- Type 2 Diabetes: How Is It Treated?
- Diabetes Treatment Basics
- Eat a Healthy Diet and Follow a Meal Plan
- Get Regular Exercise
- Take Medicines as Prescribed
- Check Blood Sugar Levels
- Putting It All Together
- Best Diets for Type 2 Diabetes
- 6 Ways to Control Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes Diet: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid, Keto, and More
- Does this eating plan include a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods?
- Does it include heart-healthy fats?
- Is it low in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fats, and added sugars?
- Will it help me practice portion control?
- Can I stick with this eating plan for the long term?
- Tips for Managing High Blood Sugar with a Type 2 Diabetes Diet
- Diabetes Diet: The Best and Worst Foods for Diabetics
- The Best and Worst Type 2 Diabetes Choices by Food Group
- What Foods High in Protein Are Good for Type 2 Diabetes?
- What Are the Best Grains for Type 2 Diabetes?
- Which Types of Dairy Can People With Diabetes Eat?
- What Vegetables Are Good for People With Diabetes and Which Aren’t?
- What Fruits Are Good for Diabetes and Which Should You Avoid?
- What Sources of Fat Are Good and Bad for Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes: How Is It Treated?
People with type 2 diabetes need to follow a treatment plan. Also called a diabetes management plan, it helps them manage their diabetes and stay healthy and active. Treatment plans are a person's individual health needs and the suggestions of the diabetes health care team.
Diabetes Treatment Basics
The first thing to understand when it comes to treating diabetes is your blood glucose level, which is just what it sounds — the amount of glucose in the blood.
Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat and also is formed and stored inside the body. It's the main source of energy for the cells of the body, and is carried to them through the blood.
Glucose gets into the cells with the help of the hormone insulin.
So how do blood glucose levels relate to type 2 diabetes? People with type 2 diabetes don't respond normally to insulin anymore, so glucose stays in the bloodstream and doesn't get into the cells. This causes blood glucose levels to go too high.
High blood sugar levels can make teens with type 2 diabetes feel sick, so their treatment plan involves keeping their blood sugar levels within a healthy range while making sure they grow and develop normally. To do that, they need to:
- eat a healthy, balanced diet and follow a meal plan
- get regular exercise
- take medicines as prescribed
- check blood sugar levels regularly
The good news is that sticking to the plan can help people feel healthy and avoid diabetes problems later.
Eat a Healthy Diet and Follow a Meal Plan
Eating right and exercising more often is good for everyone. But it's especially important for people with type 2 diabetes.
When people put on too much body fat, it's because they're eating more calories than they use each day. The body stores that extra energy in fat cells.
Over time, gaining pounds of extra fat can lead to obesity and diseases related to obesity, type 2 diabetes.
Getting to a healthy weight — even losing just a few pounds of extra body fat — goes a long way in helping to keep blood sugar levels under control. How do you do it? Eating healthy foods is one thing people with type 2 diabetes can do. They also have to pay attention to the amount of carbohydrates (or carbs) and calories in the foods they eat.
Eating certain foods will cause blood sugar levels to go up more than others, which can make controlling blood sugar more difficult for people with diabetes unless insulin and other diabetes medicines are taken at the proper times and doses.
The three major nutrients in food are carbs, proteins, and fats. Foods that cause blood sugar levels to go up contain carbohydrates. Foods that contain mostly protein and/or fat don't affect blood sugar levels as much as foods with carbs. But they still contain calories and can cause people to gain too much body fat if they eat too much of them.
For people with type 2 diabetes (and everyone else, too), it's best to not eat too many sugary treats or fast foods. They're not really healthy food choices, and they can make them gain too much body fat and get cavities. They also might need to eat smaller amounts of food.
A balanced, healthy diet doesn't mean giving up your favorite foods or going on a starvation diet. But you'll probably have to limit junk food and sweets and eat smaller portions of foods if you're overweight.
To help you eat right, you and your diabetes health care team will create a written diabetes meal plan. Meal plans usually consist of guidelines for preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner with scheduled between-meal snacks.
The diabetes meal plan won't tell you specific foods to eat, but it will guide you in selecting choices from the basic food groups and help you eat nutritious, balanced meals. Each meal and snack in the plan contains a certain amount of carbs, which works with the types and amount of diabetes medicines you take.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise is good for everyone, including people with diabetes. It's also an important part of diabetes treatment because exercise can improve your body's response to insulin, help you lose extra body fat, and get your heart and lungs in good shape.
You might be wondering about how exercise will affect your diabetes, but you shouldn't use diabetes as an excuse not to get moving. Most types of exercise are great for people with type 2 diabetes — from walking the dog or riding a bike to playing team sports. Make it your goal to exercise every day to get the most benefits.
You can talk to your diabetes health care team about making any necessary meal or medication adjustments when you exercise.
