Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
One of the most important elements of managing type 2 diabetes is to eat a balanced, healthy diet. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to diabetic recipes or diabetic diets, but there are some principles that should be consistently applied in recipes and programs geared to people with diabetes.
Understanding A Type 2 Diabetes Diet Plan:
Having type 2 diabetes means it can be difficult to figure out what you can and cannot eat. This is why a type 2 diabetes diet plan can be beneficial, as it shows you how to make sure your diet is balanced and helps to steady the blood glucose levels. Interestingly, following this plan will also benefit you even if you do not have diabetes, which means the whole family should be able to enjoy and benefit from these changes.
Tools in developing your meal plan include the plate method, carb counting and using the glycemic index—and you can visit the American Diabetes Association website for more on this—but the 10 general recommendations that follow are also key to your success.
1. Eat regularly, spacing what you eat through the day. Do not skip breakfast.
2. Reduce your portion sizes. Most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, and they are overweight not just because they eat the wrong foods, but also because they are eating too much, period. Small, regular meals are better than single large meals.
3. Watch the carbs, making sure they come from dairy, vegetables, beans, fruits, and wholegrain sources. Carbohydrates directly affect your glucose, so they are important to track.
4. Get rid of bad fats, but remember the good fats. Choose to cut out processed meat, for instance, by adding fatty fish to your diet instead. Avocado is another source of good fats—but still be aware of your portion sizes, since calories from good fats count, too.
5. Eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. If you want to save money, stick to seasonal produce. Fried veggie sticks don’t really count. Neither do fruit products with all the fiber removed.
6. Lower your salt intake. Salt is found in almost everything that we eat, and most of us get too much of it in our diets—diabetes or no diabetes. For diabetics in particular, high blood pressure and diabetes frequently occur together in the same people, and added salt can raise your blood pressure. Try not to add any salt to the food on your plate, choosing herbs and spices to make things more flavorful.
7. Add lots of fish to your diet. Fish is good for you on many different levels and you should eat at least three portions of fish every week. Salmon and trout are excellent choices.
8. Increase the amount of “pulses” you eat. Pulses refer to a family of veggies that includes beans, peas and lentils, but we are mainly talking about the pulses that aren’t as starchy. Peas fall more in the corn and potato category, but can still be part of the diabetic meal plan. Pulses are full of fiber, low in fat, cheap, and have lots of nutrients. They don't affect your blood glucose as much as other choices, and they can also help keep your cholesterol low. Plus, they are quite versatile. There are dals, hummus, bean burgers, falafel, salads, casseroles, soups, and so on.
9. Sugar is not the enemy in that your body needs glucose. Added sugars in your diet and simple carbohydrates commonly found in processed foods, however, are not what the doctor ordered— especially so when it comes to diabetes. Sugary items such as cakes and confections should be rare, planned treats, and you should offset your intake of these items by forgoing something else you’d normally eat— and take care to keep things under control with exercise, as needed.
10. Good hydration is healthy for many different reasons. Water is the building block of life and you need lots of it. Most healthy adults who eat an average American diet need not fear that they are drinking too much water. Over-hydration is possible, and serious, but it’s pretty rare. A good general rule is that the urine should be colorless or light yellow. If you're worried about your water intake or have health issues, check with your doctor to see how much water you should be drinking.
Individual dietary action plans for people with diabetes may be more involved, especially, for instance, if you are on insulin. But generally speaking, and especially when taken together with exercise, the above 10 tips will help put you on your way to a more healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet—and this can help not just your type 2 diabetes, but also your cholesterol and even your weight. Healthy living can benefit your quality of life, longevity, and overall well being.