3 Diabetes-Friendly Pasta Substitutes

And 3 Choices if You Want Something Closer to the Real Thing

You can still enjoy pasta if you have diabetes. But because it is high in carbohydrates, you'll need to adjust your portion size and/or choose healthier varieties, such as whole wheat or fortified pasta. Pasta substitutes like ancient grains or spiraled vegetables are also great options.

Eating too many carbs can cause inflammation, weight gain, and higher blood sugars, especially in people with diabetes. Choosing a healthy alternative to traditional pasta can help you satisfy your craving while managing your condition.

This article looks at the best traditional pasta varieties and alternative "pastas" that are best for those with diabetes. It also covers tips for incorporating these options into your diet.

Best Choices in the Pasta Aisle

Whole grain pasta with salmon and broccoli

Sian Irvine / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Instead of regular white pasta made from refined grain, look for pasta that is high in fiber and/or protein and contains fewer carbs.

  • Whole wheat pasta tastes much like white pasta cooked al dente. It is slightly lower in carbs 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.    
  • Fortified pasta has more protein and more fiber in the same amount of calories as regular pasta. These types of pasta have egg whites, lentils, and other protein sources added to the flour blend. They also may 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-3 fatty acids could reduce your risk of early death by 13%.
  • Gluten-free pasta products are available at most grocery stores. They include pasta made with brown rice, quinoa, and other options. Keep in mind that gluten-free pasta isn't necessarily a better choice just because it's gluten-free. Some varieties can be high in carbohydrates and low in fiber and protein, so pay attention to the label when buying. Look for options that have fewer carbs but still deliver plenty of protein and fiber, such as chickpea pasta.

Ancient Whole Grains

Quinoa salad

Natasa Mandic / Stocksy United

Ancient whole grains are another great alternative to pasta. They may not look at all like the pasta you are used to, but they have the same kind of hearty flavor while packing in more nutrients.

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

To add flavor, these ancient grains can be cooked in chicken, beef, or vegetable stock instead of plain water. Serve them as a side dish with fish or chicken, or top with another protein like egg or tofu, plus vegetables and a sauce.

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

Spaghetti Squash

Roasted spaghetti squash with herbs
LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Spaghetti squash is often used to replace pasta. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that is perfect for tomato-based sauces. The squash flesh becomes stringy when cooked and looks a lot like spaghetti; hence the name. It can be used as a lower-carb, more ​nutrient-rich version of some of your pasta favorites.

There is another difference you might welcome too. When compared to traditional pasta, you can eat a lot more spaghetti squash for the same amount of carbs. In fact, 1 1/2 cups of the cooked, shredded squash is equal in carbs to 1/3 cup of cooked pasta. 

Veggie Spirals and Ribbons

Carrot vegetable ribbons

Georgia Glynn Smith / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Use a vegetable peeler to produce spirals or ribbons of non-starchy vegetables 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 that they taste and feel like regular pasta. Enjoy a serving size of 1 1/2 cups of cooked veggie ribbons for only 15 grams of carbs.

Pasta Night Tips for People With Diabetes

If you have diabetes, it's important to make healthier choices and manage your carbohydrate consumption. Here are a few guidelines for making healthier choices on pasta night.

  • Choose healthier carbs. If you're going to pair bread with your meal, go for a whole-grain option. Complex carbs like those found in whole-grain pastas are higher in fiber and take longer to digest, which helps prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. The same as true of whole-grain 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 in place of the meat.
  • Add vegetables to your plate. A salad with a light vinaigrette can make a delicious and healthy complement to your meal.
  • Choose healthy fats. Olive oil is a good choice for Italian dishes like pasta, but you can also use rapeseed oil or sunflower oil. Cheese has a low glycemic index and can be a good source of protein, but it's also high in fat. Use it sparingly as a garnish for pasta or salad.
  • Reduce your sodium intake. Homemade pasta sauces contain less salt than bottled varieties. In general, you should avoid consuming more than one teaspoon of salt each day.
  • Limit sugar. You can find added sugar in unexpected places, like bottled pasta sauces and salad dressings. You'll also find added sugar in certain varieties of store-bought bread. 
  • Practice portion control. Even healthier varieties of pasta can still be high in carbohydrates, so limit how much 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 options to traditional pasta, you may find whole-grain and veggie substitutes that reduce your carb intake are as good or better than what you're used to. That's important for people with diabetes who need to keep their blood sugar levels in check.

The options are helpful for people who need to avoid gluten, too. But you don't really need a reason to choose healthier pasta options that can benefit everyone without losing out on taste.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content 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 postmeal walks on glycemic control and inflammation in type 2 diabetes: A randomized trial. Am J Physiol Regul 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. Lentil fortified spaghetti: technological properties and nutritional characterizationFoods. 2020;10(1):4. doi: 10.3390/foods10010004

  3. Zarzycki P, Sykut-Domańska E, Sobota A, et al. Flaxseed enriched pasta—chemical composition and cooking qualityFoods. 2020;9(4):404. doi: 10.3390/foods9040404

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

Additional Reading

By Stacey Hugues
Stacey Hugues, RD is a registered dietitian and nutrition coach who works as a neonatal dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.