A warm bowl of pasta may feel like comfort food, but it can also leave you feeling full and sleepy.
But there is a healthier substitute that can satisfy your pasta craving: spaghetti squash. With a similar texture and a lighter feel in your stomach, spaghetti squash served in a garlic tomato sauce with light Parmesan cheese can be just as comforting — and more forgiving around your waistline.
Both spaghetti squash and pasta are low in fat, low in salt and contain fiber. It's OK to eat pasta in moderation, especially with lighter sauces and added vegetables. However, spaghetti squash provides some extra nutritional benefits.
Pasta vs. Spaghetti Squash (based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
Pasta (serving size 3/4 cup)
2.9 grams protein
31 grams carbohydrates
Good source of iron, phosphorus and zinc
Spaghetti squash (2/3 cup)
0.6 grams protein*
7 grams carbohydrates
Rich in potassium and vitamins A and C
*Adding chicken, lean ground meat or black beans to your spaghetti squash dish can help to boost your meal's protein.
Spaghetti squash is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, and omega-6 fatty acids. Research shows that both omega-3s and omega-6s can help with proper brain function.
How to cook spaghetti squash
Heat oven to 400° F. Prepare a medium-sized spaghetti squash by cutting it in half lengthwise and removing the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Scrape a fork across the flesh to separate it into strands.
Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Ways to eat spaghetti squash
- For breakfast: Sautee shallots, garlic and spinach. Add cooked spaghetti squash; mix together and serve. Top with sliced avocado and a fried egg.
- As pancakes or fritters: Combine spaghetti squash with 1 egg, 1/4 cup flour, and salt and pepper to taste. Lightly brown patties on medium heat using the right cooking oil. Add kale or spinach, if desired. Serve with maple syrup and nuts, or Greek yogurt and chives.
- As a pasta dish: Add your favorite sauce or simply drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- As a burrito bowl: Mix with salsa, corn, black beans, chicken, cilantro and avocado.
- As an Asian noodle dish: Add edamame, broccoli, tofu and any vegetables of your choice. Mix with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, salt and pepper.
However you plan to substitute spaghetti squash into your diet, it is a filling and healthy option that can transform any dish.