They'll offer specific suggestions to help you get ready for exercise or join a sport and give you written instructions to help you respond to any diabetes problems that may happen during exercise, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Take Medicines as Prescribed
Several medicines are available for people with type 2 diabetes. They work in different ways to help the body make or respond to insulin better.
Sometimes pills for diabetes — even when combined with diet and exercise — aren't enough to keep blood sugar levels under control. Some people with type 2 diabetes also have to take insulin.
The only way to get insulin into the body now is by injection with a needle or with an insulin pump.
If someone tried to take insulin as a pill, the acids and digestive juices in the stomach and intestines would break down the medicine, and it wouldn't work.
Getting insulin injections today is nearly painless, thanks to smaller needles. Insulin pumps (which deliver insulin through a small tube placed just under the skin) cut down on the number of injections needed.
Different kinds of insulin are used for different purposes. The types of insulin you use and how you take it each day will depend on what's best for you and your daily schedule.
If you take an insulin shot but forget to eat, your blood sugar levels can get too low. So try to avoid skipping meals or snacks. If your parents remind you to eat when you take your insulin, it's probably because they worry about you, not because they're trying to nag you!
Your diabetes health care team will teach you how and when to give yourself insulin.
Check Blood Sugar Levels
Checking your blood sugar levels is another part of your diabetes treatment plan. It lets you know how well the other parts of your treatment plan are working, and it's the only way to know how you are doing with your diabetes control on a daily basis.
Your care team may recommend that you use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A CGM is a wearable device that can measure blood sugar every few minutes around the clock.
It's measured by a thread- sensor inserted under the skin and secured in place.
The more frequent CGM blood sugar readings can help you and the care team do an even better job of troubleshooting and adjusting your insulin doses and diabetes management plan to improve blood sugar control.
A blood glucose meter or CGM tells you what your blood sugar level is at the moment. Your doctor may also send you for another type of blood sugar test called a hemoglobin A1c test (HbA1c for short). It lets you and your care team know how your blood sugar levels have been for the few months before the test.
Putting It All Together
Treating and managing diabetes can seem complicated at times. But your diabetes health care team is there for you. Your diabetes management plan should be easy to understand, detailed, and written down for you so that you can refer to it whenever you need to.
The good news about type 2 diabetes is that if you do the diabetes treatment steps listed above, your blood sugar levels can return to a healthier range. For some people with type 2 diabetes, that can mean not even needing to take diabetes medicines anymore.
You also might hear about alternative treatments for diabetes, such as herbal remedies and vitamin or mineral supplements.
These practices can be risky, especially when people stop following the treatment plan their doctor has given them. So get the facts by talking to your diabetes health care team.
They keep track of the latest research developments, and will introduce new products as they become available.
Reviewed by: Shara R. Bialo, MD
Date reviewed: August 2018
Best Diets for Type 2 Diabetes
From the WebMD Archives
Looking to lose weight and get your blood sugar under control? You have a lot of programs to choose from.
“The more weight you lose, the more you'll improve your levels. But how you do it is largely up to you,” says Michael Dansinger, MD, director of the Diabetes Reversal Program at Tufts Medical Center and nutrition doctor for NBC's The Biggest Loser.
Still, some options are healthier and safer than others, so talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian before you get started. In the meantime, read up on some of the most popular plans.
Best known for keeping high blood pressure in check, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is also an excellent choice for people with diabetes.
“It's a plant-focused diet that's rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, as well as low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats,” says Sonya Angelone, RD, a consulting nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It's easy to follow, healthy for the whole family, and great for weight loss.”
The fact that it's been proven to lower blood pressure is a major bonus, adds Toby Smithson, RD, a certified diabetes educator and founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com. “Nearly two three people with diabetes also have hypertension,” she says.
Lots of fresh, seasonal food, plenty of produce, heart-healthy olive oil, and a little wine make the Mediterranean Diet an enjoyable choice for people with diabetes, says Constance Brown-Riggs, RD, a certified diabetes educator and author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes.
This style of eating can help with blood sugar control, as well as heart disease risk, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Studies show that people are more ly to stick to this plan, “so it may help you avoid yo-yo dieting,” Smithson says.
If you want to follow the Mediterranean Diet, Smithson suggests working with a dietitian. “Fifty percent of the foods in this diet come from the carbohydrate group. Even though they're healthy carbs, they need to be accounted for throughout the day.”
Being a part-time vegan (“VB6” stands for “vegan before 6 p.m.”) is the secret to this plan's success. “It's one of my favorites,” says Jaclyn London, RD, senior dietitian at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
“You're choosing more plant-based foods, so you automatically wind up eating more fiber and less saturated fat and trans fat,” she says. “It's just a generally healthy way of eating.”
