Noodles & Company Just Launched "Leanguini"—but Is It Healthy?
Yes, we know it sounds like we're mispronouncing spaghetti's flat cousin—linguine—but that's not a typo! As of last month, Leanguini is now a thing.
When this news rolled through our social media feeds by way of Noodles & Company, we were instantly intrigued. Does this play on words mean it's zoodles or something? Nope, although the fast-casual chain offers those, too, along with cauliflower-boosted rigatoni.
This Leanguini is in a category of its own, and can now be swapped in for the regular pasta in any Noodles & Company menu item for $1 more. So what's in it, exactly, and is it healthy?
What Is Leanguini?
"Leanguini is the new carb-conscious yet protein-rich noodle that defies all pasta logic," the brand says.
It was added to the Noodles & Company menu in early May, and automatically comes as part of one new menu item: Leanguini Lemon Parmesan. This entree features the Leanguini, lemon Parmesan sauce, roasted zucchini, Roma tomatoes, spinach, Parm and parsley. (As we mentioned, you can also sub it for the penne, spaghetti, cavatappi, macaroni or shells in the other dishes for an upcharge.)
One fan stopped in recently and commented on a Noodles & Company post to say, "The Leanguini with a scoop of rosa and a scoop of pesto sauce and whatever veggies you like is super good."
@alethea_c_perez shared on Instagram, "Wowzers!! We haven't found a yummy substitute until today and we have tried so many different brands out there and none came close to a noodle consistency as this one. 🎉💪🙌👍"
Curious about how it's different from one of Giada's pantry staples? We were too, so we dug up a box of Barilla regular linguine pasta for comparison. According to the nutrition information on this particular dried pasta, classic linguine ingredients are semolina wheat flour, durum wheat flour and vitamins and minerals (vitamin B3, iron, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and folic acid).
A 2-ounce serving of regular linguine has:
- 200 calories
- 1 g fat
- 7 g protein
- 42 g carbs
- 3 g fiber
Leanguini ingredients include water, Health Sense Flour (more on this shortly), egg, vital wheat gluten, durum flour (milled wheat, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid) and salt.
A small serving of Leanguini has:
- 210 calories
- 7 g fat
- 12 g protein
- 32 g carbs
- 13 g fiber
Is Leanguini Healthy?
You'll spy two major differences in those ingredient lists above:
- Leanguini uses HealthSense Flour instead of semolina wheat flour
- Leanguini adds egg and vital wheat gluten to the mix
HealthSense Flour is made with high-amylose wheat, which has 10 times the fiber of traditional wheat flour thanks to its resistant starch. According to Bay State Milling, a brand that makes it, HealthSense "is made from a unique, non-GMO variety of wheat that contains much more prebiotic fiber than traditional wheat."
One small 2019 study in The Journal of Nutrition hints that replacing regular flour with high-amylose wheat flour may decrease post-meal spikes in blood sugar, but more research is needed since this was a short-term study with 30 non-diabetic male participants. A paper published in the journal Frontiers notes that this "health by stealth" approach might be beneficial to help close the "fiber gap" (since about 95% of Americans don't consume enough). But—and this is a big but—this research is sponsored by Bay State Milling (yep, that flour-maker mentioned above), so it's worth taking this with a grain of salt.
Vital wheat gluten provides structure to carb creations, and is actually the key ingredient in seitan recipes. Along with the egg, this is what delivers the extra protein.
If you choose to opt for Leanguini over regular pasta, you'll "save" about 14 grams of carbs, while adding 20 calories, 7 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber to your typical small serving of Noodles & Company. If you dine at Noodles & Company daily or track your macros, choosing Leanguini on occasion might seem like a no-brainer. Once the noodles are dressed up with sauce, vegetables and cheese for a well-rounded meal, chances are, you'll barely notice the difference.
But our verdict on "Is it better?!" all boils down to flavor. There aren't any big red flags in terms of the Leanguini nutrition info. Still, food's tastiness level is part of what we consider in its overall "health rating," now and always! A restaurant lunch is often an exception rather than a rule (h/t to these meal-prep lunches for always having our back!), so we'll happily nosh on a small serving of regular noodles every so often. But it is always nice to have more options for individuals with different dietary preferences and allergies, and we love that Noodles & Company has a menu with something for pretty much everyone. And if they taste as great as those fans mentioned on Instagram, we'll happily dive into a bowl.
The Bottom Line
We're all about sneaking in bonus sources of protein and fiber, but are also A-OK with a regular dose of carbs. Pair said carbs with a side salad and grilled chicken or shrimp, and you'll score that fiber and protein in a produce-rich meal that comes with even more vitamins and minerals.
Whether you choose Leanguini or linguine, add a side salad and a big glass of water and enjoy that pasta lunch without an ounce of guilt.