People with diabetes can eat pasta but should choose whole grain types and monitor their portion size. Diabetes-friendly pasta recipes may include alternative types of pasta, along with healthy vegetables, protein, and low-fat sauces.
This article discusses whether diabetics can eat pasta and give suitable recipes.
We also explore how carbohydrates affect blood sugar and explain the best types of carbohydrates for people with diabetes.
Finally, we offer tips on eating pasta and alternatives to consider and answer some frequently asked questions.
People with diabetes can eat pasta but should choose whole grains or wheat substitutes. They should also consider portion size and what they choose to accompany the pasta.
A person with diabetes needs to think about the types of carbohydrates or carbohydrates they choose to eat. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises people with diabetes to choose complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates contain fiber, vitamins and minerals and are digested more slowly by the body. Refined carbohydrates are quickly digested by the body, which leads to high blood sugar.
Manufacturers remove the outer layers and nutritious parts of the grain while processing refined carbohydrates; Laws require them to add nutrients artificially.
Learn more about simple carbs versus complex carbs here.
Whole grains and legumes are complex carbohydrates. In terms of pasta, whole grain types are complex carbs, and white pasta is refined carbs.
Learn more about what makes whole grains so healthy here.
Below are recipes adapted from the ADA Diabetes Food Hub and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Recipes include vegetarian, vegan and family meals and batch cooking ideas.
Chicken, Macaroni and Spinach Soup (4 Persons Served)
Add lean protein like chicken to your pasta dish
- 2 ounces (ounce) whole-grain pasta
- 2 cups cooked chicken breast, cut into cubes
- 1 can (14 oz) low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 can chopped tomato
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- chopped baby spinach
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon (tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Combine the broth and tomatoes with their liquid and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir the pasta, bring it back to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the pasta is done.
- Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle cheese over soup, if desired.
Read more about other diabetic chicken recipes.
Chickpea pasta with garlic-roasted vegetables (serves 5)
The following recipe is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
- Add the olive oil to a bowl of zucchini and broccoli, and stir until the vegetables are covered.
- Roast the vegetables and garlic cloves, peeled, in an oven at 400 F for 20 minutes, until softened. Slip the garlic out of its peel and chop it up to use in the recipe.
- While the vegetables are roasting, cook the chickpeas according to the directions on the box.
- Drain the pasta and add the roasted vegetables, garlic, and a sprinkle of dried thyme, salt and black pepper to taste.
- Top with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour.
Cold Pasta Salad (12 servings)
Anyone can cook this recipe in one go and keep it in the fridge to divide into quick family lunches or dinners. One serving is a cup of pasta salad.
- 1 pound (lb) dry whole wheat pasta such as fusilli, pappardelle, or conchigli
- 1 large cucumber, cut into cubes
- 1 bell pepper cut into cubes
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- Half a cup of light Italian and light French salad dressing
- 1 can of black olives
- ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, or thyme
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
- Add all other ingredients and mix well.
Slow Cooking Minestrone Soup (10 Serves)
This vegetarian recipe is a good choice for a large family or for cooking and freezing frozen food.
- 1 cup cooked (or 2 ounces dry) whole-grain pasta
- 2 cups green beans
- 4 medium sized pods, chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 celery stalk chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes
- 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 15 oz can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Half a teaspoon pepper
- Add all ingredients, except for the pasta and baby spinach, to a 6- or 7-quart saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 7-8 hours.
- Raise the heat to high and stir in the pasta and spinach. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender.
- Remove the bay leaf before serving.
Whole grain pasta with Brussels sprouts and walnut vinegar
This recipe is a delicious way to use up nutritious Brussels sprouts.
- 6 ounces dried linguine or spaghetti noodles
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced/shaved (about 8 cups)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
To make the nutty sauce:
- Half a cup of toasted cashews
- 4 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Half a cup of toasted cashews
- 1-2 squeezed lemons
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions.
- In a food processor, blend the vinaigrette ingredients until smooth.
- Saute the Brussels sprouts in olive oil and garlic for 12-15 minutes, until tender and caramelised. Pour in the vinaigrette, mix, and remove from heat.
- Combine the cooked, drained pasta with the Brussels sprouts vinegar mixture.
- Add toasted walnuts and lemon juice, and season to taste.
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient in foods like pasta that the body breaks down into a type of sugar – glucose. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar, and the pancreas releases insulin to help glucose get to the cells.
The body stores any excess as glycogen in the liver and as triglycerides in fat cells.
Learn more about healthy blood glucose levels here.
People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce enough insulin and must take it as medicine. In type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to insulin and is unable to process glucose properly, resulting in high blood sugar.
Learn more about high blood sugar here.
How many carbohydrates?
A doctor or dietitian can help a person with diabetes manage carbohydrates. For example, they might introduce a person with type 1 diabetes to a carbohydrate count, where they record the number of grams of carbohydrate they eat at each meal and match that amount to their insulin dose.
Learn more about counting carbohydrates for diabetes here.
The ADA advises that while carbohydrate counting is appropriate for type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes may use a basic version based on carbohydrate choices. One “choice” contains about 15 grams (g) of carbohydrates in this method.
The ADA further explains that others with type 2 diabetes prefer to use the diabetes panel method, which limits carbohydrates to a quarter of the panel.
The following tips may help a person with diabetes choose meals that contain pasta:
- Always choose whole-grain pasta
- Watch portion size Put 1/4 of a plate or 1/2 cup of cooked pasta
- Add lean protein like meat, poultry, fish or beans
Helps balanceBlood sugar
- Avoid adding high-sugar or high-fat sauces and seasonings
- Add veggies to a pasta dish or serve with a side of extra veggies like vegetable salad, broccoli, or mixed greens
- Choose tomato-based sauces over dairy-rich sauces if you are controlling weight
- Check tomato sauces for added sugars
- If you choose to add cheese, stick to the low-fat varieties and small amounts
- Use nutritional yeast as a low-fat cheese substitute for sprinkling pasta or adding it to sauces
Find out about healthy diabetes meal plans here.
People can find nutritional information on food labels, which they can use to calculate how much of each type of nutrient they consume. People can also look at the total carbohydrate content of each portion when calculating carbohydrates.
The ADA advises that “net carbs” have no legal definition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the ADA does not use this measurement either.
Here are some answers to common questions about pasta and diabetes.
Is reheated pasta better for diabetics?
Interestingly enough, reheated pasta may be better for diabetics.
What pasta does not raise blood sugar?
All types of pasta raise blood sugar to some extent. However, wholegrain types or those made with lentil, buckwheat, or pea flour contain more fiber than white pasta and may help balance blood sugar better.
How much pasta can a person with diabetes eat?
The ADA advises that people can count carbohydrates or use the diabetes panel method for splitting pasta. If using the plate method, people should eat no more than a quarter of a plate of pasta. It also states that a portion of cooked pasta is ½ cup.
People with diabetes can include pasta as part of a healthy diet. However, they should choose whole grain varieties and be mindful of their portion size. A person can use the plate method, carbohydrate counting, or half-cup measurements to determine how much pasta they are eating.
Adding more vegetables and proteins may help offset the spike in blood sugar that eating pasta can cause. Additionally, there are alternatives like vegan pasta, cauliflower rice, and lentil pasta that someone might opt for instead.
Finally, avoiding high-sugar sauces or high-fat creamy dressings can help someone manage their weight and diabetes. If you’re not sure, anyone can ask a dietitian or doctor to help plan their meals.