6 pasta picks and substitutes for people with diabetes

You may Still enjoy pasta if you have diabetes. However, since it’s high in carbs, you’ll need to adjust your portion size and/or choose healthier varieties like whole wheat pasta or fortified pasta. Pasta substitutes such as ancient grains or spiral vegetables are also great options.

Eating too many carbohydrates can cause inflammation, weight gain, and higher blood sugar, especially in people with diabetes. Choosing a healthy alternative to regular pasta can help you satisfy your cravings while controlling your condition.

This article looks at the best traditional pasta types and alternative “noodles” that work best for diabetics. It also includes tips for incorporating these options into your diet.

Best choice in the pasta aisle

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Instead of regular white pasta made with refined grains, look for pasta that is high in fiber and/or protein and lower in carbohydrates.

  • whole wheat pasta tastes similar to al dente cooked white pasta. It has slightly fewer carbohydrates than regular pasta. More importantly, a 1/3-cup serving of cooked whole wheat pasta has three times the fiber, making it a better option for blood sugar control.
  • Enriched Noodles has more protein and more fiber for the same amount of calories as regular pasta. These types of pasta contain protein, lentils, and other protein sources added to the flour mix. They can also include barley and oats to add more fiber and flaxseed to add healthy omega-3 fats. In fact, a 2021 study finds that higher levels of some omega-3s could reduce the risk of early death by 13%.
  • Gluten free pasta Products are available at most grocery stores. These include pasta made with brown rice, quinoa, and other options. Keep in mind that gluten-free pasta doesn’t necessarily make it a better choice just because it’s gluten-free. Some varieties can be high in carbohydrates and low in fiber and protein, so check the label when purchasing. Look for options that are lower in carbs but still provide plenty of protein and fiber, such as: B. Chickpea pasta.

Ancient Whole Grains

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Age-old whole grains are another great alternative to pasta. They may not look at all like the pasta you’re used to, but they have the same hearty flavor while containing more nutrients.

More common grains, such as Andean millet, have become popular in recent years. Less common options, at least for Americans, are farro and sorghum. These are high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals when mixed into your favorite sauces and recipes.

To add flavor, these ancient grains can be boiled in chicken, beef, or vegetable broth instead of plain water. Serve them as an accompaniment to fish or chicken, or top them with another protein like egg or tofu, plus veggies and a sauce.

You can also make grain-based salads, but remember to keep your portions in check for optimal blood sugar control.

spaghetti squash

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Spaghetti squash is often used to replace pasta. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that’s perfect for tomato-based sauces. The squash flesh becomes fibrous as it cooks and looks a lot like spaghetti; therefore the name. It can be used as a low-carb, more nutrient-dense version of some of your favorite pastas.

There’s one more difference that you might appreciate. Compared to regular pasta, you can eat a lot more spaghetti squash for the same amount of carbs. In fact, 1 1/2 cups of cooked, shredded squash have the same carbs as 1/3 cup of cooked pasta.

Veggie spirals and ribbons

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Use a vegetable peeler to create spirals or ribbons of non-starchy veggies to use in place of pasta. Some good options to try include zucchini, yellow summer squash, carrots, eggplant, peppers, and cabbage.

Steam the ribbons so they taste and feel like regular pasta. Enjoy a 1 1/2 cup serving size of cooked vegetable ribbons for only 15 grams of carbs.

Pasta night tips for people with diabetes

When you have diabetes, it’s important to make healthier choices and control your carbohydrate consumption. Here are a few guidelines for making healthier pasta night choices.

  • Choose healthier carbohydrates. If you want to pair bread with your meal, opt for a whole grain option. Complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole wheat pasta, are higher in fiber and take longer to digest, which helps prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes. The same goes for whole wheat bread.
  • Eat less red meat and processed meat. For example, prepare Bolognese sauce with ground turkey instead of ground beef and avoid sauces that contain bacon or sausage. You can also try making a pasta sauce with lentils or mushrooms instead of the meat.
  • Put vegetables on your plate. A salad with a light vinaigrette can be a delicious and healthy addition to your meal.
  • Choose healthy fats. Olive oil is a good choice for Italian dishes like pasta, but you can also use canola oil or sunflower oil. Cheese is low on the glycemic index and can be a good source of protein, but it’s also high in fat. Use sparingly as an accompaniment to pasta or salad.
  • Reduce your sodium intake. Homemade pasta sauces contain less salt than bottled varieties. In general, you should avoid consuming more than a teaspoon of salt each day.
  • limit sugar. You can find added sugars in unexpected places, like in bottled pasta sauces and salad dressings. You’ll also find added sugars in certain types of store-bought bread.
  • Practice portion control. Healthier types of pasta can still be high in carbs, so limit the amount of pasta you put on your plate. Try filling most of your plate with a vegetable dish, or mix spiralized zucchini with whole wheat pasta to add more volume with fewer carbs.


If you’re looking for healthy alternatives to traditional pasta, you may find whole grain and vegetarian substitutes that reduce your carb intake and are just as good or better than what you’re used to. This is important for people with diabetes who need to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

The options are also helpful for people who need to avoid gluten. But you don’t really need a reason to opt for healthier pasta options that everyone can benefit from without sacrificing flavor.

Verywell Health uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check our content and keep it accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Myette-Côté É, Durrer C, Neudorf H, et al. The effect of a short-term low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet with or without post-meal walks on glycemic control and inflammation in type 2 diabetes: A randomized study. Am J Physiol Reg Integr Comp Physiol. 2018;315(6):R1210-R1219. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00240.2018

  2. Di Stefano V, Pagliaro A, Del Nobile MA, et al. Spaghetti enriched with lentils: technological properties and nutritional characterization. Groceries. 2020;10(1):4. doi: 10.3390/foods10010004

  3. Zarzycki P, Sykut-Domańska E, Sobota A, et al. Pasta enriched with flaxseed – chemical composition and cooking quality. Groceries. 2020;9(4):404. doi: 10.3390/foods9040404

  4. Harris WS, Tintle NL, Imamura F, et al. Fatty Acid Research Consortium and Outcomes (FORCE). Blood n-3 fatty acid levels and all-cause and cause-specific mortality from 17 prospective studies. Nat Common. 22 Apr 2021;12(1):2329. doi:10.1038/s41467-021-22370-2

Additional reading

  • Huang M, Lo K, Li J et al. Pasta consumption in relation to the risk of type 2 diabetes and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women: findings from the Women’s Health Initiative. BMJNPH. 2021;4(1):195-205. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2020-000198

  • Zavitsanou S, Massa J, Deshpande S et al. The effect of two types of pasta compared to white rice on postmeal blood glucose levels in adults with type 1 diabetes: a randomized crossover study. Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics. 2019;21(9):485-492. doi: 10.1089/dia.2019.0109

By Stacey Hugues

Stacey Hugues, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Educator who works as a Newborn Nutritionist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.