Why you should try ditching pasta for veggie spirals

Studies show that people eat roughly the same weight (or volume) of food every day. That means that eating foods with fewer calories per bite will help you feel just as full on fewer calories.

How can you lower the calorie density of your food? Non-starchy vegetables. That’s why the veggie-spiral trend is such a boon to anyone who’s looking to lose—or not gain—weight.

Vegetable spirals make swapping veggies for pasta a snap.

One of our favorite tricks for eating more non-starchy vegetables is to replace pasta with veggie spirals made from zucchini, carrot, or turnips. You name it, you can spiralize it.

Spaghetti and its relatives have around 200 calories per cup…and most restaurants serve three to four cups. That’s roughly twice as much grain as most people should eat in an entire day. But the calories drop to just 30 per cup if you go with sautéed zucchini noodles or “zoodles.”

Tip: Sauté them for just a minute or two. (Any longer and they get mushy.)

How do you make zoodles and other spiralized veggies? Try the hand-held Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Cutter. It “works on any food that is 2.5” or smaller in diameter,” says the manufacturer’s website. Bonus: the Veggetti costs under $10 on Amazon or at Target or Walmart. (For larger or tougher vegetables, you’ll need to invest in a heavy-duty model, which many brands sell for around $30 or less.)

Trader Joe’s and others make it easier than ever to get vegetable spirals on your plate tonight.

If you’re not ready to invest in a new kitchen gadget, head to your supermarket’s produce section. It shouldn’t be hard to find a wide variety of veggie spirals in most stores, but Trader Joe’s has the first frozen veggie spirals we’ve seen.

Why try frozen? You can stockpile ‘em in your freezer until it’s time for a veggie-noodle night.

Take Trader Joe’s Carrot Spirals. Cook up enough to replace half—or all—of the linguine or fettuccine you were going to make. The frozen spirals—they’re nothing but carrot and just enough salt to provide 160 milligrams of sodium per half cup—are ready for your favorite sauce after a 6-to-8-minute detour through a hot skillet with a touch of oil.

For each half cup of cooked white pasta you replace with a half cup of carrot spirals, you lose about 60 calories and gain a gram of fiber, 2 ½ days’ worth of vitamin A, and some vitamin K.

Or try the Zucchini Spirals with your favorite fresh tomato or marinara sauce, or toss with olive oil and sautéed garlic and veggies. Zucchini primavera, anyone?

And spaghetti’s not the only pasta getting a makeover. Next, head back to the fresh produce aisle, where you’ll find Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Zig-Zags and Sweet Potato Ribbons, which are both “versatile enough for salads, stir-fries, soups, casseroles or even a pasta swap!” say the packages. The possibilities are endless.

Not near a Trader Joe’s? Look for similar “zig-zags” or “ribbons” by Mann’s Culinary Cuts.

What’s your favorite way to serve veggie “noodles”? Share it in the comments.

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14 Replies to “Why you should try ditching pasta for veggie spirals”

  1. Thank you Nutrition Action! (CSPI!) Once again you have given me a new tip for eating healthy and I LOVE it. I have a lot of food restrictions, but by reading your tips and getting your magazine I add variety and nutrition to my diet. I am so grateful. I devour every word of the newsletter and the tips, and I always pass the newsletter on. Sometimes I give new subscriptions to people. Your information is a powerful resource. Thanks again!

  2. I am very allergic to any form of tomatoes, they cause hives for me, others I know have Reflux and avoid tomatoes also.
    What is a good sauce to try on the zucchini or carrots?

    1. From Kate Sherwood, The Healthy Cook: Traditional or other pesto would be delicious with zucchini noodles. Carrot noodles are tasty simply sautéed in olive with garlic, a pinch of red chili flakes and oregano.

      1. It is. I get TJ’s zucchini spirals & their pesto sauce. Easy dinner or side depending on what you want to do. So yummy!

  3. I like zucchini noodles better that spaghetti squash with spaghetti, and the spiralized zucchini frittata is always a home run. Spiralized butternut squash with kale or spinach and a oniony cream sauce is really good, baked with chicken breasts pounded flat. These are my three favorites.

  4. Robin, could you please share your recipe for the spiralized zucchini frittata, and the spiralized butternut squash with greens, onion, and chicken. They sound yummy!! Thank you!

  5. After a lengthy and useful post on non starchy vegetables, I’m not sure why butternut squash and sweet potato (strarchy vegs) are both mentioned without any calorie info!

    Great post overall. Some additional info needs to be given on those last two recs!

  6. I have a problem cooking veggie noodles with other ingredients because the water content makes everything soggy. Anyone have a suggestion or am I just missing something?

    1. I cook veggie spiral ‘noodles’ in the microwave, separately, using the setting for veggies. Then I add sauce or pesto right after the ‘noodles’ are cooked. Cooking rarely takes more than 4 minutes on high. I like my veggies cooked lightly.

  7. Wow. I didn’t know I could buy veggie spirals! My sister-in-law gave me a veggie spiral maker several years ago, but I didn’t see the frozen veggies until a Trader Joe’s opened nearby.

    Carrots are hard to spiral. Courgettes/zucchini, cucumber, are easy. Buying veggie spirals is easier, but not always fresher.

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