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The Diabetic Diet: What Should You Know?

Diabetes – a condition that affects how the body produces and uses insulin. People are either born with diabetes (type 1) or develop diabetes over time (type 2). Two other forms of diabetes also exist – these are prediabetes and gestational diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition characterized by higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to give a formal diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and typically resolves on its own. 

No matter the type of diabetes, diet works wonders at helping control insulin levels. So, what does a diabetic diet look like? 

Managing and Controlling Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels

Globally, diabetes presents a significant challenge. According to the World Health Organization, worldwide cases have doubled since 1980. Overweight populations, the globalization of fast food, and lack of general knowledge of how eating patterns contribute to the prevalence of the disease contribute to the spread. Diabetes is a metabolic disease in that the body no longer can produce enough insulin, a hormone from the pancreas that breaks down glucose, the sugar that results from digestion. 

As a result, glucose is not able to reach the cells to provide energy. The resulting hyperglycemia or too high a concentration of sugar in the blood is a severe condition that causes a host of health problems. There are many types of diabetes, including gestational diabetes that affects pregnant women and their babies; type 1 diabetes, a congenital form of the disease wherein the pancreas produces no insulin; the most common is type 2 diabetes that can be prevented, treated or reversed by healthy eating plans and exercise, in many cases. 

Nearly ten percent of the population has diabetes. Diabetes has a high mortality rate, with most diabetics dying before reaching age seventy. Diabetics run a high risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, elevated blood sugars tax the kidneys causing nerve pain and, in some cases, either partial or full loss of vision. The economic burden looms close to catastrophic. 

In 2015, medical costs worldwide came to about $827 billion to treat diabetes comorbidities. The overwhelming consensus is that to curb the rise of the epidemic, people must be empowered with the information of how their actions can help prevent and often put in complete remission this terrible disease.

Dietary intervention is vital to stave off the host of potential complications a diabetic diagnosis brings. Most physicians prescribe a visit with a registered dietician shortly after diagnosing prediabetes or diabetes. In a 2010 study in Taiwan, onsite monitoring by a dietician improved glycemic control in patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. 

Dieticians act as lifestyle coaches who educate patients as to what to eat with diabetes. They function as case managers who help facilitate meal planning. Dieticians advise which foods are diabetes diet-friendly. As community educators, dieticians inform people what current diet guidelines are. They provide vital education to ensure that diabetics have a diet rich in nutrients that is satisfying, and that helps keep their blood sugar in the target range recommended by their physician.

One important way dieticians show up is as accountability guides for those who are following a diabetic diet for weight loss. The recommendation is to increase activity to 150 minutes per week and lose 7% of starting body weight. These are modest changes that most people can meet with the right support. 

Patients who feel a sense of obligation and/or think that they have control over their conditions tend to keep their appointments with dieticians. In a small study of 100 patients who received 12-week nutritional guidance, only three dropped out. The ninety-seven who remained all reduced their waist circumference had lower blood sugars, and reduced HDL cholesterol at the end of the program.

The Difference Between Noom and Other Plans and Programs

When it comes to learning how to eat and how to live for weight loss, Noom works from a psychological perspective. According to the Chief of Psychology for Noom, Dr. Andreas Michaelides, “By understanding the past behaviors and attitudes of all types of users, we know the best way to meet our users where they are in their journey to help them maximize their change of long-term weight-loss success.” Noom, as a weight-loss platform, uses the power of food logging, among other advanced technologies, to teach simple, key behaviors for lasting change. Behavior changes that include self-efficacy, motivation, and knowledge are just the start of how psychology can interact with food, so you lose more weight in a way that lasts a lifetime.

Noom works with tech-based tools partnered with support from real-life coaches in a structured program that connects the user with the social support and positive reinforcement needed to change behavior in a way that increases the likelihood of success.

Not all dietary changes are for everyone, and no two weight-loss plans should be the same, which is precisely how Noom works.

By identifying specific areas where changes can be made to reach goals of weight loss and health improvement successfully, users realize where their best moves are to be made and how those changes are incorporated into a lifestyle they can adopt for the long-term.

Prediabetes

Prediabetes, or borderline diabetes, is when someone has high blood glucose but not high enough to be a full diabetic. To prevent developing full-blown diabetes, the soundest course of action is to make lifestyle changes. The most important two steps are to follow a borderline diabetic diet and get more exercise. 

Researchers are currently pursuing medication interventions, but these are a relatively low priority considering that modest lifestyle adjustments can curtail the course of the disease. Medication only shows short-term benefits, while interventions that center around adopting healthier habits can prevent developing full diabetes. Prediabetes is on the rise. Complications like neuropathy, nephropathy, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetic retinopathy all are associated with prediabetes.

Importance of Maintaining Blood Sugar Levels

To delay or avoid diabetic complications, patients must control blood glucose levels. Actions to ensure success include:

  • Patients must commit to adhering to a healthy diabetic meal plan.
  • Diabetics need to get at least 150 minutes of activity each week.
  • Newly diagnosed diabetics should learn to monitor their blood glucose levels.
  • To make the necessary lifestyle changes, they need to develop new coping skills because stress hurts blood sugar.
  • To manage diabetes, patients need to improve their problem-solving skills.
  • Diabetics, types 1 and 2, have to take their medications as prescribed by their healthcare providers.
  • Reducing risky behaviors helps patients take the necessary lifestyle interventions seriously.

These seven factors lead to better outcomes for diabetic patients.

Prevent Prediabetes from Becoming Diabetes

35% of adults in the United States have prediabetes and are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Everyone who has type 2 diabetes went through a prediabetic phase. Those highest risk for developing prediabetes are forty-five or older, overweight or obese, have a family history of diabetes, and tend to be physically inactive. Other contributing factors include race, economic class, stress, and hypertension. Lifestyle interventions such as going on a diabetic diet to lose weight to lose between 5-10% of starting body weight and forsaking sedentary habits make the most sense during the prediabetic phase because doing so has been shown to prevent or at least postpone onset.

It’s essential to raise awareness among primary care healthcare providers of prediabetes. If more healthcare providers were aware of borderline diabetes as an opportunity to curtail the disease, many believe that more healthcare providers would aggressively recommend borderline diabetic diets as treatment measures.

Individual counseling, workplace programs, and community groups are each methods to increase awareness among physicians and laypeople alike to the ways that interventions prevent type 2 diabetes.

