Pasta Substitutes for People With Diabetes

There's so much to love about pasta: The noodles can take on any flavor and give a sense of savory satisfaction. But pasta is packed with carbohydrates, or carbs. Eating too many carbs can cause inflammation, weight gain, and higher blood sugars—especially in patients with diabetes.

Different pastas laying next to each other
Daniel Sambraus / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images 

If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy pasta. Just be sure to keep an eye on your portions.

Go for whole wheat pasta, which will increase your fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and reduce any blood sugar spikes when compared to white pasta. On the other hand, there are plenty of other healthy pasta substitutes, if you're willing to think outside the box.

Pasta made with chickpeas, for example, is higher in protein than white pasta and is gluten-free. You can even make your own 'mock' pasta by using vegetables. This article looks at some tasty options for replacing pasta. 

Whole Wheat, Fortified, or Gluten-Free

Whole grain pasta with salmon and broccoli

Sian Irvine / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Whole wheat pasta tastes much like a white pasta cooked al dente. Yet 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 is another alternative to white 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%.

These forms of pasta have more protein and more fiber in the same amount of calories as regular pasta. Both the protein and fiber content are helpful for people with diabetes keeping a close eye on their blood sugars. 

Gluten-free pasta products are available at most grocery stores. They include pasta made with chickpeas, brown rice, quinoa, and other options. 


If you have diabetes, you can still have pasta. There are many options to replace white pasta and help keep your blood sugar under control. As with any kind of pasta, be sure to read the label and stick to the suggested serving size.

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.


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.