The VB6 Diet also emphasizes being careful about where the small amounts of meat, fish, and dairy you eat are coming from. “It's designed to restrict you so you make better choices when you do indulge,” London says. “You're saving up for that small piece of local, organic, grass-fed beef.”
On this plan, you eat lots of water-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, and broth-based soups. Whole grains are also a staple because they're high in fiber, which will satisfy you and help keep blood sugar levels stable.
“I stand by the Volumetrics Diet because it's nutritious and very filling,” London says.
You'll eat a specific percentage of carbohydrates, protein, and fat on this plan, which is the hit TV show.
The Biggest Loser Diet is healthy for people with diabetes and it's something you can stick with, because no food groups are entirely off-limits, Smithson says.
The plan limits refined carbs and other high-carb foods, and that may be a good thing for people with diabetes, Brown-Riggs says. “It seems a diet that's balanced, and it follows the basic guidelines for people with diabetes,” she says.
It's not a “diet” in the traditional sense. The main purpose isn't weight loss.
Carb counting is a great way to manage your blood glucose levels. Many high-carb foods also tend to be high in calories, so cutting back on them often leads to shedding pounds.
If you choose this approach, ask your doctor or a diabetes educator how many carbs to eat at each meal (45-60 grams per meal is an average, but your number could be different.) “An individualized meal plan must be designed your nutritional requirements, caloric needs, medications, and exercise routine,” Smithson says.
Research shows that people who followed the Ornish Diet (which is essentially a vegetarian diet) for a year lost an average of 11 pounds, and many of them were able to lower their dosage of diabetes medication or switch from insulin to an oral drug.
The catch, however, is that this diet may be a little too restrictive for some people, which means it could be difficult to maintain if you’re not used to eating only plant-based foods.
“Most people aren't able to make a 180-degree turn,” Brown-Riggs says. A more flexible version, called The Ornish Spectrum, might be easier to follow.
You count “points” instead of calories, you get group support, and nothing is off-limits. But since you can spend points on anything you want, it's possible to lose weight without making healthy choices (such as by eating too many processed foods).
“The primary emphasis of Weight Watchers is weight loss, and people with diabetes still have to be careful about how many carbohydrates they're eating in a particular meal,” Brown-Riggs says. “You can absolutely follow it, but if you have diabetes you need to be aware that it's not all about the points.”
American Diabetes Association: “Carbohydrate Counting.”
Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, consulting nutritionist, spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Constance Brown-Riggs, RD, CDN, MSEd, certified diabetes educator; author, The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, Career Press, 2010.
Michael Dansinger, MD, director, Diabetes Reversal Program, Tufts Medical Center; nutrition doctor, NBC's The Biggest Loser.
Evert, A. Diabetes Care, published online Oct. 9, 2013.
Jaclyn London, MS, CDN, RD, senior dietitian, The Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York.
Pischke, C. American Journal of Cardiology, 2006.
Toby Smithson, RD, LDN, certified diabetes educator; spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; founder, DiabetesEveryDay.com; co-author, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition For Dummies, For Dummies Publishing, 2013.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “DASH Eating Plan.”
© 2014 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
6 Ways to Control Type 2 Diabetes
From the WebMD Archives
Last year during a physical, Lauren Crim of Richwood, TX, got a diagnosis she wasn’t expecting: type 2 diabetes. She had no symptoms, so the news threw her for a loop.
“I was devastated,” she says. “My grandmother had diabetes, and I saw her go through major health struggles because of it.”
After seeking support from loved ones — and shedding a few tears — Crim got to work. With help from her health care team, she changed the way she ate and started exercising. Now, a year later, she’s 22 pounds lighter, and her blood sugar is normal.
“My advice to anyone else facing type 2 diabetes is to stick to a plan, stay positive, and put your health first,” she says.
A diabetes diagnosis might feel overwhelming, but living well with the condition doesn’t have to be. If you’re ready to take control of your blood sugar levels and get on the path to better health, here’s how to start.
“It takes a village to manage diabetes,” says Linda Siminerio, RN, PhD, chair of the National Diabetes Education Program.
Along with your doctor or nurse practitioner, you can get help from:
- Diabetes educators
- Dietitians or nutritionists
- Psychologists or Therapists
Their services are often covered by insurance.
Having a health care team is key, but you're the most important member of it. “We want you to be informed and empowered,” Siminerio says.
Take an active role in your care. Ask questions. Learn what your medications do and how to take them properly. Practice any other healthy habits your doctor recommends. And know what your A1c levels are and what they mean.
“Being overweight is one of the major drivers of the epidemic of diabetes,” says Vivian Fonseca, MD, a professor of medicine and pharmacology at Tulane University.
Fat can cling to muscle and important organs your liver and pancreas, which can lead to serious complications.
The good news: You don’t have to reach a certain target weight before seeing positive results.
