Can People with Diabetes Eat Pasta?

A registered dietitian shares how this popular high-carb food can still be enjoyed on a diabetes-appropriate meal plan.

Eating carbs while managing a diabetes diagnosis likely seems impossible. A person who has diabetes—whether it's prediabetes or type 2—must regulate their carb intake to avoid blood sugar spikes in order to delay or prevent any long-term health problems such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that people with diabetes have to give up all carbohydrates altogether. There are methods people with diabetes can follow when it comes to eating high-carb foods, including pasta, while keeping blood sugar levels in check.

an illustration of a person with pasta
Michela Buttignol and Getty Images

Pasta Nutrition

A 2-ounce serving of dry pasta has:

  • 211 calories
  • 7g protein
  • 1g fat
  • 43g carbohydrates
  • 2g fiber (7% daily value)

Although pasta is most known for its carbohydrate content, it also contains 7g of protein per serving. Pasta also has some fiber, which in conjunction with protein, helps contribute to satiety. To increase the protein or fiber in a pasta meal, opt for whole wheat or bean-based varieties. Or pair pasta with other lean proteins, like chicken, fish, beans and marinara sauce, and vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, onions and spinach.

How Pasta Affects your Blood Sugar

Samantha MacLeod, M.S., RDN, from Fresh Communications, says it all starts with tracking and having a plan.

"Counting carbs and monitoring blood sugar levels can definitely be overwhelming at first," MacLeod says. "Like with everything, practice makes perfect, and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

MacLeod explains that eating regular meals and snacks is important for maintaining consistent blood sugar levels. Using an app can also be beneficial for carb counting and creating a plan with a registered dietitian. "Your RD can help you establish a meal plan and carbohydrate goal that factors in all your individual lifestyle needs," she says.

Tips for Including Pasta in a Healthy Diabetes-Friendly Diet

If pasta is a favorite food and still a priority within your new meal plan for diabetes, here are the few things MacLeod says to keep in mind.

Look for High-Fiber Solutions

Managing diabetes means paying closer attention to your blood sugar levels; different foods affect your blood sugar levels differently. While carbohydrates are known for spiking blood sugar due to the way they digest into sugars in the body for quick energy, carbohydrates with a higher fiber content, such as whole grains, can actually benefit blood sugar by slowing down the spike because the body isn't able to absorb or break down fiber, states the CDC.

Because of how high-fiber foods benefit people with diabetes, MacLeod says reaching for high-fiber pasta options may be the key to maintaining blood glucose while still enjoying pasta.

"Individuals with diabetes should choose to enjoy whole-grain pasta options (due to higher fiber content than regular pasta) and be conscious of their portion sizes," she says.

Research confirms this: in a 2022 randomized study in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, eating low-starch high-fiber pasta reduced postprandial glucose elevation compared to eating standard pasta for healthy participants and those with type 2 diabetes.

Add Protein and Veggies to Your Dish

What you add to your plate is also important for managing blood sugar levels—especially if you choose to eat a standard white pasta.

MacLeod suggests adding lean protein and veggies to your pasta dish to add another boost of fiber as well as satiating protein. Protein foods—such as chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and even cheese—have a minimal impact on glucose levels during digestion, per the Joslin Diabetes Center. These foods are also slowly digested in the body, keeping you feeling fuller for longer periods of time, while also keeping those blood sugar levels in check.

"Protein hack: there are so many different varieties of alternative pasta that naturally have a higher protein content," says MacLeod. "One of my favorites is chickpea, with 23 grams of protein per serving!"

Avoid Eating Pasta Alone

While it is possible to enjoy a plate of pasta when you have diabetes, MacLeod emphasizes the importance of not eating pasta alone, given how it affects your blood sugar levels. Instead, add veggies and lean protein to your pasta dish to give your meal extra fiber and slow-digesting, satiating protein.

However, if you aren't serving pasta as the main event, MacLeod says to follow the typical Diabetes Plate Method from the American Diabetes Association. This method can ensure that you're properly portioning out your carbohydrates and not overdoing them.

"If choosing to enjoy pasta, it is important not to overindulge. Stick to the portion size, or the amount of pasta that meets the number of carbohydrates you planned for that meal," she says.

The Diabetes Plate Method is pretty simple: fill up a quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods, half of your plate with nonstarchy vegetables and the other quarter with lean protein.

"Pairing your pasta with nonstarchy vegetables and lean protein, as the method suggests, helps prevent a quick spike in blood sugar," says MacLeod.

The Bottom Line

Yes, you can eat pasta when you have diabetes. While pasta is a high-carb food, it can be safely consumed when paired with high-fiber options and lean proteins, and properly portioned out.

"Like with anything else, it is important to have everything in moderation and not overindulge in one particular food or food group," says MacLeod.

Looking for delicious ways to add fiber and protein to your bowl of pasta? Try our Air-Fryer Ravioli with Marinara Sauce, this Lemongrass Shrimp & Noodle Bowl or any one of these High Protein Pasta Recipes!

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