Cut Calories With These 9 "Pasta Poser" Recipes

Transform your vegetables into “pasta”! It’s a delicious, intriguing and fun 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.” Vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets and cucumber take a tiny bit of culinary skill. All you need is a knife, vegetable peeler and julienne peeler to make it happen. However, if you want a steady diet of “pasta posers,” consider a slightly fancier kitchen item -- a spiralizer. One trick when julienning or spiralizing vegetables: Start with one-and-a-half to two times the amount needed for a recipe. That’s so you don’t cut your fingers trying to slice the tiny veggie nubs. It also allows use of the firmest part of a vegetable, leaving any squishy or seedy parts behind. But don’t toss out the rest; use leftover produce parts in a soup or salad. Ultimately, savoring a bowl of spaghetti-like vegetables helps you get so many valuable nutrients. Try it with these nine tasty recipes!

1. Thai Peanut Sweet Potato “Noodles”, These “noodles” 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 bevy of beta-carotene in each serving -- well more than your body needs in the entire day! Interestingly, when sweet potatoes are cooked with fat, it makes their beta-carotene more absorbable. Since these “noodles” are simple to prepare, you’ll definitely want to make them often. You’ll basically be stir-frying the sweet potato spirals for a few minutes in a little grape-seed oil, tossing with a three-ingredient sauce and then garnishing with peanuts and fresh basil or cilantro. CALORIES: 305

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. It can be a quick pick too! You can cook spaghetti squash in the microwave in about 12 minutes; no lengthy oven roasting is required. To finish this dish, you’ll simply 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 flair here. CALORIES: 340

3. “Macaroni” Salad ,At your next picnic or backyard cookout, this “macaroni” salad will be the surprise star of the party. Have guests guess what the “pasta” is. It’s not macaroni. Instead, it’s yellow summer squash that you’ll cut to look like macaroni and then quickly cook and chill. 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 delight for the taste buds, especially for folks wanting fewer calories. Enjoy this vegetable lover’s “macaroni” salad as a side dish or salad -- or even as a lunchtime vegetarian entree! CALORIES: 167

4. Spicy Asian Carrot “Noodles”, One culinary attribute of Asian cuisine is the balance of flavors like sweet, salty and spicy. You’ll get all three of these taste sensations in this “noodle” 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. What’s more, 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. In the meantime, one thing that’s certain -- this recipe is delicious! CALORIES: 172

5. Baja Chicken and Pepper “Pasta”, The easiest way to transform veggies into a pasta-like entree is to simply thinly slice your chosen vegetable into long strips and serve it in whatever fashion you enjoy 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-less “pasta” dish. CALORIES: 215

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. So serve this beautiful dish as a side. Savor it slowly to enjoy its simplicity and scrumptiousness. CALORIES: 160

7. Greek Cucumber “Noodle”, Salad If you like cool salads and love Greek cuisine, you’ll want to give this “pasta” salad a go. It has the flavor profile of traditional tzatziki. Tzatziki is a strained yogurt-cucumber appetizer or condiment that’s served as a tangy dip or sauce with things 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

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

9. Shoestring Beet “Linguine” With Goat Cheese Sauce and Arugula, One standout cuisine duo is beets and goat cheese. They’re perfect for one another -- including in this main dish. 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, you’ll cut them into long, skinny strips resembling linguine. (Hint: Use kitchen gloves, if available, since beets will stain your fingers.) Because the beet strips are skinny, they’ll cook quickly -- about 15 minutes on the stovetop. A velvety and vivid fuchsia-colored sauce is created by tossing the cooked beet “linguine” with goat cheese. Arugula provides a fresh, peppery accent. It’s memorable! CALORIES: 176