How to Eat with Type 2 Diabetes

Monday 5 April 2021
Diabetes

Medically reviewed by

Stefan Reiner, PharmD, RPh
on 4 June 2021

Table of Contents


I. Diet and Type 2 Diabetes

II. Reversing Type 2 Through Diet

III. Find Some Food Staples You Enjoy

IV. Understanding Carbs & Portion Sizes

V. Diabetes-Friendly Cooking Methods

VI. Long-Term Diet Goals


Diet and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effect of insulin. Glucose levels rise in the body when you consume food or drinks. Glucose supplies the body with nutrients and fuel to live. Insulin helps glucose enter the body's cells. If you have type 2 diabetes, the insulin is not helping glucose enter the body's cells, leaving it circulating in the bloodstream. 

Because your glucose levels are related to how much food and liquids you consume, your diet is an essential part of type 2 diabetes. When you eat excess calories and fat, your blood glucose can rise to unsafe levels. If this frequently occurs over a long period, you may develop insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). There is no perfect diet for type 2 diabetes, but there are several tips you can implement into your diabetes treatment plan. Along with medications like Onglyza (saxagliptin), Farxiga (dapagliflozin), Tradjenta (linagliptin), or Glucophage XR (metformin), changing your diet can significantly improve your diabetes condition. Learn more below. [1]

Reversing Type 2 Through Diet

Contrary to popular belief, a healthy diet does not involve eating salad three times a day. A healthy diet is full of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Of course, changing your dietary habits can be incredibly difficult, and it takes time and effort. If your doctor tells you that changing your diet is an essential process in your diabetes treatment, you may want to implement changes slowly.

a burger and fries

If your diabetes is directly related to your weight, you have the possibility of reversing your diabetes. If you decrease your weight by ten percent, you may be able to reverse your diabetes or put it into remission. Beginning a diabetic-friendly diet is a great first step to attaining a healthy weight and improving your diabetes symptoms. [2]

Find Some Food Staples You Enjoy

Everyone grows up with different diet standards, and we can’t fully control what we are fed as a child. If you develop bad dietary habits as a younger person, it can be difficult to break those habits as an adult. If you are worried about trying new things, you can implement new foods slowly to try them out. Your doctor or dietician can help recommend some foods based on your preferences. [2]

To start, you should try to include the following foods into your everyday diet. Your doctor may recommend keeping the following in your pantry and limiting the amount of processed and sugary foods in your house. 

  • Non-starchy vegetables like spinach, carrots, broccoli, and green beans
  • Whole-grain foods like brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and pasta
  • Legumes like lentils, kidney beans, and pinto beans
  • Lean pork, lean beef, and chicken or turkey with the skin removed
  • Non-fat cheese, milk, or yogurt [3]

different types of beans

Understanding Carbs & Portion Sizes

Doctors recommend that you should get about 45 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. Your healthcare provider will likely determine your daily calorie intake. The rest of your calories should be made up of lean protein like fatty fish, chicken, and plant-based proteins, as well as vegetables and nuts.

For women, three to four servings of carbs (45-60 grams) can be eaten per meal, and men may eat four to five servings (60-75 grams) of carbs per meal. The concept of carb servings can be hard to grasp, so 15 grams of carbohydrates looks like: 

  • One apple
  • A slice of whole-wheat bread
  • 1/3 cup of cooked whole-wheat pasta or brown rice
  • 1/2 cup of black beans [3] 

Diabetes-Friendly Cooking Methods

How you cook your food is just as important as the food you eat. You can cancel out the health benefits of vegetables if you overuse oil in your cooking process. All types of oil contain calories, but some are healthier than others. Using extra-virgin olive oil instead of vegetable oil can lower your risk of heart diseases and save you excess calories. With this in mind, you should try to bake or broil your food instead of frying it.

Along with avoiding vegetable or canola oil, you should also reduce the amount of salt you use. Those with type 2 diabetes should limit their sodium to 2,000 to 2,400 milligrams of salt per day. You should also choose fresh or frozen foods that do not contain added salts. [3]

onions frying in oil

Long-Term Diet Goals

Changing your dietary habits can be incredibly difficult, but it can benefit your health and improve your life. Over time, you can strive for the following goals: 

Healthy BMI: The height and weight determine a healthy body mass index (BMI). If your BMI is between 18.5 to < 25 you are considered to be in a healthy weight range. 

Normal lab results: If you have type 2, you will likely have to get frequent lab tests to determine your blood glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels. Your doctor will perform these tests if you begin a new medication or start a new diet. 

Implementing other healthy activities: Along with diet changes, it is also important to adopt an exercise routine. Doctors recommend getting at least 30 to 45 minutes of moderate cardio a day to reduce your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and other long-term health problems. [2]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.