For patients under sixty years old who have a family history of diabetes and a body mass of at least thirty-five, metformin has shown short-term benefit. Medication is currently reserved for those at the highest risk. 

Physicians may fare better meeting with patients to discuss the importance of nutrition, diabetic diet basics, and how relatively small changes can preserve their health and improve the quality of their lives. Public awareness of prediabetes and the proven effect that lifestyle interventions have can save lives.

Diabetes and Your Health

Fat Intake and Diabetes/Blood Glucose

Contrary to what is conventionally believed, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can be useful in managing blood glucose levels. High-fat diets that are low in carbohydrates suppress appetite, which may aid in weight-loss efforts. The science is inconclusive as to exactly why a diabetic diet that’s low carb and high in fat causes weight loss and also keeps blood sugars in a good target range. The prevailing notion is that substantially reducing carbohydrates reduces calories, and that results in weight loss.

Diets that are high in unsaturated fats are shown to be the most beneficial to diabetics. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats like those found in nuts, seeds, olive oils, and avocados may be better for blood sugar stability than a diabetic diet that is low carb but high in animal fats.

Hyperglycemia

Diabetics who remain sedentary run a higher risk of chronic hyperglycemia. Other factors that contribute to hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose, include failure to adhere to a diabetic diet meal plan, infection, illness, hormonal fluctuations, and/or medical complications. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Headache
  • Chronic thirst

Sedentary living is associated with a higher prevalence of hyperglycemia. According to the ADA, American Diabetes Association, diabetic patients do not show motivation enough to change their habits because medical caregivers currently do not stress the serious consequences of high blood glucose levels. Too many healthcare providers stress the importance of maintaining normal blood sugars without listing the adverse effects that come from having blood glucose levels that are chronically too high. They stress that it’s more motivating to list the harms that come from sustained hyperglycemia over time. That without treatment and change of habits, these conditions become inevitable. 

Unregulated blood glucose over time can lead to premature death from heart disease or chronic kidney disease. Other complications of diabetes that stem from hyperglycemia are neuropathy or nerve pain, limb deadness that often leads to amputations, and loss of vision from diabetic retinopathy.

Nerve Damage

Diabetic neuropathy currently affects 50% of diabetics. Hyperglycemia remains a significant contributor to the disorder. Symptoms include pain with no apparent stimuli. The itching, burning is worse at night and interrupt sleep. It affects extremities, mostly legs, and feet. Over time, nerves die, and degrees of numbness can lead to diabetics being unaware of wounds that grow gangrenous and lead to amputations. Neuropathy also affects digestive nerves. This can lead to a lack of appetite or the inability to eat enough calories each day.

Healthcare providers treat neuropathy with anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and, in extreme cases, opioids. And while there are lifestyle changes people can make to slow the onset of diabetic complications, for a lot of diabetics, primarily type 1 diabetics, nerve damage from diabetes will happen regardless of whether they smoked, ate healthily or jogged daily. To better understand how to treat neuropathy, researchers are currently looking into exactly how it develops.

Neuropathy can feel like agony. To be in constant pain is a source of toxic stress. It decreases the quality of life and contributes to depression. Diabetic patients who suffer from neuropathy have such an increased risk for depression that the complication is the most reliable indicator that someone will develop diabetes-related depression. 

Researchers conclude that chronic pain, lack of sleep, and diminished quality of life all contribute to depression among diabetics who suffer from nerve damage.

Keeping blood sugar in check is vital to overall health.

Noom can help with the easy-to-use food logging system that’s supported and managed by nutritionists.

Heart Damage

Someone with diabetes is 65% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease regardless of other existing risk factors. Heart disease is more common in type 2 diabetics. In fact, heart disease is the most common cause of death in type 2 diabetics. Diabetics are two to four times more likely to die from cardiovascular incidents. 

Hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, is the most common kind of heart damage related to diabetes. The buildup of plaque from high cholesterol begins before high blood sugar is detectable. Heart failure is the other major cause of heart disease death in diabetic patients.

Inflammation is an indicator of heart disease. Where arteries are full of plaque and as the pressure grows, so grows inflammation as well. The body reacts to the plaque like it does any threat. The body uses swelling to block off the plaque, but often blood clots form when blood pressure grows too high and blood vessels burst. The plaque and resulting clots are how most heart attacks in the incidence of stroke happen.

Kidney Damage

High blood glucose levels cause damage to blood vessels in the kidneys. Hypertension contributes to high incidents of kidney disease in diabetics. Chronic kidney disease is also called diabetic kidney disease, CKD, DKD, kidney disease of diabetes, and diabetic nephropathy. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and failure. Other risk factors are:

  • People who are heavy smokers increase their risks for both diabetic kidney disease and kidney disease that is caused by high blood pressure. Smoking slows the blood flow to the kidneys down. Smoking also interferes with medication meant to treat hypertension.
  • Poor eating patterns that do not adhere to guidelines for diabetic diet for type 1 diabetes lead to uncontrolled blood glucose, which leads to kidney damage.
  • High-sodium diets raise blood pressure that causes damage to kidney tissue. People who have both diabetes and hypertension must reduce sodium in their diets to preserve their kidney’s health and function.
  • Lack of exercise contributes to weight gain. Sedentary people also have high risks for high blood pressure because the heart has to work harder to pump blood to vital organs. When the kidneys lack nutrients, they begin to die.
  • Not taking medications as prescribed allows conditions to run rampant in the body. Failure to take medications and refusing to make lifestyle changes necessary to treat diabetes and high blood pressure put your life at serious risk.
  • Being overweight raises your risk of developing both diabetes and high blood pressure. Just losing 10% of your starting body weight reduces your chances significantly.
  • Having heart disease means that you already have a weakened heart muscle that does not efficiently pump blood to the kidneys, which leads to damage.

Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure. One in four adults with diabetes has kidney failure. The decline of one’s kidneys due to chronic kidney disease as a complication of diabetes is painful. One of the first symptoms is pain in the lower back. The kidneys lose their efficiency as filters. Protein and blood pass through in the urine. Over time, waste does not pass through the kidneys. It gets stored in the body. Kidney disease doesn’t usually develop until at least 15 years in the course of diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetics are most at risk for chronic kidney disease. Healthy habits postpone and, in some cases, help avoid kidney damage and failure. To monitor your kidney health, have your healthcare provider check your kidneys annually if you have type 2 diabetes and if you’ve had type 1 diabetes for more than five years. The best way to preserve your kidneys’ function as long as possible is to adhere to the prescribed program to keep your blood glucose within your recommended target range.