“Any weight loss is beneficial,” Fonseca says. “It doesn't mean you should stop after you lose a few ounces, but it’s encouraging to know that even if you lose a little bit of weight, it is helping your body. It reverses a lot of those changes.”
It's extra-important to get rid of the extra pounds around your middle. That’s why Siminerio suggests you watch your waist.
“Folks that have the classic ‘apple shape’ — usually men in their 40s and 50s — are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease,” she says.
Keep your goals realistic for long-lasting change. “Losing 1 pound a week is doable,” Fonseca says.
To lose weight, you should try to exercise three times a week for 30-60 minutes a day. But moving your body is good for a lot more than that.
Regular workouts can:
If you find an activity you enjoy, you’ll be more ly to stick to it.
“Exercise shouldn’t feel a punishment,” Fonseca says. “If you want to go swimming, go swimming. If you want to go dancing, go dancing. That’s exercise, too.”
You can also call on a partner to help you stay the course. Whitney Bischoff, a registered nurse in Seguin, TX, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 48. Now 61, Bischoff says her disease has changed how she and her husband spend time together.
“It wasn't too long after my diagnosis that we had the opportunity to take an active vacation, and that began our more-active lifestyle,” she says. “It’s a favor, really. We treat our bodies better because of diabetes. We can live long and healthy lives through these recommended changes in our lifestyle, without missing out on life.”
If changing your diet seems daunting, remember: Your goal is to strike a healthy balance, not achieve “perfection.”
“Generally, you need to avoid concentrated sugars,” Siminerio says. “I'm not saying don't eat the cake at your grandson's birthday — just don't eat all the roses on the cake.”
Focus on getting plenty of fiber through plant-based foods fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Keep track of your carbohydrates so you don’t go overboard, and stay away from sugary drinks.
Steer clear of trans fats, too. Instead, stock up on protein — up to 25% of your plate at each meal should be protein from sources fish, chicken, dairy, or vegetables.
“Vegetables really help me feel better,” Crim says. “And nuts are great. Have fruit on hand, and if you choose to eat sweets, moderate carefully, but don't deprive yourself so that you overindulge.”
The more people in your house that get on board with your meal plan, the better, Fonseca says.
“Very often, people try to diet in isolation, which is very hard to do,” he says. “You can't have a different diet from your spouse and your kids. Everybody's got to do it together.”
Siminerio says the very best thing you can do is invest in a dietitian.
“Meds work differently in each person, and that affects when and what you should be eating,” she says. “A dietitian has your medical plan. It's not an off-the-shelf cookbook from someone.”
It makes your muscles get ready to fight or run away from danger. When your insulin isn’t working right, this process floods your blood with glucose (sugar).
“Stress pushes up blood glucose, raises your blood pressure, and increases your chance of heart disease,” Fonseca says.
If smoking is your stress-relief go-to, it’s time to quit. “Along with affecting your lungs, smoking narrows your blood vessels,” Siminerio says. “So if you smoke, have high blood pressure, and high lipid levels, that's a time bomb in your body if you have diabetes.”
Here are some healthy ways to combat stress:
- Do breathing exercises.
- Tense your muscles and then release them.
- Go on a walk or jog.
- Start a new hobby.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
“My advice? Have fun,” Fonseca says. “It’s a whole lifestyle change, so be sure to make it a life you enjoy.”
Lauren Crim, diabetes patient, Richwood, Texas.
Linda M. Siminerio, RN, PhD, CDE, chair, National Diabetes Education Program; director, Adult Clinical Services Division, University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; past Vice President, American Diabetes Association.
American Diabetes Association: “Your Healthcare Team,” “What We Recommend,” “Physical Activity is Important,” “Stress,” “Create Your Plate.”
Vivian A. Fonseca, MD, professor, medicine and pharmacology, Tullis-Tulane Alumni Chair in Diabetes, chief, section of endocrinology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana.
National Diabetes Education Program: “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “What I need to know about Carbohydrate Counting and Diabetes.”
Whitney Bischoff, diabetes patient, Seguin, Texas.
© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Type 2 Diabetes Diet: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid, Keto, and More
If you live with type 2 diabetes, eating a well-balanced diet can help you manage your blood sugar levels and weight. In turn, if your meal plan helps you to achieve a healthier weight and keep your blood sugar levels in a normal range, it may reduce your risk for complications. For example, eating healthfully could reduce your risk of nerve damage, heart disease, and stroke.
Read on to learn more about how different diets and eating patterns can affect your health and impact your management of type 2 diabetes.
There are many different eating patterns and diets that you can follow to meet your health needs. When you’re deciding which one is right for you, consider going through this checklist of questions:
Does this eating plan include a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods?
To meet your body’s needs, it’s important to eat a colorful array of nutrient-dense foods. For example, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fish are good sources of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber.
