When I first decided to embark on a food-as-medicine lifestyle, I gave up gluten. The results were so drastically positive I could not deny it was my poison. But when you’re 100 percent Italian and live in Philadelphia, not preparing and eating the Sunday homemade pasta is almost impossible.


Little did I know using food as medicine would test my motivation. Even with solid proof that gluten was poison for me, I still struggled to make the change. I always had the internal motivation to keep my mind and body right, so this new lack of enthusiasm was out of character for me. Why was this happening?


Food is often rooted in family tradition.


When Food and Family Tradition Collide

As athletes we often fall into the trap of thinking sweating a lot will make up for bad eating habits. This outcome can motivate us, but is it the best way to support our workouts and our health? Have you ever wondered what keeps you from conscious eating, especially when you are already a committed athlete?


Many of us are held back by cultural norms that mean more than food. They mean generations of family and are deeply rooted in tradition. Food is at the core of these cultural norms. We resist change because it disrupts the cultural make-up of our lives. Once I realized that my problem with ditching gluten wasn’t just about food, I could work toward creating effective and lasting change.


Rethink Your Definition of Pasta

I knew I needed to get out of my own way, but I didn’t know where to begin. Then came the concept of zoodles, or spiralized vegetables. Zoodles are the pasta of the conscious eater. They bring sexy back to the kitchen. Little did I know spiralized veggies could create an amazing pasta alternative that also supports all of my family’s tried-and-true pasta recipes.


Changing the narrative to respond to what our bodies are telling us is a key element of athletic success and performance. If you struggle with this change, ask yourself what the real issue might be and allow the answer to surface. For many people it has nothing to do with the love of food and more to do with what the food means. In order to create effective, lasting change, you may need to transform your cultural narrative. 


My pasta narrative has changed, and I no longer miss gluten-filled noodles. In fact, I seldom even consider pasta as anything beyond spiralized zoodle fun. Here are some great uses for zoodles in your kitchen.


Use spiralized vegetables as a direct replacement for pasta.

Left: sweet potatoes; Top right: beets; Bottom right: zucchini.


How to Use Zoodles in the Kitchen


Using a spiralizer, you can zoodle zucchini, sweet potatoes, and beets to serve as a pasta base. I love using zucchini to serve as a direct replacement for the traditional spaghetti and meatballs.  


I often throw the zoodles into a pan for about five minutes and heat them up in an oil of my choice. Once this is done, I serve by plating the zoodle base, adding desired amount of sauce, and finishing with a sprinkle of fresh basil. Delicious. Or you can add them to one of my meatball recipes here on Breaking Muscle – Italian wedding soup with meatballs or three variations on classic Italian meatballs. Here's a simple tomato sauce recipe that tastes great with all varieties of zoodles.


Quick Tomato Sauce Recipe


  • 32oz can organic diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of desired fat (EVO or coconut oil)
  • Bunch of fresh organic basil
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Hot pepper flakes (optional)



  1. Place oil in saucepan heated to medium high.
  2. Once at desired temperature, place garlic cloves in oil, watching carefully. Keep shaking the pan slightly until the garlic is golden in color. Be careful not to burn it. Once the garlic is ready, add the diced tomato and salt and pepper to taste, mixing well. 
  3. Cook over low heat for about an hour, allowing the flavors to mix well.
  4. Chop desired amount of fresh basil and sprinkle it on the top of the plated pasta and meatballs before serving.


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Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo collage courtesy of V Capaldi.