Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, learning about your condition is key—and a little knowledge can put you back in the driver’s seat. While it used to be the case that diets for people with diabetes were very strict, that isn’t the case any more. In fact, the more you know, the more flexibility you can have in creating your customized menu. It does take a bit more planning, but then again, so do the most scrumptious gourmet meals.

Understanding Why It's Important to Have Type 2 Diabetes Diet Plan:

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition. It’s a journey rather than a sprint. More frequent contact with various members of the health care team is the new norm. Not only will educators and clinicians help you check your blood glucose levels, but they’ll also help you determine whether your long-term blood sugar control is going well. Having good long-term control is probably the most important thing you can do to fight diabetes. In fact, that is the main reason for having a type 2 diabetes diet plan. The better you control your blood sugar levels, the better your odds of living a longer, more vigorous life, with fewer of the sinister complications of diabetes.

Key Elements of A Type 2 Diabetes Diet Plan:

1. Healthy eating, which means your diet is balanced, portion-controlled, and healthy. Try to lower the amount of sugar, salt, and bad fats that you eat, and increase your fiber. You don't have to exclude any one food item from your diet, but try to make balanced, healthy choices instead.

2. Exercising regularly, because this will help lower your blood sugar level. Exercise can actually help your body use insulin better. Speak to your doctor about what types and levels of exercise are advisable for you, as in individual. If appropriate, the American Diabetes Association generally recommends aiming for 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week or a total of 150 minutes per week. They say to spread your activity out over at least 3 days during the week, and try not to go more than 2 days in a row without exercising.

3. Rediscovering what food tastes like without tobacco smoke on your palate. Stop smoking, which you should do whether you have type 2 diabetes or not. Smoking and having diabetes, together, is more harmful than either condition alone. Smoking increases your risk of serious type 2 diabetes complications, including heart disease, and leads to other illnesses such as lung cancer and COPD.

4. Avoiding alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic drinks tend to have a lot of sugar and calories in them to begin with. Alcohol also tends to complicate your glucose control, depending on how much you drink and how this is timed with meals. Finally, insulin and other medications used in the treatment of diabetes may not be as effective if you consume alcohol, and some of them are actually contraindicated in people who are heavy drinkers.

5. Minding your overall wellness, in addition to what’s on that menu, since the two are forever intertwined. Get that recommended flu shot and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine, for instance. It is a lot easier to plan, shop, and eat healthy when everything else is in balance, so don’t treat your diet plan as if it is not connected with the rest of your life. In other words, take care of yourself.

6. Stocking your kitchen. Take the time to be more deliberate in your grocery shopping, and don’t hold back on healthy items that can be whipped up in short order when you don’t have a lot of time. You don’t have to wait for the threat of a snowstorm or flood waters…stock your kitchen so that you have everything you need for a quick meal is on hand.

7. Getting creative, once you know the rules. All of us get into ruts with our meals and our habits. While no one would “sign up” to be diagnosed with diabetes, such diagnoses and other life-changing events often have a way of getting us to try new things, develop new tastes, and think outside the box.