Does it include heart-healthy fats?
Eating moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help lower the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your body. Monounsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats are found in fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, soybean oil, safflower oil, and corn oil.
Is it low in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fats, and added sugars?
Limiting your consumption of saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol can also help reduce your cholesterol. Added sugars provide empty calories, with little nutritional value.
To limit your consumption of cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fats, and added sugar:
- Choose lean sources of protein, such as tofu, beans and other legumes, salmon and other fish, skinless chicken and turkey, and lean cuts of pork.
- Opt for low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese.
Will it help me practice portion control?
Overeating can make it difficult to manage your blood sugar levels. It also leads to weight gain. Eating high-fiber foods can help you feel full for longer, which may help you practice portion control. These include beans and legumes, most fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) also recommends products made with whole grains rather than refined grains. For example, brown rice provides a more nutritious and filling option than white rice.
Can I stick with this eating plan for the long term?
Healthy eating plans only work if you follow them. If your plan is too restrictive or doesn’t fit your lifestyle, it can be hard to stick with. If you love a certain food and can’t imagine life without it, make sure you select a meal plan that allows you to have it at least occasionally.
There aren’t many foods that you need to avoid entirely when you have type 2 diabetes. However, some foods are healthier choices — meaning they’re richer sources of vitamins and minerals, and contain less fat, sugar, and cholesterol.
The ADA recommends practicing portion control and choosing more nutritious foods over less nutritious options. For example, the ADA encourages people to choose:
- Foods low in cholesterol. That means avoiding foods that’re high cholesterol, such as red meat, egg yolks, high-fat dairy products, and other animal products.
- Foods low in saturated fat. That means cutting back on foods high in saturated fat, such as palm oil, coconut oil, red meat, chicken skin, high-fat dairy products, and other animal products.
- Foods free from trans fats. Avoid trans fats whenever possible — they’re found in shortening, hydrogenated oil, and partially hydrogenated oil.
- Foods low in added sugars. That means limiting sweetened drinks, candy, desserts, and being cautious about processed foods.
Carbohydrate counting is one approach that you can take to managing your blood sugar levels. It’s also known as carb counting. It’s typically used by people who take insulin injections.
In carb counting, you add up the number of grams of carbohydrates that you eat during each meal. With careful tracking, you can learn how many grams of carbohydrates you need to eat to maintain a safe blood sugar level while taking insulin injections. Your doctor, nurse, or dietitian can help you get started.
Many foods contain carbohydrates, including:
- wheat, rice, and other grains and grain-based foods
- dried beans, lentils, and other legumes
- potatoes and other starchy vegetables
- fruit and fruit juice
- milk and yogurt
- processed snack foods, desserts, and sweetened beverages
There are many books and online resources that you can use to learn how many grams of carbohydrates are found in portions of common foods. You can also check the nutritional labels of packaged and processed foods.
The keto diet is a low-carb diet that emphasizes protein-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, nuts, and seeds. It also includes non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and other leafy greens. It limits foods high in carbohydrates, including grains, dried legumes, root vegetables, fruits, and sweets.
Depending on the protein-rich foods that you choose, the keto diet and many other low-carb diets can be high in saturated fat. You can lower your consumption of saturated fat by limiting the amount of red meat, fatty cuts of pork, and high-fat cheese that you eat.
It can also be challenging to get enough fiber while following the keto diet. However, some low-carb foods are rich in fiber. For example, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens are low in total carbs but high in fiber.
Some studies have found that low-carb diets can help improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, report authors of a 2017 review. However, more research is needed to learn about the long-term benefits and risks of the keto diet and other low-carb approaches to eating.
The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern that emphasizes plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, dried legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It also includes small portions of fish, poultry, egg, and dairy products. It includes very little red meat. The primary source of fat is olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. It’s low in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fats, and added sugars.
A 2014 review of research found that people with type 2 diabetes who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to have lower blood sugar than those who follow a conventional American diet. The Mediterranean diet has also been linked to reduced weight, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.
The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, was designed to lower blood pressure.
the Mediterranean diet, it emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dried legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It also includes fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products.
It limits red meat, sweets, and other foods high in saturated fat or added sugars. It also limits foods that are high in salt.
According to a review published in 2017, the DASH diet provides a nutrient-rich and sustainable eating plan for people with type 2 diabetes. It may help reduce your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, insulin resistance, and weight.
Vegetarian diets don’t contain any red meat or poultry, and they often don’t contain seafood. Vegan diets don’t contain any animal products at all, including red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or dairy foods.
Instead, these diets emphasize plant-based sources of protein, such as tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, split peas, nuts, seeds, and grains. They also include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Vegetarians typically eat eggs and dairy, but vegans don’t.