Maintaining Healthy Blood Glucose Level

How to Keep Blood Sugar Stable

For type 1 diabetes, the target range for blood sugar is 90-130 mg/DL for adults and teens between thirteen and nineteen years old before meals. After meals, blood glucose levels should be below 180 mg/DL. At bedtime, a suitable range for blood glucose is between 90-150 mg/DL. With type 2 diabetes, the pre-meal target range for blood glucose should be 70-130 mg/DL for adults and after meals no more than 180 mg/DL.

Diabetics need to know how to test their blood glucose levels. They need to check blood glucose at least once daily, or however many times they’re directed to by their healthcare providers. Diabetics also should know what to do when their blood sugar becomes either too high or too low. In these cases, it’s essential to check to see if they’re following healthy diabetic eating habits, monitor, and adjust insulin amounts and injection sites. Stress levels wreak havoc on blood sugar stability. Illnesses cause fluctuations in blood sugar as do weight gain or loss.

To sustain proper blood sugar levels, patients have to move their bodies. The recommendation is to get thirty minutes of exercise five days a week. One need not strain. Walking is the most accessible exercise regime to start. Then again, any activity that gets the body moving makes a big difference. People should vary their physical activities to get the most out of their exercise time. Equally important to exercise is to stick to whatever diabetic diet plan works best for your body. It’s best to avoid sitting for more than thirty minutes at a time. Get up every half hour or so, stretch and move around.

Healthy Food Choices

To remain healthy, it is not necessary to subscribe to a strict diabetic diet. You can and should continue to enjoy your favorite foods but in moderation. Have them less often and in smaller portions. Healthy diabetic eating involves eating a variety of foods each day. The food groups, as they relate to a typical diabetic diet, are as follows:

  • Starchy Vegetables include food such as potatoes, beets, and corn.
  • Non-starchy vegetables are the leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, and stems like celery. Butternut squash and pumpkin also are non-starchy vegetables.
  • Grains are the category where most carbohydrate-dense foods are found. Foods like wheat, oatmeal, bread, pasta, rice, and quinoa are all grains.
  • Protein to most people means meat, but there are many plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, many legumes, and beans.
  • Healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
  • Low-fat dairy includes such foods as 2% milk, reduced-fat Greek yogurt, and light cheeses.
  • Fruits include berries, apples, pears, and melons.

Diabetics must watch their sodium intake, limit the consumption of added sugars, alcohol, and sweets.

Tracking Food Intake

Personal accountability in managing type 2 diabetes is paramount. To make the necessary changes involved in keeping blood sugar within safe ranges, you must keep track of what you’re eating as part of your daily diabetic diet.

One can keep a pad and paper to track what you eat, or you can employ Noom

Whatever the method, recording diabetes-friendly food intake while following even a simple diabetic diet can help you lose weight. Another benefit of keeping a food diary of your daily diabetic diet is tracked over time, you can see how different diabetes-friendly foods affect blood glucose levels. Having a record of what you eat along with your blood sugar numbers is a helpful tool in maintaining diabetes types 1 and 2.

When keeping a record of food intake while on a diabetic diet, many concentrate their attention on counting carbohydrates. The typical diabetic diet aims to have an individual consume no more than 250 grams of carbohydrates per day. Carbohydrates all get broken down into sugars by the body. The four food categories that provide carbohydrates are starchy vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, and, of course, complex carbohydrates like grains. Using nutrition labels, the diabetic finds and records how many grams of carbohydrates eaten in one day.

Another way to keep track of what you eat is to simply log every morsel that passes through your lips. Keeping a food journal is a proven way to empower a patient to be an active participant in their treatment. Even those who have diabetes type 1 benefit from keeping a food journal. They can trace how different foods cause blood glucose levels to rise. Doing so helps determine what foods are most diabetic friendly.

For those following a diabetic type 2 diet, their primary aim from their healthcare provider is likely to lose weight. Keeping track of calories consumed each day helps tremendously in that endeavor. To drop pounds, one needs to consume fewer calories than one burns off during the day. To have a record of every calorie consumed keeps people honest. Most people, if they are not recording in real-time, underreport their food intake.

Some people also track their food consumption by recording their adjusted insulin dosages in addition to what foods they eat. Diabetics must know how to adjust their dosages if they are insulin-dependent. This method is most useful to people who are following a diabetic diet type 1. Type 1 diabetics produce no insulin naturally and require insulin injections to live. No amount of behavior modification can reverse their condition. Still, healthy lifestyle choices can postpone or avoid complications and improve quality of life.

What Does A Diabetic Diet Consist Of?

The ideal diabetic diet is really little more than a healthy, nutrient-dense diet full of a variety of whole foods that are delicious and enjoyed in moderation. Diabetic diets consist of foods that break down slowly in the body. Foods that are diabetic-friendly increase your health and vitality. The best foods for diabetics do not come in packages. Good food for diabetics comes from nature. The more unrefined food a diabetic person consumes, the better. A diabetic diet for type 1 diabetics supports their body. It helps them postpone the complications that come from having diabetes for an extended period.

Diabetic Diet Guidelines

There is no one daily diabetic diet that meets everybody’s needs. When it comes down to diabetic diet basics, there is, however, a list of standardly accepted recommendations that can help diabetics stay as healthy as possible.

