Foods to Eat With Type 2 Diabetes

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Part of the treatment plan for people with type-2 diabetes includes a modification in diet. But that doesn't mean you have to eat special food -- the foods you're encouraged to eat to manage your diabetes are the same healthy foods that everyone should be eating. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about your specific blood sugar goals, diet needs and exercise plan.

Start With the Basics

To manage your diabetes, you want to start by eating a healthy diet. This is a diet filled with nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Filling your diet with high-fiber fruits, veggies and whole grains aids in blood sugar control.

Due to your increased risk of heart disease, you also want to include fish rich in omega-3, such as salmon, tuna or herring, twice a week, advises Soy oil, flaxseeds and walnuts are also rich in omega-3 fats.

How much and when you eat is also important. Try to keep portions moderate in size and eat each meal at around the same time each day.

Control Calories

If you're overweight, losing weight also helps you gain more control over your blood sugar. Your doctor or dietitian can help you determine your daily calorie needs.

Cutting out 250 calories to 500 calories a day can help you lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week. For reference, weight-loss calorie needs range from 1,200 to 1,800 calories a day, with men and active women on the higher end of that spectrum.

Control Carbs

Carbohydrate foods, including fruit, grains, starchy vegetables, milk and yogurt, have the biggest effect on blood sugar. In addition to controlling calories, controlling the number of carbs you eat at each meal also helps you manage your blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association suggests 45 to 60 grams of carbs at each meal to start. Your dietitian can help you determine your meal carb needs.

One serving of a carb food contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Examples of one serving include:

  • one slice of whole-wheat bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal
  • 1/3 cup of cooked grain or pasta
  • a small piece of fruit
  • 1/2 cup of beans or starchy vegetable such as peas or corn
  • 1/4 of a large baked potato
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 6-ounce container of sugar-free yogurt
  • four to six whole-grain crackers
  • two small cookies
  • 1/2 cup of ice cream or sherbet
  • 2-inch-square brownie without frosting

Putting It All Together

A healthy breakfast for type-2 diabetes might include a toasted whole-wheat English muffin with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and a 6-ounce container of sugar-free yogurt. This meal contains 440 calories and 45 grams of carbs.

At lunch, enjoy a 3-ounce grilled chicken sandwich on a whole-wheat bun with a small orange, 2 cups of mixed greens with 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing and 12 almonds for 510 calories and 45 grams of carbs.

Four ounces of grilled tuna with half of a baked potato, 1/2 cup of cooked peas and 1 cup of broccoli sauteed in 1 teaspoon of olive oil with garlic make a healthy dinner for someone with type-2 diabetes. This meal contains 535 calories and 45 grams of carbs.

Snacks and Sweets

You can still have snacks and sweets on your diet plan. But you need to control the level of carbs you eat, just as you do at mealtime. Talk to your dietitian to help you determine how many carbs you can have at a snack. A 15-gram snack might include two small cookies, a small apple with 1 ounce of low-fat cheese, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn or half of a turkey sandwich.

While it's OK to eat sweets in controlled amounts on your diet plan, these foods offer very little nutritional value, and you should limit the amount to no more than 15 percent of your daily calorie intake, or no more than 225 calories on a 1,500-calorie diet plan.

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