It’s possible to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet while meeting your nutritional needs with type 2 diabetes. However, not all vegetarian and vegan diets are created equal. Just because a food is vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean that it’s healthy.
For optimum health, eat a wide variety of foods and ensure that you’re getting the key nutrients you need. Sometimes when people try to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, they aren’t careful to make sure they eat enough protein or sources of vitamins and minerals. If in doubt, a dietitian can advise you on what foods to include in your meal plan to meet your nutritional needs.
Whichever diet or eating pattern you choose to follow, it’s best to eat a full variety of nutrient-rich foods and practice portion control. Make an effort to limit your consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, high cholesterol foods, and added sugars. Your doctor or dietitian can help you develop a meal planning approach that fits your health needs and lifestyle.
Tips for Managing High Blood Sugar with a Type 2 Diabetes Diet
It’s no secret that diet is essential to managing type 2 diabetes. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet for diabetes management, certain dietary choices should act as the foundation for your individual diet plan. Your diet plan should work with your body — not against it — so it’s important that the food you eat won’t spike your blood sugar levels to high.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the normal blood sugar range for people with diabetes is between 80 to 130 mg/dL before meals. It should be less than 180 mg/dL about two hours after you begin eating. Your doctor will provide you with personalized target blood sugar values.
Keep reading to learn more about how what you eat can affect your blood sugar, as well as which foods you may want to pick up at the grocery store or toss your pantry.
Check out: Type 1 diabetes diet »
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When someone with diabetes has low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a spoonful of sugar or honey can help raise glucose levels. However, sugar is often considered the nemesis of diabetes because of how quickly it can spike blood glucose levels when eaten alone.
If you have diabetes, you should closely monitor your consumption of foods with a high glycemic index (GI). The GI measures how quickly a particular food raises blood sugar. Those foods with a high GI can cause unwanted spikes. This is especially true of refined sugar and other forms of simple carbohydrates white rice, bread, and pasta.
Make sure that most of your carb choices are whole-grain, high-fiber options. For example, if you’d to have a piece of chocolate cake with frosting, eat it immediately after eating a balanced meal with lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and high-fiber carb options such as beans.
Eating quick-digesting foods with other foods will help slow down their digestion and help you avoid spikes in blood sugar. If you’re counting carbs, be sure to include the cake when you total your meal.
Limiting quick-digesting carbs doesn’t mean avoiding all carbs. Whole, unprocessed grains are an excellent source of energy. They’re also rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole-grain starches are the healthiest because they maximize nutrition and break down into the bloodstream slowly.
Whole-grain food options include:
- sprouted and whole-grain bread
- legumes and beans
- whole wheat pasta
- wild or brown rice
- high-fiber whole-grain cereal
- other grains such as quinoa, amaranth, and millet
Foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats can elevate your risk for heart disease and stroke. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid all fats.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, foods rich in “good fats” can help lower cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are both good fats.
Try replacing the red meat on your plate with omega-3 fatty acid-rich cold-water fish salmon, mackerel, and herring.
Other foods to eat:
- olive oil
- nuts and seeds
Foods to limit:
- red meat
- processed lunch meats
- high-fat dairy products cheese
Balancing carbohydrates is integral to a diabetes-friendly diet. Processed and refined carbs aren’t the best options, but including whole grains and dietary fiber can be beneficial in many ways. Whole grains are rich in fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Dietary fiber helps with digestive health, and helps you feel more satisfied after eating.
Fruits are often packed with fiber, as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Be sure to choose whole fruits over juice to get the beneficial fiber. The more skin on the fruit, the more fiber it contains.
High-fiber fruit options include:
Fruits to limit:
Vegetables are also a great addition to every meal. They are low in calories and high in water content so they can help you feel full with fewer calories. Go for color and increased variety. Some good options include:
- green beans
If you have diabetes, you should spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day to avoid unnecessary spikes in your blood sugar levels. And be sure to choose portions that help you meet or maintain your weight goals.
Be sure to monitor and record your blood sugar levels throughout the day, as well as before and after meals. If you have any concerns, talk with your doctor or dietitian. They can work with you to create a diet plan that best suits your needs.
Sticking to a routine and developing a proper meal plan are fundamental to managing your diabetes. Eating a balanced diet that manages your intake of carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, and sodium can help you manage your overall health.
Tracking your blood sugar levels in relation to what you eat, when you are active, and when you take diabetes medications, is also important. In time, you’ll get to know how your body responds to different foods at different times of the day.
Regular exercise combined with a healthy diet can also help you better manage your diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as improve your blood pressure.
Talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that’s safe for you and any other steps you can take to improve your health.
Keep reading: The best diabetic-friendly diets to help you lose weight »
Diabetes Diet: The Best and Worst Foods for Diabetics
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), you can calculate the amount of carbs you need by first figuring out what percentage of your diet should be made up of carbohydrates.
