When you are diagnosed with diabetes, it often feels like you have to learn how to eat all over again. Your diabetes care team is here to guide you in the right direction. However, the good news is there are no foods you absolutely have to avoid if you have type 2 diabetes.
You can enjoy most foods in moderation.
That being said, not all foods will help you reach your goal of maintaining your blood sugar and A1c in a safe range. Preventing complications from type 2 diabetes means choosing a healthy, balanced diet and limiting certain foods to occasional treats.
Foods You Should Eat Most Often
The bulk of your diet should be made up of whole, unprocessed plant foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats. The word “unprocessed” is key as it will automatically help you limit your intake of less beneficial foods.
As someone with diabetes, you do have to be aware of the number of carbohydrates you consume. Your care team may ask you to count your carbohydrate servings and limit how many you consume at each meal.
- Grains such as wheat and oats
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn
- Milk and yogurt
- And, of course, added sugar found in sweets, candies, cookies, and other baked goods or processed foods.
Carbohydrate-containing foods include many healthy plant foods and sources of protein. While you may not be able to eat them in unlimited quantities, neither do you have to avoid them.
However, added sugars deserve special caution. Foods that contain added sugars may be delicious, but they can wreak havoc on your blood sugar control.
Foods You Should Eat Less Often
You probably already know that added sugars aren’t that good for you. Not only will they rapidly increase your blood sugar, but they also contribute to weight gain, increase your risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and even contribute to wrinkles.
That doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a slice of cake or a piece of candy. But, how often you indulge in those foods matters.
In addition to added sugars, other foods to limit include:
- High-fat meat, especially from beef, pork, and lamb
- Sweetened beverages
- Fruit juice
- Trans fats such as shortening, fried foods, and partially hydrogenated oils
Again, it’s ok to indulge in these foods on occasion. If you go to a party, you might choose to eat some potato chips. Or, if you take your partner out for a fancy dinner, you might order the steak.
There’s nothing wrong with that! However, be honest with yourself about what occasional really means. If you’re reaching for treats every day, it’s time to reevaluate.
Make sure you’ve taken these indulgences into account over the course of the day. If you plan to enjoy a sweet treat, choose less of other carbohydrates at that meal. And if you take insulin, you may need to adjust.
Enjoy What You Eat
The food you choose is about more than just the nutrients it provides. Food brings us pleasure and is an integral part of our relationships and social experiences. It’s ok to enjoy foods you love at times when it’s most meaningful to you.
The goal of diabetes management is to help you live well while preventing future complications. Your diabetes care team will help you design a meal plan that works for you. Working closely with your doctor and diabetes educator will ensure you meet your blood sugar goals and also enjoy what you eat.