How to Guide: Using Vegetables In Place of Pasta and Rice

Zoodles and Spagetti Squash

I’ve been all about using veggies in different ways lately, and I kind of love it! I mean what better way to eat more veggies than to use them like you would pasta or rice. Plus, you’ll probably not even miss those heavier starches anyways! If you’ve never tried using spaghetti squash in place of spaghetti, or zucchini noodles in place of pasta, or cauliflower in place of rice, you’ve been missing out! I’m going to show you how to replace your pasta and rice with these versatile veggies and share some of my favorite recipes that the whole family will love! All recipes are husband and family approved.

In this post, I’ll be going through the different ways to replace pasta and rice with Spaghetti Squash, Zucchini and Cauliflower!

Why replace carbs with veggies anyways?

[1] For many, a lower carbohydrate diet can help with weight loss, balanced blood sugar, increased energy and better overall health. Think about it. If you’re replacing refined white carbs like pasta and white rice with low carb veggies, you’re increasing the overall nutrient density of your diet and you’re loading up on health promoting fiber! win-win!

[2] While it may not seem like it at first, veggies are actually super filling and satisfying, even more filling than a plate of pasta! All the fiber you get from zucchini, spaghetti squash and cauliflower will fill you up and leave you feeling great!

[3] Why not? Maybe you’re looking for new ways to beef up the veggies in your diet, or just looking for some new recipes, or are trying to get your family to eat healthier. Whatever your reason, I can promise you that trying out some of these veggie based recipes will be worth it!


The scoop on spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti squash is a variety of winter squash. It’s oval in shape and has a tough light yellow outer skin. The inner flesh is a more vibrant yellow and turns into spaghetti-like strands when cooked, hence the name spaghetti squash. The flavor is very mild, allowing it to pair well with all sorts of sauces + toppings. It can also be eaten hot or cold, depending on your preference.

nutrition snapshot.

1 cup cooked contains: 42 calories, <0.5 gram fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 1 gram protein

Typically winter squash are more starchy and higher in carbohydrates, but this variety of winter squash is quite different. It has about 10 grams of carbohydrate per cup of cooked squash [about half as much as other winter squash varieties], making is a good low-carb option for those of you watching or limiting your carbohydrate intake. It’s also a pretty good source of fiber which will fill you up and keep you satisfied between meals. But note that spaghetti squash is low in protein and fat. So what does that mean? It means that in order to make a balanced meal you’ll want to add in a healthy fat source + some protein [recipe below]. Then you have the perfect meal!

vitamins + minerals.

Spaghetti squash contains many vitamins and minerals essential for overall health. Most notably, it’s a great source of both vitamin C and B-6 [also called pyridoxine]. It also contains a good amount of potassium, calcium and magnesium. As a side note, when it comes to eating a predominately whole-food based diet, stressing about individual nutrient intake becomes less important. This is because different whole foods contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, so as long as you eat a variety of colorful fruits + veggies, you nutritional bases should be covered.

Cooking with Spaghetti Squash.

You can cook spaghetti squash a couple of different ways, from popping the whole squash in the oven, to cutting and de-seeding it before baking. I’ve tried different ways and my favorite is this:

the method.

[1] slice your squash down the center lengthwise

[2] using a spoon, scoop all the seeds out and discard

[3] drizzle with olive oil, sea salt + pepper

[4] place face down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake [35-45 minutes @ 350º]

[5] once cool, using a fork, scrape the flesh out into spaghetti like strands

[6] that’s it!

Because it takes around 45 minutes to cook the squash, I like to do this ahead of time, like a day or 2 before we’re going to have it for dinner. You can just store your pre-cooked squash in a tupperware container in the fridge for a day or two until you’re ready to use it. You can save your squash “boats” [the outer shell] if you’d like to bake in them, but it’s not necessary. You can mix up your spaghetti squash and cook it in a casserole dish, too.

Recipes with Spaghetti Squash.

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Spaghetti Squash

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard + Sausage

spaghetti squash

You can top spaghetti squash with your favorite marinara + meatballs, or a homemade alfredo, or even some pesto. The possibilities are endless. Just think of spaghetti squash as pasta and top it with anything you’d have over pasta!

