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Cut Calories With These 9 "Pasta Poser" Recipes

author image Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN
Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a chef, nutritionist, recipe developer, media personality and award-winning cookbook author. She’s a cooking instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education and frequent contributor to Rachael Ray Every Day magazine. Her newest book is the second edition of "The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook." Instagram/Twitter: @jackienewgent

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Cut Calories With These 9 "Pasta Poser" Recipes

Turning your vegetables into “pasta” is an easy and delicious way to meet (or exceed) your daily vegetable needs. And it may help cut calories, total carbs or gluten from your diet, if that’s your aim. Some vegetables, such as spaghetti squash, easily work as “noodles.” Others like zucchini, carrots, beets and cucumber take a tiny bit of culinary skill. All you need is a knife, vegetable peeler and julienne peeler. Or you can splurge and get a spiralizer. Pro tip: When julienning or spiralizing vegetables, start with one-and-a-half to two times the amount needed for a recipe. That way, don’t cut your fingers trying to slice tiny veggie nubs and you only use the firmest part, leaving any squishy or seedy parts behind. But don’t toss out the rest; use leftover parts in a soup or salad. Now get spiralizing!

1. Thai Peanut Sweet Potato “Noodles”


These "zoodles" are inspired by vegetarian pad Thai. But instead of rice noodles, this recipe uses spiralized or julienned sweet potatoes, providing a burst of flavor and color. You’ll also get a load of beta-carotene in each serving -- much more than your body needs in the entire day! Interestingly, when sweet potatoes are cooked with fat, it makes their beta-carotene more absorbable. They're super easy to make: Just stir-fry the sweet potato spirals for a few minutes in a little grape-seed oil, toss with a three-ingredient sauce and then garnish with peanuts and fresh basil or cilantro. CALORIES: 305

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

2. Simple Spaghetti Squash With Pesto


Spaghetti squash is a winter squash that has a naturally stringy flesh when cooked, kind of like spaghetti. It’s an ideal pick to replace the regular version of pasta from time to time, especially when you find yourself behind on daily veggie or fiber intake. Cook the spaghetti squash in the microwave in about 12 minutes; no lengthy oven roasting is required. (Make sure you pierce the skin with a fork or knife to let steam escape). Then toss the squash strands with a dollop of your favorite pesto sauce, sliced grape tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and fresh basil. Even without the actual pasta, you’ll get full-flavored Italian taste. CALORIES: 340

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

3. “Macaroni” Salad


At your next picnic or backyard cookout, this “macaroni” salad will be the surprise star of the party. This yellow summer squash is cut to look like macaroni and then quickly cooked and chilled. All of the other comforting and familiar flavors of traditional macaroni salad are still part of the recipe, including eggs to provide high-quality protein. It’s a delicious alternative, especially for folks trying to cut down on calories. Enjoy this vegetable lover’s “macaroni” salad as a side dish or salad -- or even as a lunch. CALORIES: 167

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

4. Spicy Asian Carrot “Noodles”


One culinary attribute of Asian cuisine is the balance of flavors like sweet, salty and spicy. You get all three of these taste sensations in this dish: sweet from the coconut nectar or honey, salty from the soy sauce and spicy from the Asian chili paste. You’ll also get some natural sweetness from carrots, which are the actual “noodles” in this vibrant side. There’s plenty of tang from brown rice vinegar, and don’t be shy with it: Preliminary research suggests it may play a potential role in protecting the liver and regulating blood sugar and blood cholesterol. CALORIES: 172

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

5. Baja Chicken and Pepper “Pasta”


The easiest way to transform veggies into a pasta-like dish is to thinly slice your chosen vegetable into long strips and serve it like you would regular pasta. The “noodles” here are a combination of fettuccine-like strips of bell peppers and red onion. The chicken is cut the same way, so it’s acting a bit like the noodles too. From there, this recipe has the flavor essence of Baja Med cuisine, which is kind of like a flavorful marriage of Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. Serve warm, soft organic corn tortillas alongside to enjoy the sauciness of this unique “pasta” dish. CALORIES: 215

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

6. Bell Pepper Cacio e Pepe


Cacio e Pepe is a classic Roman pasta entree that’s traditionally made with three basic ingredients: Pecorino Romano cheese, plenty of freshly cracked black pepper and, of course, pasta (usually spaghetti). It’s such a simple concept, but it’s divine when done right. So this recipe takes the classic concept and gives it new life by using orange or yellow bell pepper strips as the “pasta” of choice. Bell peppers are rich in nutrients, especially vitamin C, but they’re low in calories and make this dish a beautiful side. CALORIES: 160

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

7. Greek Cucumber “Noodle” Salad


If you like cool salads and love Greek cuisine, you’ll want to try this “pasta” salad. It has the flavor profile of traditional tzatziki, which is a strained yogurt-cucumber appetizer that’s served as a tangy dip or sauce with foods like gyros. But in this refreshing recipe, the cucumber is the main feature. It’s julienned into “noodles” to create a salad rather than sauce. One of the health features of the recipe is that it provides a savory rather than sweet way to enjoy Greek yogurt -- and to get all of its glorious gut-friendly benefits. CALORIES: 311

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

8. Zucchini “Fettuccine” Alfredo


If you’ve got a vegetable peeler, this recipe is a breeze. You’ll make long, thin “noodles” from a couple of large zucchinis. Though the most memorable part of this dish may be the sauce on the “fettuccine” noodles. It’s Alfredo. Yes, the rich stuff! It’s OK to have a little decadence in your diet, as long as you portion it properly and balance other calories and “bad” fats in the meal, for instance. That’s exactly what’s done here by using low-calorie vegetables as the “pasta” and a just-right amount of butter, cream and Parmesan cheese. Keep everything else light that you serve alongside. Then go ahead and thoroughly enjoy this comforting dish. CALORIES: 207

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

9. Shoestring Beet “Linguine” With Goat Cheese Sauce and Arugula


One standout cuisine duo is beets and goat cheese. While it can take more than an hour to roast beets, you won’t need nearly that much time for this entree. After peeling the beets, cut them into long, skinny strips to resemble linguine. (Hint: Use kitchen gloves since beets will stain your fingers.) Because the beet strips are skinny, they’ll cook quickly -- about 15 minutes on the stove. A velvety and vivid fuchsia-colored sauce is created by tossing the cooked beet “linguine” with goat cheese. Arugula provides a fresh, peppery accent. CALORIES: 176

Related: See Complete Recipe and Nutritional Info in LIVESTRONG.COM’s Calorie Tracker

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What Do YOU Think?
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Have you cut back on regular “white” pasta in your diet? Why or why not? Have you enjoyed any of the newer noodles on the market, such as those made from edamame or lentil? If you’ve already prepared vegetables as “pasta,” what’s your favorite way to do so? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

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