Can You Eat Pasta On A High Protein Diet?

One of the most frequent questions I get from my clients is what foods to add when on a high protein diet. They are sometimes afraid to include carb options like pasta.

So, can you eat pasta on a high protein diet? You can add pasta to a high-protein diet by choosing high-protein kinds of pasta (like chickpea-based) or counting the carbs toward your total daily macros. Remember that you still need carbs as an energy source on a high-protein diet in order to prevent protein (muscle) from being used as energy.

If you want to include pasta in your high protein diet, keep reading for my go-to tips on how to add it without impacting your results!

In this article, I’ll cover:

  • What is considered a high protein diet?
  • Is pasta a high-protein food?
  • Several tips on how to include it in a high protein diet.
  • Which pasta brands are high in protein. 

What Is Considered A High Protein Diet?

According to the National Institute of Health, the average daily protein recommendation is 0.8 g per kilogram of bodyweight. Although this might be enough for a lightly active person with adequate body composition, this might not be enough for someone who lifts weight or any other active person.

Therefore, the definition of a high protein diet is 1.6-2.0 g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. In contrast, a very high protein diet is considered to be more than 3 g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

In most cases, this type of diet is essential for an active person. You don’t have to be a professional bodybuilder to add extra protein to your daily life. Actually, when I am dealing with people trying to lose weight, I make sure to have enough protein to maintain their lean muscle mass. It also helps create fullness (that way, even if we are cutting down calories, they aren’t hungry during the day).

Having a high protein diet helps boost your metabolism since protein burns slightly more calories than carbs or fats. In my experience of being a registered dietitian, people don’t eat enough. 

Is Pasta A High Protein Food?

Nutrition Content of One cup of cooked spaghetti (124 g)

Pasta is not a high protein food. It is mainly composed of carbs. However, since you need eggs to create pasta, it does contain a small amount of protein.

One cup of cooked spaghetti (124 g) has the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 196
  • Carbs: 38.3 g
  • Protein: 7.2 g
  • Fats:  1.2 g

As you can see, pasta does provide a small portion of protein (the same amount as one large egg). Nonetheless, it is not enough to be classified as a “high protein food”.

The most common question I get during my consultations is: how much protein does it need to have to be considered a high protein food? 

Typically, I recommend having 10-15 g of protein per serving size. I also consider the carbs and protein ratio. 

Carbs and protein should be very similar or at least close enough. In this case, we have a high carb content with small protein content. 

6 Ways You Can Eat Pasta on A High Protein Diet

High Protein Diet: 6 Ways You Can Eat Pasta

1. Track Your Daily Macros to Fit Pasta 

When you are following a high protein diet, this doesn’t mean that ALL of your food needs to be protein. You still need some carbs and fats during the day. That is the reason that even if pasta is not a high-protein food, you still need it to balance the macros out.

To ensure that you are reaching the adequate macro, make sure you weigh everything. That way, you know how much you will eat pasta and protein to reach the respective macros. The most crucial part is ensuring you get the protein intake.

Pro Tip: Although each protein source is slightly different, I give my clients a quick tip to standardize the portion. Roughly 1 oz of any meat (chicken, fish, red meat) has approximately 7 g of protein. It might vary from protein to protein, but it is an excellent way to plan the overall menu. On the other hand, half a cup (50 g) of pasta has roughly 15 g of carbs. 

2. Combine Pasta With Meat Sauces 

One way to balance the macros in pasta is by adding a meat sauce. If we choose a meat sauce or add protein to the pasta, it is more balanced, and we can have an adequate macro ratio. 

Several sauces are high in protein. For example, the Bolognese sauce is one of the best options you can have when choosing pasta. Another good choice to have is with meatballs, and this adds loads of protein to your dish. Finally, (and my personal favorite) is the checca pasta. It is made with lots of mozzarella cheese.

You really can’t go wrong with any pasta that has any protein in its sauce, whether it’s chicken, shrimp, salmon, or meat.

3. Pick High Protein Pasta Brands 

Legumes are a carb source that is very high in protein. Pasta made with chickpeas, lentils, and quinoa are a good option to add more plant-based protein.

If compared to traditional pasta, 100 g of lentil pasta has the following nutritional value.

  • Calories: 357
  • Carbs: 60.7 g
  • Protein: 25 g
  • Fats:  0.9 g

Legume pasta has five times the amount of protein as traditional pasta. It has 25 g of protein which is a lot. This is the same as 3.5 oz of chicken or beef.

Adding this type of pasta along with more protein on the side creates the ultimate pasta dish that is high in protein and moderate in carbs.

Additionally, one of the benefits of adding legume pasta is that it is gluten-free. For those that have problems with gluten, this is the best option of pasta to have. 

4. Pick Low Carb Pasta Options 

My biggest concern with pasta dishes is that they are too high in carbs. There are several ways that you can modify the macro ratio in pasta dishes.

I always tell my clients to think of pasta as a side dish and not the main dish. That way, you can focus on having a large piece of protein and then the pasta as a side dish. This also allows you to add a salad or veggie to have a complete meal.

Another option to balance the macros is to choose low-carb pasta options. Now you can find zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. These are great options that are low in calories and carbs. This allows you to decrease the carbs, and now you can add more protein to have a more balanced ratio. Also, it adds more veggies that increase the nutritional content of your dish.

