Top 5 Healthy Noodles Recommended by a Dietitian

Do you love to eat pasta but want to eat healthy? The good news is that you can do both, at the same exact time! 

There are lots of healthy noodle options available, which you can read all about below. 

What Makes Noodles Healthy

First things first, let’s define exactly what makes noodles healthy or not healthy. Most people would assume that healthy noodles contain ingredients that are good for your health. This is true, BUT there are other definitions of healthy noodles that are also true.

Being healthy doesn’t just mean eating healthy; being healthy also means eating foods you love without stress. 

So, if you absolutely love your local restaurant’s rigatoni with vodka sauce but you don’t think it has a ton of nutritional value, that’s okay. Keep eating & enjoying it! (And send me your restaurant recommendations because that’s one of my favorites)

Eating healthy 100% of the time is not healthy, especially if it is causing you anxiety, binge eating, restricting, and/or missing out on eating with friends, coworkers, or family. 

The goal is to know how to eat healthy and make those choices most of the time, not all the time. Eating healthy 100% of the time is not healthy!

What Ingredients Make Noodles Healthy?

Okay, let’s get to the reason why you are here. What ingredients make some noodles “healthier” than others?

Noodles Made from Whole Grains

Research has shown that whole grains are great for our health, which means whole-grain noodles are also great for our health!

The evidence specifically suggests that eating 2-3 servings of whole grains per day may prevent type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal, pancreatic, and gastric cancers. Amazing!

Whole grains have nutrient-dense layers that contain fiber, B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. 

We especially love the fiber in whole grains because it makes us feel full, is super great for our digestion, and lowers our bad cholesterol

Examples of whole grain noodles are mostly whole-wheat noodles, brown rice noodles, and soba noodles (made from buckwheat). 

Other examples of whole grains are oats, rye, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and corn. If you find any noodle products with one of these ingredients listed first, that means it is whole grain rich, and a great choice!

Whole grains vs. Refined Grains

Refined grains, on the other hand, have some nutrient-containing layers removed during the manufacturing process. This can be beneficial because it improves texture and taste. 

Sometimes nutrients get added back, which you can identify on labels as “enriched”. One of the nutrients that doesn’t get added back, however, is fiber. 

Refined grains still have nutritional value, just not quite as much as whole grains. 

Examples of refined grains you may recognize are white bread, white rice, and white flour. Unless the package says “whole grain,” you can assume it is a refined grain.

Let me repeat it one more time for the people in the back – refined grains still have nutritional value and are a healthy choice, especially in combination with other nutrient-rich foods.

Noodles made from Legumes

You may have noticed other types of dry pasta that are made from garbanzo beans, edamame (soy beans), black beans, or lentils. These are a great option for people with Celiac disease and/or others sensitive to gluten. 

These types of dry pasta noodles tend to be a little lower in carbohydrates than whole grain or refined pasta, and a little higher in protein. 

Depending on your nutritional needs and goals, noodles made from legumes could be a great option for you. 

Noodles made from Vegetables

People have gotten really creative over the years and have started using zucchini, spaghetti squash, or other “noodle-like” vegetables as pasta. While this is a clever substitution, it is not the same as noodles made from grains.

Different vegetables contain a lot of different vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are all great additions to our diet. 

Unlike whole grains, though, vegetables are missing the rich amount of carbohydrates and fiber. Without these, you may find yourself feeling less satisfied, craving other foods, and hungry an hour or two later.

Instead of disguising vegetables as pasta, I recommend ADDING vegetables to your pasta dish. 

Adding vegetables will boost your meal with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, without displacing the complex carbohydrates in pasta noodles that make you feel full and satisfied. 

Just a little reminder- a balanced meal consists of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats… make sure you are getting all those to feel fuller, longer. You’ll also feel more satisfied!

Top 5 Healthy Noodle Recommendations from a Dietitian

In summary, and in no particular order, the top 5 healthiest noodle choices are:

  1. Whole wheat noodles, 
  2. brown rice noodles, 
  3. soba noodles, 
  4. bean/lentil noodles, 
  5. regular (refined grain) noodles

Where to Buy Healthy Noodles

You can find most noodles in the dry/shelf-stable section of any grocery store. Most whole grain noodles will contain a whole grain stamp on the box to help you identify, but you can also double check the label. 

How to read label to identify healthy noodles

If you’re looking for whole grain noodles, it will typically say “whole grain” on the front of the package, making it easy. 

There is also a “whole grain stamp” that is intended to help customers like us easily spot whole grain products. The stamp is yellow & black and has details if the product is 100% whole grain, 50% or more whole grain, or has some whole grains. 

My preferred way is to flip the package over and look at the ingredient statement. If whole-wheat or brown rice are the first (and only) grains listed, then I know the noodles are 100% whole grain. 

If it says wheat flour, white wheat flour, enriched flour, etc, then I know the noodles are made from refined grains. 

Is Multigrain Healthy?

If you come across a package that says “multigrain” – be aware that this does not mean whole grain. Multi-grain just means that the product contains more than one type of grain. 

The grains can be refined and/or whole-grain. No matter what combination of grains the product contains, it definitely has nutritional value. 

Just be aware that multigrain and whole-grain are not the same. 

How to Order Healthier Noodles at Restaurants

A lot of restaurants now provide whole wheat pasta options for an additional charge. Sometimes it is written under the item, or at the bottom of the menu. You can also ask your server. 

You can also just eat the regular pasta. Don’t forget that regular pasta noodles have nutritional value too 🙂 

Recipe Inspiration

If you’re like me, pasta just makes you happy. Noodles are a pantry staple of mine. I usually keep some whole wheat noodles on hand, brown rice/buckwheat soba noodles, and I like to try the bean/lentil versions every once in a while. These are my 3 go-to ways to eat healthy noodles-

  • Whole wheat noodles, some type of protein (meatballs, ground beef, or chicken sausage), tomato sauce, onions, garlic, and broccoli
  • Soba noodles made from buckwheat, shrimp, shredded cabbage, shredded carrot, cucumber, cilantro, and a sesame-peanut dressing. Serve hot or cold!
  • Brown rice noodles, tofu, frozen veggie mix (cauliflower, carrots, etc), and curry sauce

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