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

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You may have heard that pasta is fattening and that you should cut it out when you are trying to lose weight or cut body fat for physique or performance goals. 

So, can you eat pasta while cutting? Yes, you can eat pasta while cutting, especially if it’s a food you enjoy. As long as you balance your caloric intake for the day, you will still meet your goals. The best pasta for cutting is the konjac-based Miracle Noodle Angel Hair Pasta Shirataki Noodles, which has 5 calories and 3g of carbs per serving with 2g of fiber.

Not all pastas have the same nutritional profile, and some are more suitable for cutting goals than others. 

In order for you to include pasta in a cutting phase, I’ll share some tips below on how to do it effectively, including when and how much pasta to eat and how to keep track of your pasta intake. 

I’ll also give you my top 5 choices for pasta that is best for cutting.

Pasta & Weight Loss: What People Are Saying

There are many comments on the internet about whether pasta is fattening and how, or if, to include it while trying to lose weight or body fat:

  • “Can I eat pasta while cutting? Should I opt for whole grains or is normal pasta okay?” (BodyBuilding.com)
  • “Pasta on a cut…feel bloated and gross.” (REDDIT)
  • “Is pasta bad for a diet when trying to get lean?” (QUORA)
  • “Is pasta fattening and bad for an effective diet?” (QUORA)

The good news is that you can eat pasta while cutting, and it is not bad for your diet if you are mindful of portion sizes. I’ll show you how to include it in your diet while cutting below.

Can I Eat Pasta & Still Lose Weight?

Yes, you can eat pasta and still lose weight. Losing weight is a matter of energy balance. When your energy intake from the foods you eat is less than your energy output, you will lose weight, even when some of your calories come from pasta.

In order to incorporate pasta in your diet, you need to have some information about its nutritional content. 

Calories & Macronutrients in Different Types of Pasta

The calories in a serving of pasta vary widely depending on what the pasta is made from.

The different types of pasta include:

  • Traditional white wheat pasta, made from durum semolina (the flour ground from a type of wheat called durum wheat)
  • Whole wheat pasta, which is made from whole wheat flour rather than refined flour
  • Pastas made from starches that are primarily soluble fiber, which are called “non-nutritive” because they do not supply energy (calories). The konjac plant, a Japanese root vegetable, is a common source of these noodles, along with starch from yams and other starchy root vegetables.

Here is a handy comparison table for the information on nutritional content of pasta:

White Pasta
(3oz / 85g, dry weight before cooking)
Whole Wheat Pasta
(3oz / 85g, dry weight before cooking)
Legume-based Pasta
(3oz / 85g, dry weight before cooking)
Konjac-based Pasta
(3oz / 85g, cooking not required – check package label for accurate serving size)
Calories3003103000-5
Carbs63g62g52g3g
Fiber3g8g9g2g
Protein12g12g20g0g
Fat1.5g1.5g3g0g

Konjac-based pasta and other similar products are very low in calories and fiber, which makes them ideal for cutting but not a good source of energy pre- or post-workout.

Most of the calories in other forms of pasta come from carbohydrates, and all forms of pasta on their own are naturally low in fat. This makes them good choices for quickly fueling up before a workout or for replenishing stored carbohydrates (glycogen) after a workout.

Since fiber makes foods slower to digest, pasta consumed pre- or post-workout should be lower in fiber, such as traditional white pasta. 

However, this type of pasta won’t keep you feeling full for very long, and satiety is important while cutting. When you feel full, it can be easier to manage hunger and cravings that can come from the calorie deficit that is needed to lose weight.

How Different Toppings Affect the Calorie Count of Pasta

Next, we need to consider that pasta is rarely served plain, and rich toppings such as butter, oil, cream, and meat sauces can dramatically increase the calorie and fat content of a pasta dish (e.g. 1 cup of meat sauce can add 320 calories and 20g of fat). The overall calorie content of the dish has to be considered.

Now that you know the nutrition facts of different types of pasta and that you need to consider toppings when figuring out how many calories pasta has, I will cover some details on how to incorporate pasta in your diet while cutting.

How Do I Incorporate Pasta In My Diet While Cutting?

How do I incorporate pasta in my diet while cutting

Follow these three easy steps to fit pasta into your macros. If you already have your macros for cutting, skip to Step 3.

MacroFactor is a great app to use for tracking your daily intake. Tracking your daily intake will make it easier for you to meet your goals.

Get a free two-week trial of MacroFactor using code FEASTGOOD when you sign up.

