I'm looking to host a big dinner and want to make it as diabetic-friendly as possible. I'm also looking to not make special diabetic-friendly dishes that only 1 person gets. I want to make meals that everyone can have.

I'm aware that I need to keep the sugar in the cabinet and try to reduce the starchy foods I make to a minimum, but are there other ingredients to avoid?

That said, I'm specifically in need of a substitute for pasta that will go well with marinara sauce. It would be a plus if the substitute was good with alfredo sauce. I grew up in a BIG Italian family so the idea of a meal without pasta is almost heresy. With this in mind I'm not very familiar with more diabetic-friendly options that keep sugars and carbohydrates low.

I also want to serve mashed potatoes but wounder if there are other veggies I can mash to come up with something like mash potatoes but less starchy considering the diabetic facts?

Are there any techniques commonly used to make dishes with a lower hypoglycemic index? I've seen things like a bed of veggies instead of pasta but I'm not sure if everyone would like that.


  • We don't do nutritional or medical advise. We cannot do menu selections as that is too broad a topic. You might wish to come to Seasoned Advice Chat to get ideas under more informal conditions.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 17:59
  • 5
    For a big dinner, and there is only 1 person with diet issues, I would not change much; diabetics can eat pretty much everything; let that person set his/her own limits.
    – Max
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 17:59
  • @SAJ14SAJ I'm not looking for nutritional or medical advise. Let me see if I can revise the question to be more specific.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 18:19
  • 3
    This is still pretty broad... there's a ton of low-carb food out there that tastes great, so the list of things that can replace a starchy dish in your menu is really long, limited more by your preferences than anything else. It's like asking "how do I make vegetarian food?"
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 0:00
  • @Jefromi I see your point but I did ask for specific substitutions to 2 things I make all the time. It could be argued that anytime you ask for a substitution you could get a very big list.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 0:13

6 Answers 6


You can buy prepackaged low-carb pasta (or gluten free pasta) if you want to make a quick dish. For a healthier option, you can make zucchini noodles. All you need for this is a lot of zucchini and a mandolin or spiral slicer. "Zoodles" are so easy to make and delicious with pasta sauce and fresh cheese! I make these a lot and oftentimes add caramelized onions and red peppers for more flavor. They're always a big hit with my family. An easy recipe can be found here on the nomnompaleo website.

Besides pasta, there's tons of other low-carb, sugar-free dishes you can make for yourself or even large groups. The best way I know of finding these recipes is to google what I want (ie: 'pizza' or 'meatballs') and add any dietary restrictions to the search (ie: 'low carb pizza' or 'low carb meatballs'). This will bring up all sorts of recipes for you to look over and choose from. Nutritional info & serving sizes are usually included.

EDIT: About the mashed potatoes, there's a lot of low carb recipes that call for cauliflower. I'm not a fan of those recipes, and use boiled jicama (mexican potatoes) instead. They don't get as soft as potatoes, but when you take them out and pop them in a food processor with some heavy cream, salt, and garlic, they are definitely the closest things to real mashed potatoes that you can get. 1 cup of boiled jicama has about 5 grams of net carbs, so these are perfect for low carbers & diabetics alike.

  • 1
    I've never heard jicama called "mexican potatoes" - isn't it like 90% water? I guess that's how you get the carbs down, but it seems like it'd make a really wet mash.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 7:04
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    Spaghetti squash is even easier than zucchini noodles, but often makes for a sloppy wet recipe.
    – arp
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 1:45

I think the best solution is to avoid pre-mixing or pre-saucing anything. If you bring out a big bowl of pasta tossed (or topped) with sauce, the only way to get sauce is to eat pasta. Imagine instead you bring out:

  • a big bowl of pasta, perhaps tossed with a little oil to keep it from sticking
  • a bowl of brown rice
  • marinara sauce
  • alfredo sauce
  • olive-oil-grilled veggies (cauliflower, carrots, eggplant...)
  • grilled lean meat (chicken breast?)
  • mashed potatoes
  • a nice loaf of bread
  • a big green salad

Some people can have pasta and sauce. Some people can have meat and sauce. Some people can declare marinara sauce to be as close to a vegetable as they want, while others can eat veggies with rice or pasta and ignore the meat. If your alfredo is vegetarian and your marinara is vegan, you're covering a great deal of ground - diabetic, non-gluten, vegetarian, vegan - with one feast.

Personally I would avoid gluten-free pasta, or any kind of substitutions that are supposed to resemble something else. In a big dinner, you want to make it easy for people to know whether to avoid something or eat it. You also don't want people saying things like "ew, no, this is the fake pasta, please pass me the good stuff!" and making the person with a special diet feel bad.

  • 1
    Also: Regarding anything with rice, you can take advantage of the fact that different rice varieties vary strongly in GI. Just make sure that you buy from reputable brands where you can be sure they do not fraudulently mislabel it (there is a lot of fake basmati around, sadly). Commented May 31, 2016 at 11:39

I agree with the above. I'm diabetic and cook normal meals for guests. I generally stay away from white sugar, flour, and rice. You can make nearly anything and avoid those three things. I'm sure your diabetic guest knows how to limit his/her carbs.

  • Since the OP has revised the question to make it clear he's looking for direct replacements for pasta and mashed potatoes... are you trying to say he should just cook those things and let his guest limit their carbs properly? (Pasta is pretty much made of flour, so I kind of doubt it...)
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 0:47

Spaghetti squash for the pasta.... see Replacement for pasta that is natural and fairly low carb

For mashed potatoes, some people like mashed cauliflower. You can find many recipes by googling ,


wounder if there are other veggies I can mash to come up with something like mash potatoes but less starchy

No, there isn't. Mashed potatoes don't have much aroma, and if they did, no substitute would have a potato-like aroma. What makes mashed potatoes be that way is the fact that they are made up with starch. For a really good mahsed potato dish, you even have to choose potatoes with the right type of starch.

There are tons of vegetables you can cook and mash. But what will make the result similar to mashed potatoes will be the starch content. Whatever you find that is mashed-potato-like will also be high in starch. Whatever you find which is low in starch will also be pretty far from mashed potatoes.

Are there any techniques commonly used to make dishes with a lower hypoglycemic index?

There are no magic ones which turn low-glycemic-index food taste like high-glycemic index food. The only technique is to 1) choose food which is low in carbohydrates and 2) process the food as little as possible. For example, a whole apple will have a much lower glycemic index than apple mousse, and apple moussee will be lower than apple juice. If you think that your guests will only enjoy foods high in processed carbohydrates, there is no way to lower the glycemic index of these foods.

You can try looking for substitutions which roughly mimic the high starch food, such as "spaghetti" made from vegetable juice thickened with hydrocolloids. They can have a similar appearance, but will lack both the texture and the physiological response (e.g. a feeling of fullness) common to high-starch foods.

  • 2
    I've heard of school cafeterias using a mix of cauliflour + potatoes to make their mashed potatoes a bit 'healthier'. Part of the trick is adding garlic & herbs, and some fat (butter, oil, cheese, etc.) so people don't pay as much attention to the base.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 14:54

I think there may be a mistaken assumption about the glycemic index of the pasta dish and mashed potatoes. If you were eating pure pasta with nothing else or mashed potatoes made of mashed potatoes and nothing else than they would be high gyclemic index foods.

However, fat reduces the glycemic index of food a lot (so does fiber). Alfredo sauce has a lot of fat, as do mashed potatoes as commonly made with plenty of butter beaten in. Therefore the glycemic index of these foods may not be anywhere near as high as you think and a substitution in this case may be completely unnecessary.

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