  • Every day, diabetics must eat three meals and have at least one snack. Snacking is more a factor of people following a diabetic diet type 1 because type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin on their own and need to medicate to digest their foods.
  • Diabetics must not skip meals. Skipping meals leads to blood sugar drops that can be just as dangerous to the body as having blood sugars go too high. Low blood sugar levels cause slurred speech, slower brain function, and possible seizures.
  • Meals need to be about four to five hours apart. Eat adequate fat and fiber to slow digestion and make sure that you feel full and satisfied longer.
  • Before bed, have a snack to keep blood sugar from getting too low while sleeping. Snacks should have between 15-30 grams of carbohydrate. It’s also advised to pair the carb with some protein.
  • If the gap between meals will be more than five hours, eat a carbohydrate snack. Snacks, again, are essential for folks on a diabetic diet type 1 plan.
  • Adopt a meal schedule. Eat meals at about the same time each day. Find a program that fits into your life’s daily rhythm and activity levels.
  • Take any medications at the same time every day as well. There are plenty of ways to bring your medicines with you during the day. 
  • Have two to four servings of carbohydrates each day. This applies to those following a diabetic diet low carb style. Carbohydrates provide the energy for cellular respiration, the primary function of life. It is never a good idea to try to eliminate all carbs from your diet.
  • Diabetics need to eat two to four servings of fruit daily. To make your food more diabetic-friendly, it’s likely that you’ll significantly cut sweets from your diet to stay healthy. Fruits provide natural sweetness along with heart-healthy fiber. Some fruits are so full of antioxidants that they help reduce risks of cardiovascular disease and reverse insulin dependence.
  • Remember to count dairy as a carbohydrate because lactose is a naturally-occurring sugar. If you eat dairy, you should have it no more than three times a day because of the lactose. Also, remember to choose reduced-fat dairy over skim or whole fat. Skim acts like a simple sugar, and whole fat is too full of unhealthy saturated fats.

Noom works with your dietary needs to develop a personalized plan to help you lose weight while maintaining healthy blood glucose levels.

Portion Control

Few people monitor what they eat and drink. Instead, they allow sensory input like how appetizing something looks or smells to influence how much they consume. The size of the plate, how long one’s been sitting at the table, and how much has been served on the plate also determine how much most people eat. This leads to oversized portions that lead to overweight people who find themselves at greater risk for diabetes. To reign in distorted portion sizes, diabetics must become mindful of proper portion control. Luckily it is a skill that people can learn. Whatever diabetic diet meal plan one opts to adhere to, learning to eat appropriate portions will improve one’s health outcome.

One way to learn portion control is through the plate method diabetic meal plan. The idea is to use the geography of a plate to measure out portions. One half the plate is for green, non-starchy vegetables. One quarter is designated for grains. The other quarter is where the protein portion goes. One piece of fruit and a serving of low-fat dairy round out the meal. It is simple. It requires no measuring. It also helps visually train the eye to recognize what goes where and how much should be there on a plate. The most important thing is to use a dish that isn’t too large.

Another way to learn portion control is by learning to eyeball correct portions by using a comparison chart to learn correct portion sizes. For example, a portion of lean protein, like skinless chicken breast, is about the size of a deck of cards. A portion of fish is about the size of a checkbook. A proper serving of grains is about the size of a tennis ball. Starchy vegetable portions are about the size of a cupcake liner. One serving of dry spaghetti has the diameter of a nickel. The proper portion of nuts would fit in a shot glass. A serving of cheese should be the size of a domino. Nut butter portions are about the size of a ping-pong ball.

While these visual cues are quite helpful, in the beginning, when you are first learning to reign in your portions, it is still advisable to use measuring cups and measuring spoons to get an accurate idea of what correct serving sizes look like. A food scale comes in handy for this purpose as well. Often serving sizes are given in weights and not volume. Once you have a grasp of how to measure your food, it’s fine to rely on visual cues. Every so often, though, it’s a good idea to measure out portions again. Many people, after a while, start to overestimate portion sizes.

Other tricks to unlearn portion distortion include:

  • Refrain from eating directly out of containers. Measure out a serving size and sit down and eat it.
  • Measure out snack foods beforehand into small containers or plastic baggies.
  • Keep a measuring spoon or cup near the foods you regularly eat.
  • Split meals when dining out as restaurant servings tend to be enormous.

Choose a Meal Plan to Regulate Blood Sugar

It may not be necessary to completely overhaul one’s diet entirely to make it diabetic-friendly. Some foods serve the body better than others. A healthy eating plan is rich in nutrients. Having a firm grasp on diabetic diet basics is central to reaching and keeping blood glucose levels in the target range that keeps severe complications such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol at bay. To do so, you need to understand how different nutrients function in your diet. Learn to have the correct balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and other food groups will help keep your weight down as well.

Recognize, too, that the best approach for your particular chemistry might be a combination of several different methods. There are many different ways to use diet and exercise to manage blood glucose. Taking care of your health does not need to feel like a hardship. None of the eating patterns represent a short term solution to fix a problem and then return to old habits. To increase vitality and health, pick a simple diabetic diet that you can stick with for the rest of your life.

Best Foods for Diabetes

Healthy Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy and should not be avoided. Through digestion, our bodies break down carbohydrates into glucose that gets burned for energy in a diabetic diet plan. There are three main kinds of carbohydrates: starches, sugars, and fiber. Healthy carbohydrates have a high ratio of fiber to starch or sugar, and some also have protein. Protein and fiber slow digestion and rate that carbohydrates are absorbed. This lessens the food’s impact on blood glucose levels. When it comes to carbohydrates in a diabetic diet eating plan, not all are created equal. The following are some of the best carb options for diabetics.

● Lentils and beans are full of fiber and protein. It’s best to rinse before cooking to cut down sodium. They can be served as grains or combined with a complex grain like brown rice to deliver a complete protein in for a diabetic diet vegetarian option.

● Apples and pears when eaten with their skin on provide pleasant sweetness with a healthy dose of fiber. These fruits are full of antioxidants. They also have a high water content that coupled with their high fiber content makes them quite filling.

● Winter squashes like spaghetti squash, pumpkin, and butternut squash have high amounts of Vitamins A and C. These squashes have a dense, starchy feel but have low glycemic indices. For example, butternut squash has half the carbohydrates of the same amount of sweet potato. They are full of heart-healthy fiber.

● Berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries pack a lot of nutrients. They’re high in antioxidants; so, they help fight cancer-causing cells. They have lots of fiber that contribute to heart health and lowering cholesterol. They also are delicious and sweet.

● Low-fat Greek yogurt may be the best source of dairy for diabetics. It has higher amounts of protein that slow the body’s absorption of lactose. It has less of a carbohydrate load than other yogurts and dairy.

● Sweet potatoes, of all the starchy vegetables, has the most going for it nutritionally. They have very high concentrations of vitamins C and A. Sweet potatoes have a great deal of fiber, especially when eaten with the skin on. They have less of a glycemic impact than white potatoes.

● Bulgur wheat is a whole grain that has potential benefits as a diabetic diet food. It has more fiber than white or brown rice and can replace them in recipes. It’s a high-fiber grain.