Zucchini noodles = zoodles.

This delicious and versatile summer staple should have a place in your diet. If you’re into gardening, zucchini is a super simple veggie you can grow in your backyard. All it needs it a little space to grow and some water, and you’ll have zucchini all summer long. It’s mild flavor means that you can really have fun with it.

It’s versatility is unmatched. Zucchini can be used in the following ways:

  • grated and used in muffins or other baked goods
  • grated and fried up as fritters
  • spiralized into noodles [my fave!]
  • baked into zucchini fries
  • seasoned and grilled
  • sautéed in butter for a delish and simple side
  • eaten raw dipped in hummus or added to a salad
  • zucchini “boats” stuffed with taco seasoned meat
  • sliced thin and used as lasagna noodles or rolled up as manicotti

Again, the possibilities are endless! What’s your favorite way to use zucchini?

nutrition snapshot.

Low in calories, high in nutrients! Zucchini is a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant responsible for protecting your body from oxidation and inflammation. Zucchini also contains fiber, about 2 grams per zucchini. Too many of us lack the appropriate amount of fiber in our diets typically because we just don’t eat enough vegetables. The average American consumes about 13 grams of fiber daily while the recommendation is between 25 and 35 grams daily. Zucchini contain the phytonutrients “plant-nutrients” lutein and zeaxanthin which are important nutrients that promote eye health. Whatever your reason for eating zucchini, just know it’s a healthy and satisfying choice!

How to use zucchini noodles.

You can simply spiralize or, slice thinly, using a mandolin to get the strands of zucchini that resemble spaghetti noodles. I’ve used both methods and prefer to use my spralizer because the zucchini comes out more noodle like and in longer strands. Plus using this spiralizer is so simple!

Once your zucchini is spiralized you can eat it raw topped with just about anything! Or you can add it to a heated and oiled pan for 5-8 minutes until the zucchini softens slightly but does not become mushy.


Recipes with zucchini noodles.

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto and Chicken

Zoodles with Avocado Pesto

Sun-Dried Tomato + Pesto Pasta

sun dried tomato pesto zucchini pasta


Cauliflower, what’s not to love?

Cauliflower is part of the cruciferous vegetable family. If there’s one thing you can do to improve your health, it’s by eating more cruciferous veggies! These particular veggies have been studied for their anti-cancer benefits, among other things. Other popular cruciferous veggies include: kale, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts.

My favorite ways to eat cauliflower are: roasted in the oven with sea salt, pepper and olive oil, or “riced” and used in stir-frys, with curry, and anywhere else that I would otherwise use rice. I think you’ll be surprised how well this veggie takes on the role of rice in many of your dishes!

nutrition snapshot.

Cauliflower is a nutrient powerhouse! It’s a good source of nutrients including: vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, fiber and potassium. This popular veggie is known for it’s detoxification properties as well, meaning that it plays a roll in liver detox by releasing toxins from the body and then helping to flush them out.

How to Cook Cauliflower “Rice.”

To rice your cauliflower, simply break up the cauliflower florets and add to a food processor. Pulse until your cauliflower resembles rice. Be sure not to process it too long or you’ll end up with more of a puree than rice. Once you’ve riced your cauliflower, add it to an oiled pan [olive or coconut oil are great] and cook for 5-8 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

For a super easy way to prepare riced cauliflower, check out Trader Joe’s! They have a pre-riced bag of cauliflower, so all you have to do it cook it!

Recipes with Cauliflower Rice.

Asian Chicken and Vegetable Brown Rice Bowls with Sweet Chili Sesame Sauce

[just replace brown rice in this recipe with cauliflower rice]

Asian Chicken and Vegetable Brown Rice Bowl

Chickpea + Veggie Green Curry

[replace quinoa in this recipe with cauliflower rice]

green chickpea curry5


Pretty much any recipe that you use rice with you can replace with cauliflower rice. Just cook your cauliflower rice have it with your stir-frys, fried rice, curry, etc.

I’ll have more cauliflower rice recipes on the blog soon, so stay tuned!



And there you have it! Try replacing some of your pasta or rice this week with a vegetable! Let me know what you think 🙂


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Angela Freed

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