(The NIDDK notes that experts generally recommend this number be somewhere between 45 and 65 percent of your total calories, but people with diabetes are almost always recommended to stay lower than this range.) Multiply that percentage by your calorie target.
For example, if you’re aiming to get 50 percent of your calories from carbs and you eat 2,000 calories a day, you’re aiming for about 1,000 calories of carbs.
Because the NIDDK says 1 gram (g) of carbohydrates provides 4 calories, you can divide the calories of carbs number by 4 to get your daily target for grams of carbs, which comes out to 250 g in this example. For a more personalized daily carbohydrate goal, it’s best to work with a certified diabetes educator or a registered dietitian to determine a goal that is best for you.
RELATED: What Is the Ketogenic Diet? Everything You Need to Know
The Best and Worst Type 2 Diabetes Choices by Food Group
As you pick the best foods for type 2 diabetes, here’s a helpful guideline to keep in mind: Fill half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables. Round out the meal with other healthy choices — whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean protein, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and small portions of fresh fruits and healthy fats.
Sugar and processed carbohydrates should be limited, says Massey. That includes soda, candy, and other packaged or processed snacks, such as corn chips, potato chips, and the .
And while artificial sweeteners those found in diet sodas won’t necessarily spike your blood sugar in the same way as sugar, they could still have an effect on your blood sugar and even alter your body’s insulin response, though more research is needed to confirm this.
For now, here’s what you need to know about choosing the most diabetes-friendly foods from each food group.
What Foods High in Protein Are Good for Type 2 Diabetes?
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends lean proteins low in saturated fat for people with diabetes.
If you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, getting enough and the right balance of protein may be more challenging, but you can rely on foods beans, nuts, and tofu to get your fix.
Just be sure to keep portion size in mind when snacking on nuts, as they are also high in fat and calories.
Meanwhile, processed or packaged foods should be avoided or limited in your diabetes diet because, in addition to added sugars and processed carbohydrates, these foods are often high in sodium and therefore may increase your blood pressure and, in turn, the risk of heart disease or stroke — two common complications of diabetes. It’s important to keep your blood pressure in check when managing diabetes.
In addition to getting enough fiber, incorporating protein-rich foods in your diet can help keep you satiated and promote weight loss, thereby reducing insulin resistance, the hallmark of diabetes.
- Fatty fish, sockeye salmon
- Canned tuna in water
- Skinless turkey
- Skinless chicken
- Beans and legumes
- Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
- Raw, unsalted nuts, almonds and walnuts (in moderation)
- Deli meats, bologna, salami, ham, roast beef, and turkey
- Hot dogs
- Sausages and pepperoni
- Beef jerky
- Sweetened or flavored nuts, honey-roasted or spicy
- Sweetened protein shakes or smoothies
RELATED: What Is the Paleo Diet? What to Eat and Avoid, Benefits and Risks, and More
What Are the Best Grains for Type 2 Diabetes?
Contrary to popular belief, not all carbs are off-limits if you’re managing diabetes. In fact, the ADA recommends vitamin-rich whole grains in a healthy diabetes diet. These foods contain fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health.
Fiber can also promote feelings of fullness, preventing you from reaching for unhealthy snacks, and it can help slow the rise of blood sugar.
Plus, whole grains contain healthy vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are healthy for anyone, regardless of whether they have diabetes or not.
On the other hand, grains in the form of popular foods such as white bread, as well as sugary, processed, or packaged grains, should be avoided or limited to avoid unwanted blood sugar spikes. Also, refined white flour doesn’t contain the same vitamins, minerals, fiber, and health benefits as whole grains.
Just keep in mind that any type of grain contains carbs, so counting carbs and practicing portion control are keys to keep your blood sugar level steady.
Best options (in moderation):
- Wild or brown rice
- Whole-grain breads, such as 100 percent whole-wheat bread
- Whole-grain cereal, such as steel-cut oats
- Whole-wheat pasta
- White bread
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- White rice
- White pasta
Which Types of Dairy Can People With Diabetes Eat?
When picked well and eaten in moderation, dairy can be a great choice for people with diabetes.
Just keep fat content in mind, as being overweight or obese can reduce insulin sensitivity, causing prediabetes to progress to full-blown diabetes or increasing the risk of complications if you have type 2 diabetes.
Whenever possible, opt for fat-free dairy options to keep calories down and unhealthy saturated fats at bay.
- Skim milk
- Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- Nonfat, low-sodium cottage cheese
- Reduced-fat cheese (in moderation)
- Nonfat, unsweetened kefir
- Full-fat or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk, especially chocolate or other flavored milks
- Full-fat or reduced-fat cottage cheese
- Full-fat yogurt
- Full-fat cheese
- Full-fat, sweetened kefir
RELATED: Yogurt for Diabetes: Is One Type Better Than Another?