● Oatmeal might be the most overlooked superfood in the pantry. Full of fiber that keeps the digestive tract and heart healthy, this grain might even reduce the need for insulin injections in type 2 diabetics because it contributes to weight management.

● Quinoa has a very low glycemic index and does not significantly affect blood sugar. It is a complete protein. It is an exceptional grain for diabetics to have as part of their diet.

Are you getting enough healthy carbohydrates in your diet?

Log your food each day, and night, with Noom, and you’ll know exactly what’s in your meals.

Healthy Fish

Eating fish that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids twice a week may protect against both diabetic-related kidney disease and eye damage. According to a Spanish study, people who had fish reduced their risk of diabetic blindness by up to 48%. Another study out of Britain, published by the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, showed that diabetics who eat fish two times per week, showed less protein in their urine, a sign of kidney damage. They also had fewer incidents of blood in their urine, as well as decreased blood pressure.

Fish can be a great addition to any diabetic diet or meal plan. Fish are high in protein, rich in vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Though fish can be pricey, there are less expensive options available. The best fish and seafood options are low in saturated fats, high in omega-3’s, and either steamed, baked, roasted, or poached. Some fish, like sardines, are high in calcium. Here is a list of the best fish and shellfish for diabetics.

  • Salmon might be the healthiest fish you could eat. It is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart health.
  • Cod has niacin, Vitamin B3, which helps lower LDL.
  • Tilapia is a lean source of protein.
  • Trout has omega-6’s that fight inflammation.
  • Shrimp may be relatively high in cholesterol, but is very low in fat, has no saturated fat or trans-fat. Studies show that shrimp can be included in a heart-healthy diet.
  • Crab, lobster, and crawfish make you work for their flavorful meat. Their shells make for natural portion control.
  • Canned tuna and salmon are both budget-friendly ways to enjoy the abundant health benefits of eating fish. Choose versions that are packed in water.
  • Sardines have a lot of calcium.

High Fiber Foods

Fiber is a diabetic’s friend. Fiber is the indigestible portion of carbohydrates that does not raise blood sugar. Fiber adds bulk that makes you feel full. There two types of fiber are insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber can be found in foods like wheat bran, other whole grains, and vegetables. Insoluble fiber aids digestion by adding bulk to allow food to move along the digestive tract smoothly. Soluble fiber attracts water, slows digestion, and helps lower the risk of heart disease and lowers cholesterol. Foods like nuts, seeds, oat bran, and legumes are high in soluble fiber.

Insulin-dependent diabetics should take care and gradually increase fiber intake to the recommended 40g per day. Most people eat only about half that amount daily. Fiber affects the rate of digestion and can lead to low blood sugar. Too much fiber added to a diabetic diet too quickly can also cause discomfort like gas and bloating. It is worth it to incorporate more fiber into your diet. If you intend to follow a low-fat eating pattern, also eat a diet that is high in fiber to have sustainable weight loss.

Good Fats

Monounsaturated fats may benefit the heart when incorporated into a healthy diabetic diet. Most come from plants and include:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Flaxseed oil

Other sources of monounsaturated fats are olives, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and avocados.

Type 2 diabetics who consume a diet that gets no more than 30% of total calories from monounsaturated fats showed a drop in their fasting glucose level of up to 30 points. Diets rich in healthy fats reduce blood lipids and visceral fat. Extra virgin olive oil increases HDL, good cholesterol, levels. Flaxseed oil is a good source of omega 3’s that decrease LDL or bad cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are rich in vitamin E that helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. 

Polyunsaturated fats carry many of the same benefits as monounsaturated fats. They provide essential fats that the body requires to function. They reduce cardiovascular disease risks and support the body’s ability to metabolize sugar more efficiently in type 2 diabetes. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Fish like salmon, herring, and tuna
  • Fatty nuts like walnuts and pine nuts
  • Seeds such as flaxseed, sunflower, and pumpkin
  • Vegetable oils like sunflower, soybean, and corn
  • Soybeans

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats gives a tremendous boost to diabetic health. Consuming omega 3 fatty acids and other good for you fats can postpone or halt complications that uncontrolled blood glucose guarantees.

Foods to Avoid

Though it is true that to live well with diabetes, one needs not adopt a strict diabetic diet, there are foods that if indulged in do more harm than good. Sugary drinks like sodas, fruit juices, commercial flavored coffee drinks, fast food smoothies, high carb drinks, and milkshakes provide lots of sugar, fat, and lots of empty calories. All these can be made at home at a fraction of the cost to your health. There are plenty of diabetic diet drinks to choose from. You can make juice spritzers with seltzer water. Just add a dash of fruit juice to plain cold seltzer for a carbonated beverage that does not contain sugar.

You do not have to avoid any foods on Noom, but healthy fats are always the best option.

Learn more with Noom today!

Saturated Fats

Having a diet too full of saturated fats is the fifth characteristic associated with developing type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when cells do not utilize the insulin produced by the pancreas to absorb sugars in the blood for energy. Saturated fats also cause pancreatic cells to die off and slow or halt insulin production. Diabetics who consume diets high in saturated fats have an even greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Saturated fats come from almost entirely from animal sources and include foods like:

  • Lard
  • Fatback and salt pork
  • Butter
  • Full fat dairy
  • Marbled, high-fat meats
  • Poultry skin

The ADA recommends that no more than 20% of daily fat intake be saturated fats. Some of these fats may be okay in moderation. For example, fatback and salt pork are traditionally used to season soups and bean dishes. You can cook your chicken with the skin on to keep it moist, but discard the skin before you eat it.

Rich high-fat cuts of meat, lard, and butter are all foods that were never meant to be consumed every day. Saturated fats clog the arteries and raise LDL. Replacing unhealthy saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats even a few times a week dramatically reduces cardiovascular risks and complications from diabetes.

Trans Fats

Trans fats increase cholesterol levels. They are, in fact, less healthy than saturated fats. Trans fats have a stronger causal link to insulin resistance than saturated fats. Trans fats are created through a process called hydrogenation. The method of hydrogenation turns liquid oil into solid fat. Shortening and margarine are the two primary sources of trans fats. While those two foods have gone out of style, they are still the main ingredients in commercially made baked goods. Packaged cookies, crackers, and some chips remain sources of trans fats.

