Pasta Substitutes Available for People With Diabetes

Most of us love pasta—what's not to love? The soft textured noodles take on any flavor and give us a sense of comfort, but pasta is also loaded with carbohydrates, which, when eaten in excess, can increase inflammation, cause weight gain, and elevate blood sugars. If you must eat pasta, choose whole grain, such as whole wheat, because it will help to increase your fiber, vitamins, and minerals and, if portion controlled, can possibly reduce how quickly blood sugars spike (when compared to white pasta). If on the other hand, you are willing to try some substitutes, think outside the box.

Today, there are so many varieties of grains and grain substitutes. For example, did you know that they make a pasta with chickpeas? It's higher in protein and gluten-free. Other gluten-free varieties exist, and some pastas have added protein and omega-3 fatty acids. You can also make your own 'mock' pasta by using different types of grains or vegetables. Give some of these a try—you'll be shocked by how many options you have. 


Whole Wheat, Fortified Pasta, and Gluten Free Alternatives

Whole grain pasta with salmon and broccoli
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Surprisingly similar in texture to al dente white pasta, a 1/3 cup serving of cooked whole wheat pasta has three times the amount of fiber as white pasta, making it a better option for glucose control.    

Fortified pasta varieties are another alternative to white pasta These pastas have been modified by adding a flour blend that includes egg whites and legumes for more protein; barley and oats for increased fiber; and flaxseed for healthy omega-3 fats. These pastas contain 40 percent more protein and twice the fiber in the same amount of calories as regular pasta. The higher protein and fiber content are both helpful for diabetic glucose control. 

Lastly, gluten-free varieties are available in most supermarkets, such as pasta made with chickpeas (Banza) or other varieties made with brown rice and quinoa. 

Remember that when eating starches, you always should read the label and practice portion control. Just because you switch from white pasta to whole wheat doesn't mean you can eat an unlimited amount. 


Quinoa, Freekeh, Farro, Sorgum and Other Whole Grain Varieties

Quinoa salad
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Ancient whole grains can make a great alternative to traditional pasta. They may not resemble the appearance of pasta, but they fulfill the heartiness of pasta and take on the flavor of sauces while adding a huge nutrition punch. More common ones, such as quinoa, have gained popularity in recent years. And less common ones in the American diet are appearing in recipes, such as farro, freekeh, and sorghum which are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. When cooked in chicken, beef or vegetable stock instead of plain water, they can be a very flavorful pasta alternative. Serve them as a side dish with fish or chicken, or top it with another protein source of choice, such as egg, tofu and vegetables, and sauce. Or make grain-based salads—remember to always read the label though and portion control your carbohydrates. 


Spaghetti Squash

Roasted spaghetti squash with herbs
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Spaghetti squash is often used as a substitute for pasta. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that is perfect for olive oil and tomato based sauces. When cooked, its flesh gets stringy, resembling the look of "spaghetti" and can be used as a lower carbohydrate, more ​nutrient-dense version of traditional pasta dishes. Another benefit of this substitute is that when compared to traditional pasta, you can eat a very large volume for the same amount of carbohydrates. One and a half cups of cooked, shredded spaghetti squash has the same amount of carbohydrates as just 1/3 cup of cooked pasta. 


Veggie Ribbons

Carrot vegetable ribbons
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Use a vegetable peeler to produce "ribbons" of non-starchy vegetables to use in place of pasta. Some good ones to try include zucchini, yellow summer squash, carrots, eggplant, peppers, and cabbage. Steam the ribbons for a similar mouth-feel to homemade ribbon pasta. Enjoy a serving size of 1 1/2 cups of cooked veggie ribbons for only 15 grams of carbohydrate. 

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