5 pasta recipes for diabetics

People with diabetes can eat pasta, but they should choose whole grain types and watch portion sizes. Diabetic pasta recipes can include alternative types of pasta, along with healthy vegetables, protein, and low-fat sauces.

This article looks at whether people with diabetes can eat pasta and offers suitable recipes.

We also explore how carbohydrates affect blood sugar and explain which carbohydrates are best for people with diabetes.

Finally, we offer advice on pasta consumption and alternatives to consider and answer some frequently asked questions.

People with diabetes can eat pasta, but should choose whole grain types or wheat alternatives. They should also consider the size of the portion and what they choose to accompany the pasta.

A person with diabetes needs to consider the types of carbohydrates or carbohydrates they choose to eat. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises people with diabetes to choose complex carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates contain fiber, vitamins and minerals and are digested more slowly by the body. The body digests refined carbohydrates quickly, which causes spikes in blood sugar.

Manufacturers remove the outer layers and more nutritious parts of the grain while processing the refined carbohydrates; laws require them to add nutrients artificially.

Learn more about simple carbs vs. complex carbs here.

Whole grains and legumes are complex carbohydrates. In terms of pasta, whole grain versions are complex carbohydrates and white pasta is refined carbohydrates.

Learn more about what makes whole grains so healthy here.

The following are recipes adapted from the ADA Diabetes Food Center and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Recipes include vegan, vegetarian and family meals and ideas for batch cooking.

Chicken, pasta and spinach soup (4 servings)

Add a lean protein like chicken to a pasta dish slows down how fast blood glucose rises.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces (oz) whole wheat pasta
  • 2 cups cooked and diced chicken breast
  • 1 can (14 oz) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • packed baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Addresses:

  1. Combine the broth and tomatoes and their liquid and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta, return to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until pasta is tender.
  2. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Sprinkle cheese over soup if desired.

Read more about other chicken recipes for people with diabetes.

Garlic Roasted Vegetable Chickpea Pasta (Serves 5)

The following recipe is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Ingredients:

Addresses:

  1. Add the olive oil to a bowl of zucchini and broccoli and toss to coat the vegetables.
  2. Roast the vegetables and garlic cloves in their skins in a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes until tender. Remove the garlic from its skin and mince to use in the recipe.
  3. While vegetables are roasting, cook chickpea penne according to box directions.
  4. Drain the pasta and add the roasted vegetables, garlic and a pinch of dried oregano and salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Top with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.

Cold pasta salad (12 servings)

Someone can batch cook this recipe and store it in the fridge to portion into quick lunches or dinners for a household. A single serving is one cup of pasta salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry whole wheat pasta such as fusilli, pappardelle, or conchiglie
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup light Italian and light French salad dressing
  • 1 can of drained black olives
  • ½ cup chopped fresh herbs like basil, parsley, or oregano

Addresses:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Add all other ingredients and mix well.

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup (Serves 10)

This vegetarian recipe is a good option for a large household or for batch cooking and freezing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked (or 2 oz dried whole grain elbow pasta)
  • 2 cups of green beans
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups of fresh baby spinach
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons dry Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper

Addresses:

  1. Add all ingredients except pasta and baby spinach to a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker. Cook over low heat for 7-8 hours.
  2. Increase heat to high and add pasta and spinach. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
  3. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Whole wheat pasta with Brussels sprouts and walnut vinaigrette

This recipe is a tasty way to use up nutritious Brussels sprouts.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz dried whole-grain linguine or spaghetti noodles
  • 1½ pounds Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced/shaved (about 8 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

For the walnut vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Coverages:

  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1–2 lemons, juiced

Addresses:

  1. Cook pasta according to directions.
  2. In a food processor, combine the vinaigrette ingredients until smooth.
  3. Saute Brussels sprouts in olive oil and garlic for 12 to 15 minutes until tender and caramelized. Pour in the vinaigrette, stir to mix, and remove from heat.
  4. Combine cooked and drained pasta with Brussels sprout vinaigrette mixture.
  5. Top with toasted pecans and lemon juice, and season to taste.

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient in foods like pasta that the body breaks down into a type of sugar: glucose. Carbohydrates raise a person’s blood sugar level, and the pancreas releases insulin to help glucose enter cells.

The body stores any excess as glycogen in the liver and as triglycerides in fat cells.

Learn more about healthy blood glucose levels here.

People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce enough insulin and must take it as medication. In type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to insulin and cannot properly process glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Learn more about blood sugar spikes here.

How many carbohydrates?

A doctor or dietitian can help a person with diabetes control their carbohydrates. For example, they can introduce someone with type 1 diabetes to carbohydrate counting, in which they record how many grams of carbohydrate they eat at each meal and compare this amount to their insulin dose.

Learn more about carbohydrate counting for diabetes here.

The ADA advises that while carbohydrate counting is appropriate for type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes can use a more basic version based on carbohydrate choices. An “option” contains about 15 grams (g) of carbohydrates in this method.

The ADA further explains that other people with type 2 diabetes prefer to use the diabetes plate method, which limits carbohydrates to a quarter of the plate.

The following tips can help someone with diabetes choose meals that include pasta:

  • always choose whole-grain types of pasta
  • watch the serving size; stick to a quarter of a plate or a half cup of cooked pasta
  • add a lean protein such as meat, poultry, fish, or beans to help balance sugar in the blood
  • avoid adding sauces and dressings that are high in sugar or fat
  • add vegetables to a pasta dish or serve with a side of additional vegetables, such as salad greens, broccoli, or mixed greens
  • choose tomato-based sauces over rich, creamy dairy-based sauces if you’re under weight
  • check tomato-based sauces for added sugars
  • if you choose to add cheese, stick to low-fat types and smaller portions
  • use nutritional yeast as a low-fat alternative to cheese to sprinkle on pasta or add to sauces

Learn about healthy meal plans for diabetes here.

People can find nutritional information on food labels, which they can use to estimate how much of each type of nutrient they are consuming. People can also see the total carbohydrate content per serving by counting carbohydrates.

The ADA reports that “net carbohydrates” do not have a legal definition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the ADA does not use this measure either.

Here are some answers to common questions about pasta and diabetes.

Is reheated pasta better for people with diabetes?

Interestingly, reheated pasta may be better for people with diabetes.

according to a study 2020, chilled and reheated white pasta in tomato sauce was associated with a faster return to baseline blood glucose than hot pasta. The researchers aren’t sure why this happens, but they suspect that the cooking method changes the chemical structure of the pasta and its effects on blood sugar.

What pasta does not raise blood sugar?

All pasta raises blood sugar to some degree. However, whole grains or those made with lentil, buckwheat, or pea flour contain more fiber than white pasta and may help better balance blood sugar.

How much pasta can a person with diabetes eat?

The ADA recommends that people either count carbohydrates or use the diabetic plate method to portion pasta. If you use the plate method, people should eat no more than a quarter of a plate of pasta. It also states that a serving of cooked pasta is half a cup.

People with diabetes can include pasta as part of a healthy diet. However, they should choose whole grain varieties and be mindful of serving sizes. A person can use the plate method, carbohydrate counting, or half-cup measurements to determine how much pasta they eat.

Adding vegetables and extra protein can help balance the rise in blood sugar that eating pasta can cause. Also, there are alternatives like vegetable noodles, cauliflower rice, and lentil pasta that someone can choose instead.

Finally, avoiding high-sugar sauces or high-fat creamy dressings can help someone manage their weight and diabetes. If unsure, a person can ask a dietitian or doctor to help plan their meals.

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