6 Healthy Noodles You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian
I'm a huge pasta lover (yes, even dietitians eat pasta!). If you get really technical, noodles and pasta aren't interchangeable terms, but for the sake of this article, I'm lumping them together. In recent years, there are plenty of options to get your noodle fix at the store. There's gluten-free, whole-wheat, bean-based, rice noodles and so many more. But how do you know which noodles and pastas are the best ones to choose for your health? I decided to dig a little deeper into some of my favorite healthy noodles and shared why they can be a good choice. (If you're following a low-carb diet, check out these low-carb pastas to try instead of classic noodles.)
1. Whole-wheat pasta
Whole-wheat pasta is an easy to find healthier noodle that will bump up the nutrition of your pasta dish. Made from whole grains, it boasts 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein per serving (which FYI, is more protein than an egg). Most of us don't eat enough fiber, which is good for our hearts and digestion. Some people (cough, cough, my husband, cough) find it to be a little less tasty than regular semolina pasta. I find that with the right sauce, like in our Pesto Pasta Salad or Spinach & Artichoke Dip Pasta, everyone in the family is happy with dinner.
2. Chickpea pasta
There are lots of different chickpea pastas to choose from, although they may be a bit harder to find (check the natural or gluten-free section of your grocery store if you don't see this in the pasta aisle). I love that chickpea pasta has all the nutrition of chickpeas, but in a picky-eater friendly pasta. Also, because it's made from beans, chickpea pasta has 11 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per serving, for a filling and healthy meal. The flavor is relatively neutral so chickpea pasta works well in a variety of dishes. I love making macaroni and cheese with chickpea pasta or just tossing with jarred sauce for an easy dinner.
3. Veggie noodles
When it comes to noodle substitutes, vegetables like zucchini, spaghetti squash and butternut squash are all healthy options. I love making spaghetti squash lasagna and spiralizing zoodles (although I typically add zucchini noodles to my spaghetti since I don't think it's all that filling). Depending on the vegetable you use, nutrition will vary, but you'll usually save calories and carbohydrates compared to traditional noodles. Since most of us don't eat enough vegetables, using them as a noodle swap can be a creative way to get more in your diet.
4. Red lentil pasta
Just like with chickpea pasta, red lentil noodles are gluten-free and deliver a hefty dose of plant-based protein and fiber. You'll get 13 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving, plus 15% of your daily iron needs. Red lentil pasta is a darker orange color, so you won't fool anyone into thinking it's just regular spaghetti, but can be a great way to get plant-based nutrition into lentil haters.
5. Soba noodles
Soba noodles are made with buckwheat, that despite having wheat in the name is gluten-free. Buckwheat is a whole grain which makes these noodles higher in fiber than many other pastas. Soba noodles are a Japanese noodle that are often used in soups and noodle bowls. Try them cold in our Summer Vegetable Sesame Noodles. Some soba noodles are made with a blend of wheat and buckwheat flours, so check the labels if you're eating gluten-free.
6. White pasta
I had to include this classic pasta on here, because it's delicious and not as unhealthy as people often think.Your classic spaghetti is made with semolina flour and is enriched with extra vitamins and minerals like iron, folate and B vitamins. One serving also has 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber (so not as much as bean-based pastas, but not nothing). There are 42 grams of carbohydrate per serving, which is why pasta gets such a bad reputation. And while the carbohydrates in classic pasta aren't whole grain, they're OK to eat sometimes (at least according to this Italian-Amerian dietitian). Some nights we make whole-wheat noodles, some nights it's chickpea pasta and sometimes only white pasta will do. To make your pasta dish more balanced, add some vegetables and protein and enjoy every bite.
Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.