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Step 1: Determine your calories for cutting

Use an online calorie calculator like this one to estimate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Your TDEE is how many calories you need to maintain your weight. 

Input your age, gender, height, current weight, and activity level and press Calculate. The “Maintain weight” result is your current estimated TDEE. 

For example, the TDEE for a female who is 43 years old, weighs 160lbs, is 5’4” tall, and exercises moderately 4-5 times per week is 2,000 calories per day.

Start with a 10% reduction in calories (e.g. 200 calories in this example, for a total daily intake of 1,800 calories). You can adjust if needed if you’re eating below your TDEE and still not losing weight after 2-3 weeks.

Step 2: Determine your macros

You can now determine your macronutrient split between protein, carbohydrates, and fats to add up to your total calories.

A general guideline for athletes is to consume 1.2 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. In the case of desired weight loss, this can be based on goal body weight as opposed to current body weight. 

Protein ideally can provide 25-35% of your total daily calories. For the example above, this could be 1,800 x 30% = 540 calories. Each gram of protein supplies 4 calories, so this is 135g of protein.

An active person would look to have ~40% of calories coming from carbohydrates. For the example above, this would be 1,800 x 40% = 720 calories. Each gram of carbohydrate supplies 4 calories, so this is 180g of carbs.

The remaining 540 calories would be from fat. Fat provides 9 calories per gram, so this is 60g of fat per day.

Step 3: Plan for pasta in your macros

If wheat-based pasta was the only carbohydrate source for the day, this would mean approximately three, 3oz (85g) servings for a total of 186g of carbs along with 36g of protein, based on the example above. 

If legume-based pasta was used instead, the number of servings would increase to three and a half, and protein would increase to 60g. The carbs would be about the same.

If non-nutritive pasta was used, the number of servings in theory would be 60, but that would provide 120g of fiber, which would be way beyond the recommended guidelines of 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men. This could result in severe digestive distress and absorption problems (inability to absorb certain micronutrients).

Of course, pasta shouldn’t be the only carbohydrate source for the day. It is important to include a variety of sources of carbs, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to provide a range of micronutrients for optimal health and performance.

You can easily plan to eat at least one, 3oz serving of pasta per day during a cutting phase. I recommend no more than three servings of non-nutritive pasta for women and four servings for men due to the digestive impacts of such a concentrated source of fiber.

Looking for a full 1800 calorie meal plan? Check out 1800 Calorie Bodybuilding Meal Plan & Diet (Printable).

What To Eat With Pasta While Cutting

Pasta is primarily a source of carbohydrates. In order to create an overall balanced meal, serve pasta with a lean protein like skinless chicken breasts, some non-starchy carbohydrates such as spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, and a healthful fat source such as ½ tbsp of olive oil

Adding 4 ounces of skinless chicken breast, two large handfuls of spinach, a medium tomato, a handful of white mushrooms and ½ tbsp of olive oil would add approximately 240 calories with 11g of carbs, 28g of protein, and 10g of fat. 

This is only three-quarters of the 320 calories from 1 cup of meat sauce from the example I provided earlier, yet it is more food in terms of volume and provides more fiber and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients) from the vegetables. 

You can see that this meal would be bursting with beautiful color and delicious flavors. It would be much more satisfying and filling. You can, of course, choose your own favorite vegetables and lean protein sources, and choose the amounts that work best for your goals.

Tips For Pasta At Restaurants

Pasta is often viewed as high-calorie and fattening when really it is because of the toppings on the pasta.

The ½ tbsp of olive oil recommended above adds 60 calories and 7g of fat. Restaurants usually add much more than ½ tbsp of olive oil for each serving of pasta.

The meat sauce used at restaurants is generally not made with lean ground beef, and the fat from the beef is not drained off while cooking but simply included in the sauce. When chicken and seafood are served with pasta, they are often served in a cream sauce that is high in fat.

Whenever possible, order pasta dishes that have a tomato-based sauce such as a marinara. Look for lean protein options such as chicken or white fish

You can also ask for the sauce to be served on the side so you can choose how much or how little you would like to add. If you get plain noodles, ask for them to be served “dry” with no added oils or butter. You can add these to the dish yourself once it’s served so you can control how much is added.

Pasta servings at restaurants are also usually several multiples of a standard 3oz (85g) serving. Unless you bring a food scale to the restaurant with you, it can be difficult to eyeball a serving size.

