The Right Diet for Type 2 Diabetes

People newly diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes must make lifestyle changes. The one that draws the loudest groans from most people? The diabetic diet. Patients balk at the specter of a lifetime spent nibbling small portions of bland food. 
But at its core, a diabetic diet is the sort of healthy diet everyone should be following, whether they have diabetes or not. The diet doesn’t have to be tasteless or boring. It will keep your blood sugar levels stable and your diabetes in check. And if you don’t yet have type 2 diabetes, a diabetic diet could prevent the disease’s onset. 

Diabetic Diet: Carb Control

The number one rule in following a diabetic diet is to control the carbohydrates you eat. Your meal plan must be aimed at keeping your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible, and carbohydrates have the greatest effect on glucose levels. Eating more carbs boosts blood sugar, while limiting carbs lowers blood sugar. 

Sadly, the modern diet — anchored in processed foods and meals-on-the-go — makes it hard for many people to control carbohydrate intake. 

“There are so many carbohydrates in the foods we buy in the supermarket,” says R. Paul Robertson, M.D., president, Medicine and Science, the American Diabetes Association, and professor of medicine and pharmacology, University of Washington in Seattle. “It’s amazing how pervasive carbohydrates are in our society.” 

Here’s what you need to know: 

Foods contain three main types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars, and dietary fiber.Work with your doctor to set an acceptable level of carbs (including sugars) for each day, and stick to that level. Too many of the wrong kinds of carbs will drive your blood glucose levels up, and skimping on carbs could allow your blood-sugar levels to fall to dangerously low levels.Foods containing carbohydrates include beans, grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and snack foods.In planning your meals, pay close attention to food labels to determine where your carbs are coming from. 

Diabetic Diet: The Basics

Be consistent. Eat about the same amount of food each day around the same times of day, and don’t skip meals or regular snacks.Watch the type of calories you eat. Between 40 percent to 60 percent of the calories in a healthy diet will come from carbohydrates. Around 20 percent of calories should come from protein and 30 percent or less from fat.Consume carbohydrates high in fiber. They digest slowly and keep blood sugar levels stable. Pick foods made with whole grains rather than products containing processed grains. Brown rice, dried beans, whole wheat spaghetti, and lentils are good choices.Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. In general, eat more non-starchy vegetables, and reduce your portions of everything else. Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, or green beans are best. Remember that whole fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than juices or dried fruit.Eat foods low in saturated fat and free of trans-fats. Choose lean meats. Cuts of beef and pork that end in “loin,” like pork loin and sirloin, are winners. Skip the skin on poultry.Steer clear of foods that contain large amounts of added sugars. Drink water instead of soda or fruit punch. Avoid high-calorie snack foods like cookies, cake, and ice cream. 

By Dr. Dennis Thompson, Jr.