Ketogenic diets have seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. Keto is essentially a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, where people generally avoid grains, sugars, fruit, and other higher-carb foods, while instead focusing on meat, eggs, dairy products, and some amount of lower-carb vegetables. Can I eat gluten-free pasta on keto?
You can’t eat gluten-free pasta on keto, since keto means low-carb. Most gluten-free pasta is not allowed because gluten-free isn’t necessarily carb-free. However, someone who is following keto is safe to eat certain gluten-free pasta alternatives.
In the rest of this article, we’ll examine some of the ketogenic diet basics, including what foods are included and which aren’t. We’ll also look specifically at some keto-friendly pasta options to help meet your cravings and keep your tummy happy.
What Is Keto?
Keto is short for ketogenic, a type of diet that is extremely low in carbohydrates and high in fat. Some forms of keto are higher in protein as well or may cycle in the occasional high carb day. But at its core, keto is synonymous with low-carb. Most people who eat keto aim for their diet to be no higher than 5% carbs.
There is some scientific evidence showing health benefits for people who eat a ketogenic diet. The biggest reason many people try it is for weight loss; eating so few carbs forces the body to burn fat; instead, a metabolic state called ketosis; can lead to weight loss.
People also turn to keto for its other reported health benefits. Keto can reduce insulin resistance, which is excellent for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Keto can be beneficial for those with heart disease or its risk factors. Keto is being studied as a potential part of cancer treatment, and eating a keto diet may help those diagnosed with other conditions such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s.
Foods To Avoid
Since the core feature of any variety of ketogenic diet is low-carbs, any food that is higher in carbohydrates is forbidden. Other foods to avoid include highly processed convenience foods and unhealthy fats (such as vegetable oils).
Foods to specifically avoid on keto include:
- Grains, including wheat, rice, corn, and any other grain that contains high net carbohydrates
- Most root vegetables, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Beans & legumes, including chickpeas, pinto beans, and lentils
Foods To Include
The focus of keto is high fat and, in some cases, high protein. By replacing most of the carbs in your diet with foods that are high in fat and/or protein, your body will be forced to burn excess fat instead. Additionally, higher-fat and higher-protein foods tend to be quite filling, often keeping you feeling satisfied with a lower overall amount of calories.
Some foods to specifically include in a keto diet include:
- Meat of all types & fish
- Dairy products, including milk, cheese, and butter; grass-fed is preferred to conventional
- Nuts and seeds
- Low (“simple”) carb vegetables, such as greens, tomatoes, and onions
- Healthy fats, including olive oil and coconut oil
Keto-Friendly Pasta Options
Now that you have an idea of what you can and cannot eat on a keto diet, you may be wondering where your love of pasta fits into things.
Obviously, traditional wheat-based pasta is out, as they are incredibly high in carbohydrates. Unfortunately, most store-bought gluten-free pasta is off the table as well. Gluten-free pasta is most commonly made from rice, corn, or other grains. More recently, we’ve seen a number of mainstream GF pasta made of lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes.
None of those common, popular gluten-free options are low-carb; therefore, they are not keto-friendly.
However, other types of gluten-free pasta and noodles are made from low-carb ingredients, and those can definitely be eaten on a ketogenic diet.
This versatile, usually white vegetable has made the rounds in grocery stores and on food blogs as an excellent substitute for all kinds of things; cauliflower rice, cauliflower wings, and cauliflower steak have all seen their day in the sun. Cauliflower can also work as an excellent stand-in for pasta; simply cut small, cook, and add to your favorite pasta recipe in place of the noodles.
When you take a spiralizer to a cucumber, the result is long, thin strands of the keto-friendly vegetable that can be used as an alternative to pasta. Cucumber noodles can either be served raw or lightly blanched and work great in many Asian-style dishes or in simple pasta salads. They are low-carb and delicious! Don’t have a spiralizer? Click here for my recommendation!
This popular nightshade vegetable does not make the most versatile pasta substitute due to its tendency to get mushy under certain circumstances. However, thinly-sliced eggplant makes an excellent substitute for lasagna noodles when layered between cheese, sauce, and other vegetables. Eggplant can also be thinly sliced with a mandoline and then cut into smaller strips for other pasta dishes.
Hearts Of Palm
A relatively new arrival to the gluten-free scene, noodles made of hearts of palm (the edible part of a palm tree), such as these Palmini Linguine noodles, have a texture quite similar to traditional wheat noodles but with just a fraction of the calories and carbohydrates. A 9 oz. (255.15 g) serving of noodles made from hearts of palm has just 4 grams (0.14 oz) of net carbohydrates.
Kelp noodles are made of the very innermost part of the kelp plant after the outer skin is removed. The white flesh has been dried and powdered, then recombined with water and shaped into the form of noodles. Kelp noodles are gluten-free, low calorie, and low carb. Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles and similar products are easy to prepare and readily take on the taste of whatever sauces or seasonings you add to them.
Kohlrabi is a type of root vegetable similar to a turnip, but it’s lower in carbohydrates and can be spiralized or otherwise cut to resemble noodles. Kohlrabi is tender enough that it can be eaten raw, or it can be lightly cooked before being added to your recipe of choice. The light natural flavor of kohlrabi goes especially well with pasta salad.
Shirataki noodles, such as Miracle Noodle, are made from glucomannan, a fiber that comes from the konjac plant’s roots. These translucent white noodles are low-calorie, and most contain no digestible carbohydrates, making them perfect for keto. Shirataki noodles have no real taste of their own, but will readily absorb the flavors of other ingredients that they are cooked with.
As winter squash, spaghetti squash is a little different from most of the keto-friendly options on this list. However, when baked and separated into noodle-like strands, spaghetti squash has a mere eight net carbs per cup; it’s not carb-free, but it’s a low-enough carb that many keto adherents happily include it in their meal rotations every now and then.
Made of water, yam flour, lime, and oat flour, General Nature Wonder Noodles promise great taste and texture very similar to traditional wheat-based pasta. They’re easy to prepare, requiring only a quick rinse before being added to the meal of your choice. Wonder noodles have very little flavor of their own, instead of picking up the flavors of whatever sauce you cover them with.
Sometimes called “zoodles,” zucchini noodles are the result of taking a specialized kitchen tool called a spiralizer to a zucchini. These long, thin strips of the popular, keto-friendly summer squash can then be briefly boiled and served up just like pasta. Zucchini noodles can also be made without a spiralizer, a mandoline or a julienne peeler are also quite capable of cutting zucchini into thin, quick-cooking, noodle-like pieces.
Most gluten-free pasta cannot be eaten on a traditional keto diet because it contains too many carbohydrates. However, you can go keto and still get the satisfaction of pasta from alternatives such as noodles made of various fibers, flours, and vegetables. They look and feel like pasta and can be prepared and served in place of it in other recipes and dishes, while still being low-carb enough to be keto-friendly.
If I have ice cream, will it kick my body out of ketosis? The carbohydrates from the sugar in standard ice cream will kick your body out of ketosis. Instead, look for keto-friendly ice creams or other frozen alternatives.
Can I put sugar in my coffee while on the keto diet? You can’t use sugar to sweeten your coffee while following a ketogenic diet. Instead, you’ll want to look at other options to sweeten your coffee.
Can I have coconut oil while on the keto diet? Yes, coconut oil is perfect for keto because it’s low in carbohydrates and has multiple health benefits.