What Vegetables Are Good for People With Diabetes and Which Aren’t?
Vegetables are an important food group to include in any healthy diet, and a diabetes diet is no exception. Veggies are full of fiber and nutrients, and nonstarchy varieties are low in carbohydrates — a win for people with diabetes who want to gain control over their blood sugar level, Massey says.
As for packaging, frozen veggies without sauce are just as nutritious as fresh, and even low-sodium canned veggies can be a good choice if you’re in a pinch.
Just be sure to watch your sodium intake to avoid high blood pressure, and consider draining and rinsing salted canned veggies before eating, per the ADA.
If possible, opt for low-sodium or sodium-free canned veggies if going that route.
Follow this general rule: Aim to fill half your plate with nonstarchy veggies. And if you’re craving mashed white potatoes, try mashed cauliflower, Massey suggests. You could also opt for sweet potatoes, which people with diabetes may enjoy safely in moderation.
Best nonstarchy veggie options:
- Greens, spinach, kale, and Swiss chard
- Cruciferous veggies, broccoli and cauliflower
- Brussels sprouts
- Artichoke hearts
RELATED: What's the Best Way to Prep Veggies if You Have Diabetes?
Veggies to enjoy in moderation (starchy veggies to count toward your carb total):
- White potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
What Fruits Are Good for Diabetes and Which Should You Avoid?
Fruit often gets a bad rap due to its carb content, but this food group can actually be great in a diabetes diet when chosen wisely and eaten in moderation. In particular, fruit can be a great replacement for unhealthy processed sweets, such as pastries, cakes, and cookies, while providing disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and satiating fiber to boot.
But just as with grains, it’s important to roll out your carb-counting skills when noshing on nature’s candy. The ADA notes that a small piece of whole fruit or ½ cup of canned fruit in natural juices or frozen fruit typically contains 15 g of carbs, while fruit juice — a less ideal source of fruit for diabetes — can have that much in 1/3 to ½ cup.
Also, dried fruit isn’t the best way to get your fix. Because so much water is removed, a serving of this variety is much smaller and usually less filling than whole fruit — the ADA warns that just 2 tablespoons of raisins contains the same 15 g that a whole apple contains!
Same goes for canned fruit: This variety often contains sugary syrup at a high concentration, which should be avoided at all costs. Trendy juices are similarly less than ideal, as they’re stripped of the beneficial fiber that you’d find in whole fruit with the skin on.
But some pleasant news: When consumed in moderation and made with whole ingredients and without added sugar, fruit smoothies can be a good food for diabetes.
Consider stocking your fridge with unsweetened frozen fruit so you can whip up one in a hurry for breakfast.
Adding ingredients with protein, such as yogurt or a small amount of nut butter, will also help your body break down the carbohydrates more slowly, leading to less of a spike in blood sugar.
When in doubt, consult the glycemic load (a scale that can help you measure how much a serving of a certain food is ly to spike your blood sugar) to pick a diabetes-friendly fruit. Your healthcare team can also help you safely incorporate fruit in your diabetes diet.
- Berries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
- Apples with the skin on
- Peaches with the skin on
- Apricots with the skin on
- Pears with the skin on
- Dried fruit
- Packaged juices
- Fresh juices that are part of fad cleanses
- Canned fruit in syrup
RELATED: The Best Fiber-Rich Foods for People With Diabetes
What Sources of Fat Are Good and Bad for Diabetes?
Fat is not the enemy! In truth, getting enough of the right kind of fat can help you curb unhealthy cravings, lose weight, and ultimately attain better control over your blood sugar. The key is knowing how to tell good fat from bad fat.
The monounsaturated fats found in avocados, almonds, and pecans or the polyunsaturated fats found in walnuts and sunflower oil, which can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, are great picks when eating for type 2 diabetes.
Meanwhile, saturated fats and trans fats can harm your heart and overall health, according to the American Heart Association.
To spot trans fats, look for the term “hydrogenated” on labels of processed foods, such as packaged snacks, baked goods, and crackers.
“I always tell my clients to double-check the ingredient list to make sure they don’t see any partially hydrogenated oil in their food products,” Massey says.
- Nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios
- Nut butters
- Plant-based oils, soybean oil, corn oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil
- Seeds, flaxseed and chia seed
- Fish, salmon and tuna
RELATED: 5 'Low-Fat' Foods That Are Making It Harder to Control Diabetes
- Fast food
- Beef, veal, lamb, and pork
- Full-fat dairy products
- Coconut and palm oil
- Packaged snacks, crackers, corn chips, and potato chips
- Processed sweets, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and muffins
Additional reporting by Stephanie Bucklin and Melinda Carstensen