Consider alternative pastas for a gluten-free diet

Alternative pastas in general are similar, nutritionally speaking, to traditional pastas. However, the wheat-replacing ingredient may alter the profile a bit.

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Zoodles (noodles made from zucchini) make for a nice pasta alternative.

Zoodles (noodles made from zucchini) make for a nice pasta alternative.

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Pasta is a major staple in the diets of many Americans. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a good source of energy-providing carbs as well as B vitamins.

Like many foods, it can fit into a balanced, healthy eating plan. But for those intolerant to the gluten in wheat, that staple food isn’t so user-friendly anymore. Fortunately, there are several alternative pastas available to fit the bill.

Alternative pastas in general are similar, nutritionally speaking, to traditional pastas. However, the wheat-replacing ingredient may alter the profile a bit.

Bean-based pasta products will have a bump in fiber and protein, which can slow digestion and prolong feelings of satiety — helping you to feel fuller longer after eating.

Brown rice-based pastas offer a serving of whole grains. This is especially helpful for those avoiding gluten, because many gluten-free foods lack the whole grain found in whole wheat products. Whole grains provide not only fiber, but some protein and healthy fats. Remember — it is recommended that at least half of the grains we eat each day be whole grains.

Here are a few ideas to be aware of when selecting your alternative pastas.

1. Portion check. A serving of pasta is about 2 ounces, or about a 3/4 cup. If you eat more, be sure to do the math to determine the calories, fat, sodium and other nutrients you’re taking in.

2. Try and try again. Alternative pastas don’t always provide the taste and consistency we’re used to with traditional pasta. Plus, they’re often different from each other, too. When trying them out, you may need to try more than one brand and/or more than one type of base ingredient to find one you enjoy.

3. Other options. Leave the pasta aisle and head to the Asian or produce section. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are gluten free. You can also try spaghetti squash, zoodles (noodles made from zucchini) and shirataki noodles. You can find them where your store sells tofu.

Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition.

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