Vegetable alternatives to pasta and rice

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Canadian adults spend an estimated 580 minutes or 9.7 hours each day in sedentary activities – we drive to work, sit most of our day while work, race home and then feel like we want to just relax for the evening. As we hit middle age, our lives get busier with work family and life commitments. As a result, we tend to skimp out on exercise.

If this sounds like you, it becomes essential to look at what and how we eat so that we can balance out our eating with our limited activity level, if we are to avoid midlife weight gain.

If coming home at the end of a busy day means heading straight for the couch, it may be helpful to relook at your supper-time food choices. Have you ever thought about incorporating a vegetable-based alternative to pasta and rice?

For myself, plain pasta is more of a vehicle on which to deliver my pasta sauce. There are certain vegetables that make for a great canvas on which to place a pasta sauce.


Vegetable-based alternatives to pasta and rice

  • Spaghetti squash (cooked)

  • Zucchini “noodles” – zucchini can be made into ribbons, using a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Zucchini can also be spiralized*.

  • Cauliflower rice

  • Cabbage ”noodles” – shredded and lightly sautéed cabbage.

* A spiralizer is a kitchen gadget that turns vegetables into noodles. You can also spiralizer sweet potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, apples.

If you are still not sure this is for you, have a look at the calorie and nutrient comparison of pasta vs some of these vegetable alternatives in the table below.


Nutrient comparison of whole grain whole wheat pasta vs vegetable-alternatives:


(1 cup portion)

Calories Carbohydrate (g) Fiber (g) Protein


Pasta, whole grain whole wheat, cooked 180 39 6.0 8
Spaghetti squash, cooked 42 10 2.2 1
Spiralized zucchini noodles, raw 21 3.8 1.2 1.5
Spiralized zucchini noodles, cooked 27 4.8 1.8 2
Cauliflower rice, raw 27 5.3 2.1 2.0
Cauliflower rice, cooked 29 5.1 2.9 2.3
Cabbage “noodles”, cooked 34 8.2 2.9 1.9


I think the above table is really fascinating. Often my focus is on the sauce, so sometimes I barely notice what I am eating it with. If you feel like having the real pasta and rice is important, you could also include a smaller portion of the pasta, and augment it with these vegetable-based “noodles”.

Many of us don’t get enough vegetables in our day, so these vegetable-based alternatives to pasta and rice can serve a dual-benefit.

Does it mean that you shouldn’t eat pasta? Does it mean you should always replace pasta with vegetables? No! But many of us haven’t even considered these vegetables as an alternative to pasta.

Personally, I like to understand my options. And for the days when I have been really sedentary, incorporating a vegetable-based alternative can help me feel a little lighter.


Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Calgary, AB.

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