Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may feel bewildered by what you suddenly can and cannot eat. You may search for a type 2 diabetes food list that can be followed to stay healthy and safe. However, in doing so, you might find conflicting information, which can make things all the more confusing.

It might help to start off by first categorizing foods into different groups, but eating healthy with type 2 diabetes isn’t just about eating the right kinds of foods. Rather, eating the right quantities of these foods is also important. It’s about creating a balanced, nutritious diet, which is something that is equally advisable for people who do not have diabetes.

If you have diabetes, it is important to choose foods with a low glycemic index—that is, items that contain carbohydrates that are less apt to cause your blood glucose levels to soar. The glycemic index ranks carbs according to their effect on blood glucose upon digestion.

Searching for ‘smart foods’ or ‘superfoods’ is also helpful and you may find it fun as well. These are foods that offer great nutrition but also balance omega 3 fatty acids, carbohydrates and monounsaturated fats, not to mention vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds. When everything in your menu comes together, these super foods help to make blood sugar levels more stable while getting you the nutrients you need.

For people with type 2 diabetes, foods that contain fiber are also especially important. There are many benefits to increasing the fiber in your diet. Foods rich in fiber must be chewed properly, which means things are already beginning to slow down, digestion-wise. Fiber also helps people to feel full. And in terms of blood glucose, these plant fibers often are intertwined the starches that are to be digested, meaning they allow your body to take up carbohydrates at a less explosive pace than you get from white bread or white rice, for instance. This means that blood sugar levels and insulin levels remain more stable.

Omega 3 fatty acids have a favorable affect on some of the risk factors that are associated with heart disease. They can help normalize the fats, or lipids, that circulate in the bloodstream and also seem to help keep the lining of the body’s many arteries healthy. While fish oils alone will not cure you of diabetes, these oils are healthy in a number of ways and can be particularly beneficial to those with diabetes and its associated problems of metabolism. Sources of omega 3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, like tuna, salmon and trout. Dark leafy vegetables, including lettuce, also provide these healthy nutrients. Finally, today omega 3s are also added to many different products such as peanut butter and spreadable butter alternatives.

Diabetes Foods To Avoid:

Trans fats, saturated fats and sugars usually rank highly on the list of things to avoid, but people with type 2 diabetes should also be examining their meat intake and how much protein is on their plate.

Most of us get far more protein than we need in a given day. People who have diabetes, in particular, should watch their consumption of excessive protein because they are at risk for having weaker kidneys. Too much protein means the kidneys have to work harder.

On the other hand, too little protein is also not a good thing. Proteins help to stabilize levels of blood sugar because they are slower to digest. They also give you a sense of fullness. Lean meats and eggs are good sources of protein.

So, what is the right amount of protein? Many nutritionists speak of the “deck of cards” concept for healthy adults, in regard to the appropriate size of a piece of meat. If your portion is bigger than a deck of cards, you are getting more than 3 ounces of meat, or about 25g of protein.

The bottom line from the American Diabetes Association is that meats do not contain carbohydrate so they do not raise blood glucose levels, however a balanced meal plan usually has only about 2-5 ounces of meat. If using the plate method of diabetes menu planning, your high-protein portion would be only about ¼ of the plate.