Can I eat pasta and white rice if I have diabetes?

Question: I don't like whole wheat pastas and brown rice, can I just eat the regular or is it better to cut them out entirely?

Answer: There's no need to cut starchy foods like pasta and rice out of your diet. True, they are mostly sugar-raising carbohydrates, but if you control your portion sizes, you can still include them in a healthy diabetic diet. If a pasta dinner for you means a large plate of spaghetti, a simple adjustment is all that's needed. Limit the pasta to about 1 cup and replace the food you take away with lean protein such as skinless chicken, seafood, or turkey meatballs -- and lots of vegetables -- both cooked and raw in a large salad.

That being said, don't give up on the whole-grain starches just yet. Whole-grain pastas and rices are far less processed than their white counterparts. Therefore, they contain more vitamins and minerals as well as more fiber and a even a bit of fat. These components help slow the digestion and absorption process. This helps to create a more moderate rise in blood sugar versus the more rapid spike that a more processed, white grains leads to. This is a far better result for those with diabetes. Going straight from the white grains to the browner ones however, can be difficult.

Try making the change gradual. At first, use 1/4 whole-grain pasta and 3/4 traditional, work yourself up to 1/2 and 1/2, and so on until you're at 100%. And, if you still don't care for 100% whole-grain pasta, using 50%-50% is still more healthful. You can also try cooking whole-grain pasta a few minutes longer than you cook regular pasta, it becomes a bit softer and you may find it more palatable. The same gradual transition can be done to brown rice, however since rices cook for different lengths of time, prepare a big batch of brown rice at one time and freeze it in small portions that you can add to cooked white rice at meal time. You see there are many ways to include pasta and rice in your meals while making more healthful changes in your diet.

NOTE: After consuming rice or pasta, blood sugar levels may vary from individual to individual. Depending on how your blood glucose levels react, you may need to either remove that item from your diet or adjust portion sizes accordingly. If you have any questions or concerns about eating rice or pasta, be sure to discuss them with your physician.

If you are issued a new prescription, be sure to discuss potential drug-food interactions with your pharmacist or physician.


About Heidi McIndoo

Heidi McIndoo, MS is a registered dietitian who has been counseling women, men, and children about healthy eating for twenty years. She firmly believes food should be enjoyed and all foods can fit into a healthy diet -- it's just a matter of how much and how often.

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