open to trying new things now and I find it quite exciting.
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