To follow a healthy diet for diabetes, you must first understand how different foods affect your blood sugar. Carbohydrates, which are found to the largest degree in grains, bread, pasta, milk, sweets, fruit, and starchy vegetables, are broken down into glucose in the blood, which raises blood sugar, potentially leading to hyperglycemia according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s no “one-size-fits-all” carb target for people managing diabetes. Ultimately, the amount depends on factors such as your age, weight, and activity level.
As you pick the best foods for type 2 diabetes, here’s a helpful guideline from the NIDDK to keep in mind: Fill one-half your plate (use a 9-inch dish for reference) with nonstarchy vegetables. One-fourth of your plate should feature your protein (such as meat or a plant-based source), and the final fourth should include a grain or other starch, such as starchy vegetables, a piece of fruit, or a small glass of milk.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends lean proteins low in saturated fat for people with diabetes. If you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, getting enough and the right balance of protein may be more challenging, but you can rely on foods like beans (dried or canned beans, and bean products like hummus and falafel), nuts and nut spreads, tempeh, and tofu to get your fix, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Just be sure to keep portion size in mind when snacking on nuts, as they are also high in fat and calories, according to Harvard Health.
When picked well and eaten in moderation, dairy can be a great choice for people with diabetes. In fact, a review published September 2017 in Nutrients revealed that dairy products such as milk and yogurt offer protective benefits against type 2 diabetes. Whenever possible, opt for low-fat and fat-free dairy options to keep calories down, and unhealthy saturated fats at bay. Also, try to avoid flavored dairy, such as milks and yogurt, without added sugar.