Starches tend to be the primary component of diets of most Americans, and it is easy to understand why. Starches are cheap, tasty, and versatile. Unfortunately, almost all of the caloric content of this category of food are digestible carbohydrates, forcing the body to produce far more insulin than meat or vegetables would. People with insulin resistance syndromes and diabetes can still eat starchy foods, but must learn to shift their eating patterns so that do not rely on starches to be the primary component. 
This section briefly reviews each of the common starches.


If you eat pasta, then it should be a 2 ounce serving or less (see image below for what 2 oz looks like). 2 ounces of dry pasta is roughly 1 cup of cooked pasta, but that number varies a little depending on the shape.




Net carbs

Pasta, 2 ounces (dry weight)



Whole grain pasta, 2 ounces (dry weight)



Chickpea pasta, 2 ounces



Gnocchi, 15 pieces



2 ounce portions of various pastas
What about whole grain pasta?

Whole grain pasta is slightly healthier than regular pasta, but it’s caloric and carbohydrate content is very similar so I personally do not think the taste trade-off is worth it. 
Dietitians (and savvy people with type 1 diabetes) are quick to point out that whole wheat/complex carbs may have the same carbohydrate content, but have a lower glycemic index, and therefore cause a less rapid rise in glucose levels in the blood. Yes, that is true, the blood glucose rise will be more moderate, but in response I would argue that (1) you still need the same amount of insulin to process the energy and (2) decreasing carbohydrate portion size is a much higher yield factor than choosing high-carb foods with a better glycemic index. 
Your goal is to eat pasta less frequently and at smaller portions. If you can manage that, then eat the one you like the taste of better. I personally think whole grain pasta is a culinary abomination. I don’t necessarily mind the strong, nutty flavor, but I abhor the grainy consistency. But if you like it and are happy to eat it in small portions, then more power to you.

What about gluten free pasta?

Gluten-free pasta is no healthier for you than normal pasta. That is, unless you have celiac disease (you probably don’t have celiac disease, but feel free to review the symptoms on the link above and get tested if you think you may have it). 
There is one caveat to my recommendation against gluten-free pasta, and that is chickpea pasta. Chickpea pasta is technically gluten free, and is has about 13gm less carbs per serving. I have heard positive reviews about it, but it costs about 4x as much as normal pasta so I have not tried it yet.

Pasta substitutions

Pasta substitutions, on the other hand, can make an enormous difference to your health. Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”), spaghetti squash, shiritaki noodles, and shredded cabbage are common substitutions for pasta. I have had the most success with zucchini noodles, as the texture is the most reminiscent of pasta of all the different replacements. A julienne peeler is cheap, simple, and will do the job. Or you can buy a larger and more expensive spiralizer.


A cup of cooked rice (white, yellow, or brown) has about 45gm net carbs, which is over 30-50% of what I recommend for carbohydrates over an entire day. 
As is true for pasta, I do not see enough of a nutritional benefit to brown rice to justify the serious taste downgrade. You need to eat rice less often and in lower portions. That is far more important than the type of rice you eat.

  Calories Net Carbs
White rice, cooked, 1 cup (1/3 cup dry rice) 200 45
Yellow rice, cooked, 1 cup (1/3 cup dry rice) 200 45
Brown rice, cooked, 1 cup (1/3 cup dry rice) 220 44


A legume is a plant from the Leguminosae family. This family includes beans, chickpeas, peas, soybeans, and peanuts. These foods are healthy, but are somewhat high in carbohydrates so you have to be very careful with portion size. A cup of most beans is typically about 40gm net carbs, though red kidney beans have the lowest net carb content at 27gm. Black soy beans are very low carb and taste fine as a replacement for black beans in most recipes, but you may have a hard time finding these outside specialty grocery stores or the internet.

  Calories Net Carbs
Black beans 
cooked, 1 cup
Note: A 15 oz can = 1.5 cups w/ liquid drained)
200 40
Black soy beans 
cooked, 1 cup
240 10
Cannellini beans (white kidney beans) 
cooked, 1 cup
200 34
Red kidney beans 
cooked, 1 cup
154 27
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 
cooked, 1 cup
240 32
Pinto beans 
cooked, 1 cup
200 40
cooked, 1 cup
230 32


White potatoes should be limited to medium size or cup portions, which works out to about 35 grams of net carbohydrate per serving. 
Sweet potatoes are lower in net carbohydrates so serve as a good side dish replacement for white potatoes. When you want to eat white potatoes, I recommend using fingerling potatoes. They are really easy and quick to cook, and help keep the portion size down. I am a rather large male, and I feel OK eating just 3 fingerling potatoes, which is a reasonable 25gm net carb portion.

  Calories Net Carbs
Baked potato 
medium, about 5 ounces
160 37
Mashed potato 
1 cup
215 35
Potato chips 
1 ounce, about 12 chips
150 15
Sweet potato 
1 medium, about 4 ounces, or 1 cup cubed
110 25
Roasted fingerling potatoes 
3 potatoes
110 25
French fries (mcdonalds, small) 225 28
French fries (mcdonalds, medium) 370 46


Many of my patients think that low carb means that they can’t eat bread, but that is patently false. Breads and tortillas can easily be integrated into a low carbohydrate diet. But if you eat bread during a meal, then you should avoid other starches at that meal.

Breads and tortillas Calories Net Carbs
White bread (1 slice) 80 15
Dave’s killer bread (1 slice) 120 20
Dinner roll (2 inch squate) 80 13
Pita bread, large 165 32
sub roll, 6 inches 190 41
Plain bagel (Panera) 290 58
Cornbread muffin (1 muffin) 170 28
French baguette (6 inches) 210 41
French baguette (4 inches) 140 27
Corn tortilla, 6 inch 70 12
Flour tortilla,  12 inch  300 50
Flour tortilla, 8 inch 140 26
Flour tortilla, 6 inch 90 13