Healthcare providers regard trans fats as the worst fats you could eat. They raise the amount of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream and lower good cholesterol. Plaque and fatty deposits clog your arteries with the threat of rupture continually looming. If they do rupture, the result is a stroke or a heart attack that can lead to premature death. Trans fats are not foods that occur in nature, aside from in small amounts. They are a product of manufacture and should be wholly eliminated from your diet.

The FDA no longer considers partially hydrogenated vegetable oil as safe. Vegetable-based saturated fats like coconut oil and palm oil are not much better for you. The best fats to consume are polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.

Cholesterol

Our bodies produce cholesterol naturally. It also comes from different animal foods we eat. Low-density lipoproteins, LDL, make up the “bad” cholesterol that clogs arteries and leads to increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. The foods that have the most cholesterol are fatty meats like sausages, organ meats like liver, egg yolks, full-fat dairy, and poultry skin. Other foods laden with cholesterol are hard cheeses and fried foods.

Shrimp is low-fat food that, for some reason, has a high cholesterol content. It does not contribute to raising LDL, nor does it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Shrimp is universally considered a heart-healthy food.

Consuming a diet high in fiber is the best way to lower cholesterol in your blood. Omega 3 fatty acids also contribute to raising HDL. The best line of defense for a long life is to change the way you live.

Sodium

High sodium intake increases the risk of heart disease in diabetic patients. Some high sodium foods people may not suspect include condiments like ketchup and soy sauce. The average American consumes about 3400 mg of sodium daily. The maximum recommended for a diabetic diet is 2300 mg. Processed foods like frozen ready meals, canned soups, and sauces, shelf-stable bottled vegetable juice, breakfast cereals, hot dogs, bacon, and processed luncheon meats have the most sodium.

There are many ways to lower sodium in your diet. Getting rid of salt shakers on your table makes a huge difference. You can season food with herbs, lemon juice, and zest, and other salt-free options. But the single most effective way to eliminate excess sodium in the diet is to stop eating commercially packaged foods. Shelf-stable packaged, processed food sneaks sodium into the diet.

With planning and preparation, it is possible to replace nearly every pre-packaged food product. When you make your meals, make extra portions and store them in the freezer to pop into the microwave on days when time is short. The more you cook for yourself and your family, the more control you have over what goes into the food you eat. Remember, what goes into your food ultimately goes into you.

Approaches to the Diabetic Diet

As far as what to eat with diabetes, the truth is that nearly anything goes, but to prevent premature death and complications such as blindness, chronic kidney disease, amputations, and heart disease, following a diabetic diet for type 2 diabetes is recommended. Luckily there are many approaches to choose from. Though the methods vary, they do all still adhere to standard diabetic diet guidelines. 

Most diabetic eating plans prescribe three meals and at least one snack each day. Nearly all focus on eating correct portion sizes. Though there are packaged foods labeled as diabetic diet foods, most eating plans for diabetics these days center on whole, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods that are rich in nutrients. Diabetic eating plans require patients to be mindful of what they eat. Nearly all involve tracking intake in some way. Every healthy eating plan comes with the added requirement of increasing exercise.

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Plate Method

This is a relatively simple visual cue based guide to meal planning for diabetics. The Plate Method began at the University of Idaho. The approach was developed because studies show that diabetic diet education leads to better health outcomes from participants. 

Researchers based the approach on the Swedish Plate method. The purpose was to provide education in diabetic meal planning for people in more isolated areas who otherwise would not have access to dietitians to assist them in planning how they intend to manage their diabetes. 

The team developed a website and curriculum to teach portion control and how to shop for diabetic-friendly foods. They wanted an approach that was easy to learn and required very little math or technical skills.

The food is laid out on the plate as follows:

● One half of the plate is for non-starchy vegetables. Green vegetables provide the bulk of the nutrients required each day. They all have low glycemic indexes.

● One-quarter of the plate goes to protein. Proteins help slow the digestion process, which helps the body absorb the energy from the meal more efficiently.

● The remaining quarter of the plate is for grains. Any cooked grain is permitted in this program. Though it is recommended to eat whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur.

● The rest of the meal is made up of a serving of low-fat dairy and a piece of fruit.

● Lastly, drinks like unsweetened ice tea, water with lemon, or an artificially sweetened soda are suggested.

This method is highly customizable. It is suitable for omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans. Fats are to be kept within recommended levels. This method helps teach proper portion control in a very easy way that involves no math.

Counting Carbohydrates

Counting carbohydrates is one of the oldest recommended meal plans for diabetics. A wide variety of foods are permitted. To properly count carbohydrates, one must read labels of packaged foods to find out the total carbohydrate per recommended serving size. Counting carbs can be a rigorous practice. To do it correctly, you’ll need a calculator, a food scale, measuring cups, and measuring spoons.

Carbohydrates make up anywhere from 40-65% of daily food intake. The typical diabetic diet allows for up to 250 grams of carbohydrate each day. Diabetics are to eat three meals every day and one snack. A typical carbohydrate allotment per meal is between 45-65 grams per meal.

This method works for people who want to continue eating the standard American diet. This diabetic eating meal plan does not require dropping any one food group. Instead, diabetics can eat the same foods they’re accustomed to eating. It’s important to count and track carbohydrates from every source. Remember that on a diabetic diet, dairy counts as carbohydrates, too, because lactose is a sugar.

Apps make the tracking and calculations much easier for those who might be intimidated by the math involved. For more advanced carb counters, there is the option of tracking fiber as well. Carbohydrate counting can be tough in the beginning, but in time it becomes second nature like any new skill. It’s also vital to remember that even though counting carbohydrates is the focus of this approach, you should keep track of how much you eat from all food groups. Anything consumed in excess can lead to weight gain and complications later on.

Exchange Lists

Like counting carbs, the diabetic exchange list approach is a tried and true method of managing blood sugar levels for diabetics. This method is a simplified way to count carbohydrates. Food choices are pretty much limited to what is on your list. Most diabetic diet exchange lists tend to feature typical American fare. Food is categorized into six groups:

  • Starches/breads
  • Meats & meat substitutes
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Fat

Each category on the list has different options that though the serving size may vary, have roughly the same amount of calories, carbs, and other nutrients. A serving from any category is called a “choice.” For example, under the starches/bread list, two taco shells, three cups of microwave popcorn, and 16-25 French fries can all be equally exchanged. The lists make meal planning much easier. The choice of foods is limited to what is on the diabetic diet exchange lists. A challenge of exchange lists is that it is based on the food pyramid. It recommends foods that are considered potentially unhelpful in a diabetic diet.

