Eating a healthy diet and having noodles for dinner aren’t mutually exclusive. These days, there are many varieties of noodles that will fill you with nutrients rather than just carbs. As a nutritionist and wellness expert, Frances Largeman-Roth R.D. has tried all kinds of healthy noodles and pastas over the years. Here are her four favorites that stand out from the rest.
Chickpea-based pasta: The arrival of chickpea-based noodles a few years ago was a boon to pasta lovers everywhere. They cook like regular pasta but are gluten-free and offer more nutrients. The noodles have twice the amount of protein, more than double the fiber, and 30% fewer net carbs than your typical bowl of pasta. Brands like millennial fave Banza offer tons of variety, like spaghetti, penne, and even hard-to-find shapes like casarecce.
Whole wheat pasta: For pasta lovers who don’t need to avoid gluten but are looking for something heartier and more nutritious than traditional semolina pasta, check out a whole wheat option. Barilla has a complete lineup of whole wheat pasta (made from 100% whole grain durum wheat flour) to satisfy every craving. If you compare their whole wheat penne to the semolina version, it’s 5 grams higher in fiber and has one more gram of protein. It’s flavor is earthier than its white flour counterpart—and some people find that whole wheat pastas go better with dark leafy greens and pesto versus acidic tomato sauce, although Largeman-Roth says any dish will work as long as you balance the flavors.
Ancient grain noodles: If you’re looking for something a little different to add variety to your noodle rotation, check out ancient grain pastas. This category is very diverse and covers everything from pastas made with quinoa to ones crafted from kamut. They are often blended with other grains, like the ones from Ancient Harvest, which combine organic corn and brown rice with organic quinoa to create gluten-free rotini, shells, and other shapes. Most varieties offer around 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. Grain blends can be an easy way to try ancient grains. Ronzoni’s Ancient Grains penne blends whole wheat with quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum, and teff for a delicious pasta that holds up well in baked dishes and pasta salads. It’s a nutritional winner as well, with 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber in each serving.
Shirataki noodles: Unlike most types of noodles, this variety you’ll find in the refrigerated aisle instead of the pasta aisle. Shirataki are made of water, konjac flour (an Asian root vegetable), chickpea flour, potato starch, and calcium hydroxide (a preservative). Some brands are made with tofu instead of chickpea flour. While shirataki shine in the fiber department, they don’t contain any protein, so you’ll want to add some diced tofu or beans to your dish.