Does Eating Pasta Make You Fat?

by Suzanne Hiscock
Have you seen the recent study saying pasta can help you lose weight?

I bet a lot of people were scratching their head at that one.  Don’t carbs make you fat?

Or maybe when they saw the headlines, they piled spaghetti high on a plate and ate to their heart’s content, thinking they’d drop a few pounds.  Only to wake up the next day and… well, I’m sure the scale disagreed with them.

The study by seven scientists from the University of Toronto -- and published in the BMJ Open --  wanted to know whether pasta really did contribute to the obesity epidemic as most people thought.  Or was pasta getting a bad rap?

The researchers gathered together data from over 30 randomised trials with a total of 2,448 participants (a type of study called a meta-analysis).  The 30+ trials studied the effects of pasta alone or as part of a low GI eating habit.

So, this wasn’t some 6-person study conducted by the Carbs Are Not Evil Foundation.  This was a lot of data from studies that lasted longer than three weeks.

The study’s conclusion:  Pasta on its own does not make you gain weight.  Pasta has been getting a bad rap over the years.​

Wait. Aren’t All Carbs Evil and Make You Fat?

Nope. Carbs aren’t evil. They’re not making you “fat."

It’s the overeating of carbs -- or fat or protein -- in relation to how your body uses that energy that’s causing the weight gain.

See: What Percentage of Carbs, Protein and Fat Should You Eat?

A serving of pasta is roughly 1/2 cup. I think it’s fair to say that most people don’t eat a half cup of pasta at a time.  It’s usually double, triple or even quadruple that amount.

A half cup of pasta contains about 120 calories.  So, this means most people are eating anywhere from 240 calories to to 480 calories of pasta in one sitting.

And that’s just plain pasta.  We’re not even counting calories from added sauce and cheese.   See how it all adds up?

See:  Six Serving Sizes You Need to Get Right To Lose Weight

It’s Still All About Portion Control

Don’t be afraid of carbs, especially in the form of pasta.

If you love pasta, eat it.  Just eat in moderation and in the right portions.

You can easily estimate a serving of pasta to be a cupped hand of pasta.  And no, that's not all the way up to your fingertips and flowing down your palm!  Not sure what that looks like?  Download my Hand Portion Guide to get an idea.

Download:  Hand Portion Guide

How Do You Stop Overeating Pasta?

When I was a kid, I was known as the “spaghetti monster.”  I’d eat a full plate, ask for seconds and then eat my family’s leftovers.

Even as an adult, I ate a lot of pasta.  Big portions.  Huge portions.

While I don’t usually advocate not eating something, in this case, that’s just what I did.  I stopped eating pasta for two weeks.

Telling myself it was for a short period of time helped a lot. I knew I wasn’t giving up pasta forever.

See: One Simple Trick for Beating A Bad Habit For Life

Wonderful things happened during those two weeks:  I felt less bloaty.  There wasn’t any “guilt” from overeating spaghetti.  And?  I totally broke the pasta habit! I was no longer mindlessly eating pasta.

The best part? By combining the habits of eating slowly and eat to 80% full, and eating pasta only once in a while (instead of every day), I thoroughly enjoy my pasta dishes now.

Another way to stop overeating is get out the measuring cups.  Measure out a serving (or two) of pasta.  It might seem small at first, especially if you’re used to eating a plate of pasta.

But take your time to eat it and you’ll enjoy it even more.

Bottom line, it’s not the pasta itself that makes you gain weight.  It's the amount of pasta. And that goes for any food you eat.

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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN L2 Certified Master Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 20 years, she's been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website,

And she’s really TRULY SORRY ABOUT THAT. You see, she didn’t realize she was contributing to diet culture; she just wanted to help people feel better. But losing weight isn’t the way to do it. She’s on a mission to change all that with an anti-diet approach. So, pardon the dust on the floor as the website gets revamped.