For example, on the exchange lists, fat-free cream cheese, and fat-free sour cream are considered free foods. That means that you’re allowed to eat as much as you like of them. Fat free versions of full fat foods tend to have added sugar to replace the fat. It seems counterintuitive to recommend that diabetics eat with no limits foods that are laden with sugar. 

Another way that exchange lists seem to be out of touch with current knowledge about nutrition is the fact that the approach allows for liberal amounts of refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners. Multiple studies show a link between consumption of diet beverages and weight gain. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to lessening the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. For diabetics, this has problematic implications that need further study before the drinks are commonly recommended as diabetic diet drinks that can be consumed in large quantities.

Glycemic Index

Glycemic index measures how much a carbohydrate affects blood glucose levels. Carbs that have higher levels of fat, fiber, and protein have lower glycemic indexes. Processed, enriched grains have some of the highest glycemic indexes. The scale goes from 0 to 100. A cucumber, for example, has a glycemic index of 0. Pure glucose has a glycemic index of 100. A low glycemic index does not necessarily translate into being low carb. It just means that the carbohydrates in the food take longer to be absorbed into the blood. This slower breakdown means that the food doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.

Diabetes-friendly foods with a glycemic index of 55 and below include whole grains like barley, bulgur, quinoa; vegetables like carrots and artichokes; cereal grains like oatmeal; and most fruits and non-starchy vegetables. These should make up the bulk of your carbohydrate intake if you’re following a low glycemic diabetic eating plan. 

The medium glycemic index range is 56-69. Foods like whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, and couscous and dried fruits like raisins have medium glycemic indexes. These foods are fine in moderation. High glycemic index (70+) are nearly all processed carbohydrates and simple sugars. These foods should be eaten rarely or not at all as part of a healthy diabetic eating plan.

Tracking the glycemic index is ultimately a more advanced way of counting carbs. It leads people to choose complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest. It causes people to reject highly processed foods. Of all the ways to keep track of carbos, glycemic index lets you know how your body will respond to the carb you’re about to eat. This is a great tool for meal planning.

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Diabetic Diet Tips

To successfully bring your blood sugar under control with type 2 diabetes, permanent, sustainable lifestyle changes are necessary. There is definitely a learning curve, and to assist in incorporating these changes into your lifestyle diabetic diet, here are some tips to help maximize the benefits of your lifestyle change. These diabetic tips can make a difference in how you can care for yourself as a diabetic.

Low-fat Dairy to Save Bone Mass

Incorporating low-fat dairy into a diabetic diet reduces the risk of bone mass loss. Three servings each day are recommended. Dairy protein, potassium, and vitamin D contribute to the bone-strengthening benefit. In a diabetic diet, all dairy counts as carbohydrates. It’s better to choose low-fat dairy over nonfat because low-fat dairy has lower glycemic indexes than skim dairy.

Limit Alcohol

Diabetics should limit alcohol consumption. Moderate consumption of alcohol raises blood glucose levels, but excessive drinking can cause blood sugar to plummet. Carbohydrate-heavy drinks like beer and sweet wines raise blood sugar. Many cocktails have excess calories that lead to weight gain. Alcohol interferes with insulin and other diabetic medications. Excess alcohol consumption taxes the liver and can increase blood lipids and raise cholesterol. Alcohol consumption contributes to hypertension. Signs of drunkenness: slurred speech, blurred vision, flushing, nausea, increased heart rate, and slower cognitive function resemble symptoms of hypoglycemia. This can cause someone to disregard serious, potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Limit Salt

Excess sodium intake can be very dangerous to diabetics. Diabetics already have a greater risk of high blood pressure. A diet high in sodium increases that risk. The American Heart Association recommends that diabetics take in no more than 1500 mg of sodium each day. This a drastic cut from the average American sodium intake, which is between 6 and 8 grams daily. Processed, packaged foods are the primary sources of excess sodium. Meats like bacon are also high sodium items that should be eaten sparingly or better yet avoided altogether. Food can be seasoned with herbs, lemon juice or zest, lime juice or zest, and kinds of vinegar.

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How to Count Carbohydrates

The first step in mastering how to count carbohydrates is to understand the nutritional labels of the foods you eat. There are three main kinds of carbs: starch, sugar, and fiber. Other terms to describe carbohydrates in foods are:

● Naturally occurring sugars such as fructose and lactose.

● Added sugar–This usually means sucrose. It can also be high fructose corn syrup.

● Low cal sweeteners- Some items are sweetened with fruit juice concentrates.

● Processed grains such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, instant oatmeal, etc.

● Whole grains-These are grains with the bran, germ, and endosperm intact.

● Enriched grains–These are process grains that have had selected vitamins and minerals added to them.

● Complex carbohydrates–This can mean any carbohydrate other than simple sugars.

● Sweets–These are simple sugar foods. They’re mostly candies and sugar sodas.

● Refined grains–This is another term for processed, often bleached grains.

On the nutritional label, “total carbohydrate” includes all kinds of carbs. Foods like peas, corn, lima beans, potatoes, lentils, pinto beans, split peas, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas are all starches. Other starches include grains like oats, wheat, rice, and barley. Grains are made up of three parts: bran, germ, and endosperm.

Bran is the hard outer shell that contains the most fiber. The germ is the fatty layer that has the most nutrition in the grain. It has nutrients like vitamin E and essential fatty acids. The endosperm is the soft center. It’s where the starch is. The endosperm is the most energy-dense portion of the grain. This is why whole grains have a lower glycemic impact than processed grains. Processed grains are just the endosperm, with all the fiber and nutrients removed. This is why processed carbohydrates cause blood sugar to rise quickly. They get quickly broken down into glucose. If the energy isn’t needed by the body right away, it gets stored as fat.

Sugar has two main types. These are naturally occurring sugars like fructose in fruit and lactose in milk. Added sugar like cane or beet sucrose or high fructose corn syrup is also known as maltodextrose. On nutritional labels, all sugars end in the suffix “-ose.” Diabetics need to limit their consumption of simple sugars because they behave in the body like pure glucose. If they are not immediately absorbed by cells for energy, they get stored as fat, which can cause many health problems.

