Healthy eating plays a major role in successfully managing type 2 diabetes. Use these tools to create a
healthy and effective meal plan.
Here are nine basic guidelines you can follow to build a healthy type 2 diabetes diet plan:
- Raise your carbohydrate awareness - Giving up carbohydrates completely isn't the answer. Your body and your brain need the right amount of carbohydrates to function well. One of the first steps in crafting a type 2 diabetes diet plan is learning how to incorporate carbohydrates in a healthy way. You’ll need to understand how many carbs to eat in a meal or snack, which carbs are the best choices, and what other foods to combine with them. The ADA recommends around 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, though this amount may vary depending on how you manage your diabetes. For a snack, aim for 15 to 30 grams. Healthy carbs include whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, and whole-grain breakfast cereal. Fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt, and dried peas and beans also contain healthy carbohydrates. The ADA recommends combining a lean source of protein and healthy fat with your healthy carbs to balance out your meals.
- Use the glycemic index - The ADA recommends using the glycemic index (GI), which ranks foods by how quickly they raise blood sugar. Choose low GI foods such as fruits, vegetables, peas, beans, oatmeal, and stone-ground whole-wheat bread.
- Plan your plate - The "plate method" is one way to visualize how to fill your plate with a balanced meal for type 2 diabetes. Load half of the plate with vegetables, one-quarter with another healthy carbohydrate, and the final quarter with a lean protein. Keep track of daily quantities on paper or with an app.
- Mind your portions - Pay attention to portion sizes to get the correct amount of food for your energy needs. This also helps with any needed weight loss. If you're overweight, losing 5 percent or more of your weight can help improve blood sugar control.
- Decipher nutrition labels - Reading nutrition labels the right way is a priority. It's especially important because many packaged foods contain more than one serving, and reading labels allows you to accurately tally your intake. Nutrition labeling tells you the amount of carbohydrates, calories, fat, and salt (sodium) as well as specific ingredients that a food contains.
- Rely on healthy cooking methods - You have the most control when you cook foods yourself. Try to cook from scratch at least a few meals a week. Try broiling, baking, grilling, or stir-frying. Stay away from deep-frying.
- Eat on a schedule - At a minimum, try to eat three meals a day with optional healthy snacking. Eating healthy meals and snacks on a schedule can help you manage blood sugar more effectively. It may also be necessary, depending on the medication you're taking.
- Test your blood sugar - Testing your blood sugar helps you understand how your body responds to a meal. The goals for most adults with diabetes are 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) before a meal and less than 180 mg/dl one to two hours after a meal. If your test strip supply is limited, you can test before a meal on one day and then two hours after the same meal the next day, and then adjust accordingly. For example, if your blood sugar is too high, add more vegetables and proteins and take away some of the carbohydrate portion. Track your test results over time so you can discuss them with your doctor.
- Exercise - Healthy diet and physical activity go hand-in-hand for better blood sugar control. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week.
While these tips will help to guide you on the right path toward managing your type 2 diabetes, it is always important to have input from your physician. Good health starts with good personal decisions, and the first one should be to consult with a doctor about managing your diabetes.