When you transition to a Paleo diet from the Standard American Diet, there are a few things that can feel pretty daunting for most people—namely giving up bread, pasta, cheese, dairy and sugar. Fortunately, there are a lot of Paleo-friendly substitutes on the market (like Cappello’s outstanding almond flour pasta!), as well as a plethora of easy swaps you can make at home. Give these two easy Paleo food swaps a try the next time you’re craving your Grandmother’s spaghetti and meatballs.
Spaghetti squash: I was in awe the first time I discovered spaghetti squash. It’s a winter squash that looks like an oblong yellow pumpkin, but inside are small strands of squash (very reminiscent of thin spaghetti) with a slightly sweet flavor. To prepare a spaghetti squash, just chop it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and then bake on a cookie sheet, cut side down, for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. When strands easily come out with a fork, your squash is done. Top with with any of your favorite pasta sauces.
Spaghetti squash is lower in calories, fat and carbohydrates than most other winter squash, so it’s a great option if you’re switching to Paleo for weight loss or weight management. It’s also high in vitamin C and rich in vitamins and minerals. (You can find the full nutritional profile for spaghetti squash here.)
Vegetable noodles is another great Paleo food swap for pasta. There are a handful of kitchen tools out now that allow your to turn produce into noodles, like a Spiralizer or a Kitchen Aid peeler attachment. I’ve found I get the best results with zucchini or summer squash.
I like to eat the noodles raw because the uncooked squash is more similar to the chew of real pasta. Another option is sautéing the noodles in a skillet to heat. This sometimes leads to a watery pasta, but if you salt the zucchini, let it sweat in a strainer for about 30 minutes in the fridge, then blot dry, you’ll have less soggy “zoodles” when you’re done.
My favorite sauces for spaghetti squash, zucchini or other vegetable noodles is an easy grass-fed beef sauce. For a simple version of this sauce, grab a can of tomato sauce with no added preservatives or sugar, then mix it with fresh-cooked ground beef, along with some herbs and spices like pepper, oregano, basil, salt, and garlic.
You can also make a creamy Alfredo-style sauce by roasting cauliflower and blending with coconut milk or broth until sauce consistency is reached. Adding some nutritional yeast will give this creamy white sauce a slight cheesy flavor that acts as a perfect sub for a dairy-filled Alfredo.
One more tip for your veggie noodle cooking is that spaghetti squash is GREAT for casseroles. Mixing the squash with eggs and your favorite sauce can yield some delicious results. (Some great casseroles dishes using spaghetti squash? Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie, Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole, and Curry Casserole. Once you check out these recipes and see how they incorporate the squash, you can try your own version with just about any ingredients.)
These little Paleo food swaps may seem far from “the real thing” if you’re just getting started with Paleo and grain-free living, but, after time, you’ll come to actually prefer some of these to the real thing, and find those pasta cravings subsiding for good.
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