Zucchini Noodles vs Wheat Noodles

Spiralizing, or cutting vegetables into long strips using a spiralizer, mandoline, or kitchen knife, is a food trend that has been on the rise. You can spiralize pretty much any vegetable, as long as it is large enough, including bell peppers, cabbage, jicama, sweet potato, white potato, butternut squash, and zucchini. Using spiralized veggies as a substitute for traditional wheat noodles has become so popular that even chain restaurants have jumped on board. Zucchini is a popular choice and zucchini noodles are often called “zoodles” as a shorthand. But should you choose zoodles over wheat noodles for your next pasta night?

The first thing to consider when making any type of noodles is the serving size. For regular wheat spaghetti noodles, one serving size is 2 ounces, or about 1 cup of cooked noodles. This includes 200 calories, 1 gram of fat, 42 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. While pasta itself may not be unhealthy, portion control and topping choice are key (Harris, 2018). One cup of cooked pasta would fill about one fourth of a normal-size dinner plate, so if you normally load up a whole plate of pasta, that’s where the trouble begins.

On the other hand, 1 cup of cooked zoodles contains about 38 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates, and almost 3 grams of protein. From either a calorie- or carb-counting standpoint, zoodles give you more bang for your buck than traditional noodles. If you pick a lighter sauce or make our own instead of using prepared marinara or alfredo sauce, you can significantly reduce the calorie impact of your pasta dinner. Or you can eat three times as many zoodles to reach similar nutritional content of wheat noodles. An added benefit of zucchini is that it is a completely unprocessed, whole food and contains many important micronutrients, such as vitamins B6, riboflavin, folate, C, and K, as well as minerals, like potassium and manganese (Quillin, 2018).

Another thing to take into account when considering zoodles is that they are not a true noodle replacement, but rather a substitute that can be used to achieve healthier eating. Full disclosure zoodles are much more watery than traditional noodles. Many times, however, the sauce you use can absorb the extra moisture and reduce this issue.

The Verdict: Zucchini Noodles are a nutrient-dense, low-calorie, and natural alternative to traditional wheat noodles. When paired with a lighter sauce, zoodles are a healthier way to enjoy pasta night. If you do choose to stick with traditional noodles, look for whole wheat or brown rice varieties for a healthier option!


Emily Terlap, WOTFV AmeriCorps Member