Pro Tip: If you don’t want to have an entire plate of zucchini noodles, you can have half and half. Add on your plate half the portion from traditional pasta and the other half from the veggie pasta.

Related Article: Can I Eat Pasta While Cutting? (Yes, Here’s How)

5. Reduce Common Carbs Eaten With Pasta 

You order a nice plate of pasta, and what is the typical side dish? Bread! Now, there is nothing bad with bread. It is a good carb option. However, it adds more carbs to the plate.

Suppose you are trying to have a more balanced plate. The next time you order pasta, and it comes with bread, try to skip it. Instead, order a green salad on the side or an entrée. Ask to add chicken or any other protein to the salad to boost your protein. Another good option is the Caprese salad.

Pro Tip: Sometimes they bring bread at the beginning of the meal and not with the dish. Ask the waiter to skip on the bread. If you see the bread on the table, it is more likely that you will eat it. 

6. Ensure You’re In A Bulking Phase

Finally, the best phase to add pasta is in your bulking phase (when you’re trying to gain muscle). Here you can get a huge calorie load. For those who have trouble adding on calories, it is great food since pasta is very energy-dense.

Those in a bulking phase might have a wider range of carbs intake than those in a cutting phase. Also, since pasta doesn’t have a lot of fiber, you don’t get very full from the portion you might need to fit your macros in a cutting phase.

If you are in a cutting phase and want to add pasta. Make sure to weigh it thoroughly, and you can do the trick of adding half the pasta and half the pasta veggies. 

Want to learn more about eating Pasta for bodybuilding? Check out my article Is Pasta Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?

5 High Protein Pasta Brands To Try

Nowadays, we can find great high-protein pasta options, and this helps you boost your protein intake while having a carb option. Here are the high-protein pasta brands I usually recommend to my clients.

1. Barilla Protein Pasta

Barilla Protein Pasta on a High Protein Diet

Barillla pasta is one of my favorite options. The problem with some kinds of pasta made with legumes is that the texture is changed a little. Barilla still uses wheat as its first ingredient, but it adds chickpea and pea flour.

In 2 oz of product, you can find 10 g of protein. This is the same as having 1.5 oz of meat added to the pasta mix. Another benefit it has is its fiber content. It has 4 g of fiber, which is considered a high fiber content food. Since the portion of pasta might be too small, adding fiber adds fullness.

One of my favorite things is that it uses two types of legumes. Remember that plant-based proteins are not complete proteins. This means they don’t have all the essential amino acids we need to get through our diet. Each plant-based protein has a different amino acid composition. By mixing two types, you can get different amino acids.

However, since it uses wheat flour it means that it is not gluten-free.

Learn more about Barilla Protein Pasta

2. The Only Bean Pasta

The Only Bean Pasta on a High Protein Diet

Another of my favorite brands is The Only Bean Pasta. They have a wide variety of options, from black bean pasta to my favorite edamame pasta.

So why do I love the edamame pasta?  I love the texture and the flavor edamame pasta has, but more importantly, I absolutely love the nutritional composition.

In 2 oz of pasta, you find 25 g of protein. This means that you get 3.5 oz of meat added to your pasta dish. I think this is one of the top choices to consider. Now, if we speak of the other macros, it has 20 g of carbs.  Out of that twenty grams, eleven are of fiber.

For a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, this is the best option to add. It is extremely high in fiber (it provides fullness) and very high in protein.

Additionally, it is organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free.

Learn more about The Only Bean Pasta.

3. Tolerant Organic Pasta

Tolerant Organic Pasta on a High Protein Diet

Tolerant Organic has excellent options that are made with lentils and chickpeas. They are organic and gluten-free.

In 2 oz of pasta, you find 21 g of protein. This is the same as having 3 oz of chicken added to your plate. Additionally, it has 9 g of fiber. The only ingredient they use is lentil flour, which is one of the reasons I love this brand.

However, since it is made with lentil and chickpea flour, it might take longer to cook. It also has a different texture and flavor than traditional pasta.

Learn more about Tolerant Organic Pasta.

4. Banza Pasta

Banza Pasta on a High Protein Diet

One of my favorite things about Banza pasta is the wide variety of pasta options they have. All of them are made with chickpea flour, but they have different styles of pasta. 

They have rotini, penne, ziti, shells, elbows, wheels, and even alphabet. The list of their options is endless.

Regarding its nutritional content, in 3.5 oz of pasta, you find 20 g of protein, which is the same as 3 oz of chicken. It also has a high fiber content of 8 g per serving.

Learn more about Banza Pasta.

5. Ancient Harvest Pasta

Ancient Harvest Pasta on a High Protein Diet

Finally, my other top choice of high-protein pasta is the one from Ancient Harvest. 

They are made with lentil flour—either red or green lentils. It only has two ingredients: lentil flour and quinoa flour. This is one of the reasons I love this product. Quinoa is one of the top plant-based options regarding its amino acid composition.

In 2 oz of pasta, you get 14 g of protein, which is the same as 2 oz of chicken. It has 2 g of fiber, which is a decent amount to have to provide fullness.

It is certified non-GMO and gluten-free.

Learn more about Ancient Harvest Pasta.

Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?

What Else Can You Eat On A High Protein Diet? 

Check out my other articles on high protein diets: 


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.