Spaghetti Squash Noodles
I must have missed the local-ish New England crop last fall somehow. Perhaps my attention was diverted by alluring acorn squashes or butternuts. But I had been meaning to make–and blog about– spaghetti squash “noodles”: the soft, stringy tangle of spaghetti-like strands that you rake out of a baked spaghetti squash using a fork. I had all but given up hope of encountering this yellow, oblong curcubit again for months, until all of a sudden, a bumper crop of Mexican-born spaghetti squashes appeared en masse everywhere I shop. Committed as I am to buying local and in-season as often as possible, I’ll admit I couldn’t resist the opportunity to snag one.
Seasoned with some butter and herbs, maybe a touch of Parmesan cheese, spaghetti squash is delicious as a side dish in its own right. But even more interesting to me is its utility as a “pasta extender” for my clients trying to lose weight.
As many of my clients will tell you, when it comes to weight loss, I really harp on watching carbohydrate portions–particularly at dinnertime. Which is precisely when my clients, after a long and tiring day at work, love to snuggle up with soft, cozy, big ol’ bowl of pasta. Depending on just how big ol’ your pasta bowl actually is, the noodles alone in a pasta-centric entree– before you add even a drizzle of sauce, a nibble of protein or a sprinkle of cheese– will likely run you *at least* 400-500 calories. (This is about the time in our consultation when I break out my rubber food models and show what a 1 cup, 240-calorie portion of pasta looks like, and you tell me that you eat at least twice that.) And while I don’t ask my clients to count calories, I’m definitely doing the math in my head behind the scenes, and generally trying to cap the total meal calories at that level.
Since hunger is the enemy of weight loss, and feelings of deprivation can often trigger a binge, I am always looking for ways to shave calories and carbs while keeping my clients feeling full and satiated–both physiologically and psychologically. That often means helping to keep that bowl full of food looking full and offering equally cozy textures so the pleasure of eating is not cut short before the brain registers its sense of satisfaction.
To this end, I have a small arsenal of veggie-based carb imposters that I call into service, depending on the client and their dietary restrictions. Some of my secret weapons:
- Cauliflower: Surely you’ve already heard of creamy mashed cauliflower in lieu of mashed potatoes. (You can swap out the buttermilk with plain yogurt, Greek yogurt or kefir. For lactose free, use Green Valley Organics lactose-free plain kefir. And yes, I am now a paid consultant for Green Valley Organics. But that doesn’t change the fact that their plain kefir will rock the socks off of your mashed cauliflower.)
- Green Papaya: I also steer clients who live here in New York and dine downtown toward the Shredded “Green Papaya Noodle”-based Pad Thai at Ngam in the East Village when the craving for Asian noodles strikes.
- Spaghetti Squash: Try mixing 1 cup spaghetti squash noodles in with up to 1 cup of cooked (gluten-free) spaghetti. Tossed together and topped with your favorite sauce, it creates an abundant bowl of noodliness that may help you control your pasta portions without feeling deprived. And that one cup of cooked spaghetti squash adds a mere 42 calories to the pasta’s 240, as well as 2g of fiber, leaving you ample room too add a reasonable sauce, the protein of your choice and some more veggies. It also saves you about 35g of carbohydrate–over 2 diabetic carb exchanges–for those of you counting carbs.
Or, for a fabulous, diet-friendly Mexican-inspired vegetarian entree, try this great recipe for Spicy Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans!
How to make spaghetti squash noodles
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise
- Scrape out seeds with a spoon
- Place squash halves cut side down in a 9 x 13 casserole dish, add 1/2 cup water, and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes until tender
- When finished cooking, use a fork to scrape the flesh out of the rind, starting at the stem end and raking toward the bottom end. Doing so will produce stringy squash “noodles”.
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