The Good and Bad of Alternative Noodles

No matter which fad diet you’re following, pasta is usually on the list of foods to avoid. This has been making dieters incredibly carb-phobic. On the other hand, some dietary restrictions such as celiac disease rightfully call for alternatives to gluten-filled pasta. If you’re reaching for alternatives to traditional pasta, you may not be getting a healthier noodle.

Good

Alternative pastas have all kinds of ulterior motives — some are free of gluten, others low in calories or high in protein. What matters most is what they’re made of. Traditional pasta is made from wheat flour, but you can also find healthy alternatives made from other grains, including rice, corn and quinoa; let’s not leave out good old spaghetti squash! Vitamin- and protein-rich legume-based pastas are also crowding supermarket shelves. Most of these options have very different texture and flavor profiles. Plus, the nutrient values differ significantly, so check labels to decide which fits best into your eating plan.

Some tasty options: Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta, Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Pasta, Barilla Protein Plus, Ancient Harvest and soba noodles (made from buckwheat). See more in our pasta taste test.

Bad

On the flip side, there are some alternate noodle options with little or no nutritional value. Chinese cellophane noodles are made from plant-based starches; while they are mild in flavor and have a pleasant texture, they don’t offer much in the nutrient department.

Possibly the worst offender is noodles made primarily from an indigestible substance called glucomannan. Sold as “miracle” or “shirataki” noodles, these babies are very popular with dieters because they are very low in calories. But they’re also low in flavor, and they have the consistency of rubber bands. Read more about the main ingredient in these noodles.

Bottom Line: There are some healthy alternatives to traditional wheat pasta. There are plenty of options, so choose what you like — just make sure it’s made from real food!

Related Links:

6 Foods That Can Cause Inflammation

What to Know About Jackfruit, the Next Big Thing in Produce

Cooking Secrets from Food Network Kitchen

What Do Our Food Cravings Mean?

Our Top 20 Healthy Pantry Ingredients

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Granola: Good or Bad?

Some view granola as an all-star health food, others think it’s belly fat in a box! Here are the pros and cons on this crunchy breakfast staple.

Pasta: Good or Bad?

Trying to find healthy and delicious recipes? Food Network makes that easy with their collection of low fat, low calorie and low carb recipes.

Chicken: Good or Bad?

Chicken is considered a lean protein, but many folks are concerned about how chickens are raised and fed. Can this popular poultry be part of a healthy diet?

Milk: Good or Bad?

We're talking about cows' milk, that is. Many folks view milk as wholesome and healthy. Others, meanwhile, warn us away and say it's full of hormones or might make you phlegmy. So what’s the deal with milk: does it do your body good or not?

Kombucha: Good or Bad?

Find out if the popular fermented kombucha tea is worth the hype.

Bacon: Good or Bad?

Some folks love it, others cringe at the very thought. Can this pork belly delicacy be part of a healthy diet?

Cream: Good or Bad?

With boatloads of calories and artery clogging saturated fat, can cream be part of a healthy diet?

Caffeine: Good or Bad?

Can’t go without that morning latte or afternoon soda, but worried you're overloading on caffeine? Here are some tips to help you assess your daily dose of caffeine.

Pork: Good or Bad?

There has been controversy lately about whether pork is healthy or safe to eat. So you can make your own educated decision, we offer the nutrition facts on pork. Is it really the “other white meat”?

Eggs: Good or Bad?

Over the years, eggs have gotten a bad rap as cholesterol no-nos. But should you totally ditch them in your diet?