To help with this, I highly recommend that you get in the habit of weighing servings of dry pasta before cooking when you make it at home using a food scale. If you’re cooking for your family, cook your portion in a separate pot so you can see what a serving of cooked pasta looks like.

Once you’re confident in your abilities to eyeball pasta servings when eating out, you can ask for a takeout container when your meal is served and immediately pack up however much pasta you don’t want to eat.

Key takeaways for eating pasta at restaurants:

  • Choose a dish with a lean protein, e.g. chicken instead of beef
  • Choose a tomato-based sauce instead of a cream sauce, and/or ask for sauce to be served on the side
  • Ask for plain noodles to be served dry (no added oil or butter; you can add your own at the table)
  • Be aware of a standard serving size, and leave the rest or get a takeout container

When To Eat Pasta While Cutting 

As a low-fat carbohydrate source, pasta is a great choice for energy in a pre-workout meal and for replenishment in a post-workout meal. Traditional white pasta is the best choice at these times because it has less fiber to slow down digestion. 

Since pasta only provides a moderate amount of protein, pair it with a lean protein source post-workout to assist with muscle rebuilding (muscle protein synthesis). 

Avoid any added fat in the pre-training window, and keep fats low post-workout (<20g). 

Away from the training window, opt for legume-based or whole wheat pastas for their higher fiber content. 

Legume-based pasta is also higher in protein, so it can be a great choice for someone struggling to meet their protein requirements for the day.

Non-nutritive pasta can be a great part of a lower-calorie meal or snack to help with a calorie deficit while cutting. Its water and fiber content provide bulk to help with feelings of fullness and to reduce appetite. 

It can also be combined with a smaller serving (1-2oz) of regular pasta to provide the same amount of food but for fewer calories. This is another helpful strategy when hunger is making it hard to stick to a calorie deficit.

Reasons Not To Eat Pasta While Cutting

Reasons not to eat pasta while cutting

There are a few important reasons why pasta should be off-limits during a cutting phase:

Gluten Intolerances That Lead to Health Problems

Gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, and gluten intolerances are increasingly common. Even without a full-blown gluten allergy or being diagnosed with Celiac disease, some people can experience unpleasant symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, and asthma-like symptoms after consuming gluten. 

If eating wheat-based pasta causes these symptoms for you, it is wise not to eat it, or to choose gluten-free alternatives such as legume-based pasta or non-nutritive pasta.

Final Stages of a Competitive Bodybuilding Cut 

During the final prep weeks leading up to a competitive bodybuilding stage show, your coach may reduce carbs to such a low level that you can no longer realistically include pasta in your daily macros without unreasonably compromising the rest of your intake. This could even include non-nutritive pasta, if the fiber content causes bloating. 

This is extreme and should be a brief, temporary measure that ends after the show. Stage prep is not healthy or sustainable and should not be a long-term way of eating. 

Paleo Diet or Keto Diet

The Paleo diet eliminates ALL grains and legumes. This means any grain- or legume-based pasta is not suitable for the Paleo Diet. However, shirataki noodles made from konjac may be considered acceptable.

Similarly, grain- and legume-based pastas are too high in carbohydrates for the keto diet. Shirataki noodles and other extremely low-carb pasta products are suitable for keto.

It is worth mentioning that our team of nutrition coaches and Registered Dieticians at FeastGood does not generally recommend eating approaches/diets that restrict or remove entire categories of food, except in special, medically-necessary circumstances.

If you’d like a free one-on-one consultation with one of our coaches, check out our coaching services page.  

5 Best Pastas For Cutting

Now that you know that you can eat pasta while cutting, which pasta should you choose? Below are my top five recommendations.

1. Miracle Noodle Angel Hair Pasta Shirataki Noodles – Best Pasta Overall for Cutting

Miracle Noodle is one of the longest-standing brands of shirataki noodles (noodles made from the starchy root of the konjac plant). With their negligible calorie content, they are a natural choice for cutting.

Nutritional content for one, 3oz (85g) serving:

  • Calories: 5
  • Carbs: 3g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 0g 
  • Fat: 0g

The angel hair style noodles are an excellent substitution for traditional “skinny” noodles. I love using them in Asian-themed stir fries with tofu or chicken, bok choy, and my favorite stir fry sauce. 

To use these noodles, open the package and rinse the noodles thoroughly under cold water in a colander. They tend to absorb the flavor of whatever they are cooked with quite well, so an option is to marinate them in your desired cooking sauce before adding them to the pan.

They do not need to be cooked, simply warmed, so add them after your other ingredients have cooked.

2. Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles – Best Kelp-Based Pasta For Cutting

Kelp is a form of seaweed that is rich in micronutrients including iodine, and its cultivation has positive environmental impacts. It also happens to be delicious and low in calories.

Nutritional content for one, 4oz (113g) serving:

  • Calories: 6
  • Carbs: 3g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 0g 
  • Fat: 0g

I personally like using kelp noodles as a replacement for glass noodles such as the ones used in the Korean dish japchae

Similar to shirataki noodles, kelp noodles really soak up the flavors of whatever they are cooked with and add a mildly salty taste of the sea. I’m looking forward to making these Spicy Tahini Kelp Noodles.

To use these noodles, open the package and rinse the noodles thoroughly under cold water in a colander. Since they will soak up flavors, you can marinate them in your desired cooking sauce before adding them to the pan.

They do not need to be cooked, simply warmed, so add them after your other ingredients have cooked.

3. Chickapea Gluten Free Organic Spirals – Best Legume-Based Pasta For Cutting

There are several different brands of legume-based pasta out there now, and I’ve made my family try several of them. Our top choice for a legume-based pasta that looks and tastes like traditional pasta is the Chickapea brand.

Nutritional content for one, 3oz (85g) serving (dry weight before cooking):

  • Calories: 300
  • Carbs: 52g 
  • Fiber: 9g
  • Protein: 20g 
  • Fat: 3g

My favorite pasta “shape” from Chickapea is the spiral for its ability to pick up extra bits of tomato sauce and toppings between the edges of the spiral versus sliding off a straight noodle shape like penne or spaghetti.

I make a meat sauce using extra lean ground turkey and organic primavera pasta sauce (look for a brand with no-added sugar to keep the overall carb content of your dish low).

To use these noodles, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil first, and then add the pasta. Cooking time tends to be about half the time of regular pasta noodles, so 4-5 minutes. Drain, rinse, and serve.

4. Catelli Whole Grains Linguine – Best Whole Wheat Pasta For Cutting

The Catelli brand was founded in 1867 and the company offers all different kinds of pasta, including gluten-free and fiber-enriched options. I love the broader linguine noodles and I make a lightened up fettuccine alfredo using this vegan cauliflower alfredo sauce.

Nutritional content for one, 3oz (85g) serving (dry weight before cooking):

  • Calories: 300
  • Carbs: 59g 
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 12g 
  • Fat: 2g

To use these noodles, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil first, and then add the pasta. Cooking time to reach “al dente” (firm to the tooth) pasta is 8-10 minutes. Drain, rinse and serve.

5. Catelli Smart Veggie Spaghetti – Best White Pasta For Cutting

catelli smart veggie spaghetti

Catelli appears again to close out my list of recommendations. The Smart® pasta line is white pasta with added fiber, and the Smart Veggie™ aspect uses dehydrated vegetables (carrot and cauliflower) equivalent to half a serving of vegetables. 

Nutritional content for one, 3oz (85g) serving (dry weight before cooking):

  • Calories: 310
  • Carbs: 63g 
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 11g 
  • Fat: 1.5g

To me, spaghetti is the most “familiar” noodle from my childhood, so this pick also wins points for being family-friendly. 

To use these noodles, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil first, and then add the pasta. Cooking time to reach “al dente” (firm to the tooth) pasta is 8-10 minutes. Drain, rinse and serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Avoid Pasta To Lose Belly Fat?

No, you do not need to avoid pasta to lose belly fat. It is the overall calorie intake that matters for fat loss, not the specific type of food. Regardless of foods you eat or exercises you do, you cannot target a specific location on your body for fat loss.

How Much Pasta Can You Eat Per Day & Still Lose Weight?

As long as your total calorie intake for the day is less than your energy expenditure, you will lose weight. Along with other sources of carbs, protein, and fat, pasta should be just one part of an overall balanced day. I recommend a maximum of 2-6 oz (56-170g) of pasta per day while cutting.

Is Whole Wheat or White Pasta Better When Cutting?

Whole wheat pasta is better when cutting because its higher fiber content will keep you feeling full for longer. A calorie deficit can be easier to manage when you don’t feel hungry all of the time.

How Much Pasta To Eat While Cutting 

The recommended serving size of pasta is 3 oz (85g). Depending on your total carbohydrate macros for the day and your other sources of carbs, a total of 1-2 servings of pasta per day is appropriate for cutting. 

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

Eating Other Foods While Cutting


About The Author

Lauren Graham
LAUREN GRAHAM

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.