Fiber comes from plant foods. It is the indigestible part of plants. Healthy diets need about 25-65 grams of fiber each day. Fiber regulates digestion. It adds bulk to the diet that makes one feel full. High-fiber diets reduce cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Whole grains, beans, legumes, fruit, and vegetables are all excellent sources of fiber.

Now that you have a firm understanding of carbohydrates and how they function in the body, counting carbs isn’t that hard. To do it properly, you need measuring cups and spoons, a calculator, and a food scale. One unit or exchange of carbohydrates equals 15 grams. To calculate how much carbohydrates are in a particular food, you measure out the one serving amount. Next, you consult the food’s label to find out how much total carbohydrate is in each serving. Aim to get between 30-60 grams of carbohydrates with each meal if you follow the ADA recommended diabetic diet guidelines.

For example, if you wanted to have a chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato, some potato chips on the side and something sweet for lunch, the carb counting breakdown would look like this:

  • Two slices whole wheat bread- 15 grams carbs each
  • 100 calorie pack of lightly salted baked potato chips-17 grams carbs
  • 1 cup strawberries-11 grams carbs
  • 1 slice low sodium Swiss cheese- 1 gram carb
  • Tomato slice- 1 gram carb
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise- 3.5 grams carbs

The 3 oz of roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast has no carbs. The few slices of lettuce don’t need to be counted. If you wanted mustard, it also has no carbs. All you’d have to do is then total the sum of all the grams of carbohydrates, which comes to 48.5 grams of for this meal.

Snacking on a Diabetic Diet

To control blood sugar throughout the day, having a couple well-planned snacks is recommended for diabetics, especially type 1 diabetics. Snacking is important if one is on medication that can cause blood sugar to drop between meals. Snacks are vital if your next meal will be more than five hours away. That is why a snack before bed is a very good idea for diabetics. Type 1 diabetics may need a snack before or even during exercise. If you have type 2 diabetes and require more than two snacks a day to keep blood sugar up, you may need to consult your healthcare provider to adjust your dosage.

Not all diabetic snack foods are created equal. The best diabetic snack foods have 150 calories or less, pack some protein and/or fiber, are low sugar and low sodium. Snacks should have between 15-45 grams of carbs. Great snack ideas include:

  • Figs with walnuts
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with raspberries
  • Low-fat string cheese with a persimmon
  • Popcorn drizzled with almond butter
  • A smoothie made with frozen banana, rice milk, and strawberries
  • Cut raw vegetables and hummus
  • Roasted chickpeas

Be cautious of low fat packaged foods. They tend to replace removed fat with added sugar.

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Diets Suggested by the American Diabetes Association

The ultimate goal of all diabetic diets recommended by the ADA is to bring blood glucose levels back within the individual’s target range. In the cases of type 2 diabetic diets, this can come from eating few calories each day and losing the excess weight that contributed to developing diabetes. Some diabetic meal plans radically change the way the person eats. As a result, they take in more nutrients and lower their risks of cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, loss of vision, and neuropathy related amputations.

What all diabetic eating plans have in common is a focus on mindful, healthier eating patterns. With every diabetic diet, equal to making one’s eating habits diabetic friendly, is the need to increase physical activity. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people get 150 minutes of exercise each week. That comes down to one half an hour five days a week. To some, the changes recommended may seem dramatic or extreme. Still, considering the fact that unregulated blood glucose levels likely lead to a host of complications, these changes seem like a small choice in comparison.

There is no one ideal diabetic diet that suits everyone. A variety of eating plans can and do work to manage blood sugar levels. It is important to work with a registered dietitian and one’s physician and receive diabetic diet education to decide which eating pattern serves your needs best. Whatever the plan, it’s important that diabetics eat their meals at the same time each day and have about the same proportion of food groups at each meal. Even on a diabetic diet for weight loss, one must never skip meals.

When deciding on the specific diabetic diet for type 2 diabetes, important factors to consider are:

● Budget. It would be counterproductive to select an eating plan that is full of expensive, hard to get diabetic diet foods if food costs are a concern.

● Personal tastes and preferences. You should be able to enjoy what you eat on a diabetic diet. Your eating pattern should reflect your tastes.

● Your weight loss goals. If you are morbidly obese and have a very sedentary lifestyle, you may well have to completely overhaul how you eat to improve your quality of life.

● How a change in your eating patterns affects your family. A single person can make more drastic changes in their diet than a mom who does all the cooking for her family.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a low carbohydrate eating pattern that is based on a loose interpretation of the dietary habits of people from the cultures along the Mediterranean Sea. The diet is made up of 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat (monounsaturated mostly from olive oil and polyunsaturated from seed and fish), lots of non-starchy vegetables, 20% protein with very little red meat. It’s an approach that relies on fresh ingredients that are prepared simply.

Dairy is included in this plan, mostly in the form of yogurt and cheeses. Dry red wines are also permitted. The diet reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer. The diet also has been shown to affect blood glucose levels positively. In a recent study out of the University of Naples, 44% of the people who adhered to the Mediterranean diet required medication to manage their diabetes compared to the 70% of those following the standard American diet. Researchers speculate that the eating pattern’s effectiveness comes from the fact that it switches unhealthy carbohydrate choices for healthier low glycemic ones.

The Mediterranean diet approach centers on fresh foods that are prepared simply and can be adapted easily. Of all the approaches, this one makes dining out easier. It also incorporates the widest variety of foods most people already enjoy.

Vegetarian Diet

Universally, vegetarians reduce their intake of foods from animal sources. In this context, a vegetarian diet refers to ovo-lacto vegetarians whose diet consists of mostly plant foods with dairy, milk, and eggs – their only animal-derived food items. Vegetarian diets show promise in avoiding, treating, and reversing type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians have lower fasting blood glucose levels. The Adventist Mortality and Adventist Health study showed that people who eat meat even just once a week increase their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 38%.

Diets that substitute soy-based proteins for meat reduce risks of chronic kidney disease that are associated with diabetes. Nuts and other unsaturated fats reduce blood lipids. Diets that contain little animal products regulate blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes. Vegetarian diets reduce insulin resistance and also reduce cholesterol. Vegetarian diabetics have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Many studies concluded that diets that consist of mostly low glycemic foods, increase the presence of HDL, high-density lipoproteins, commonly known as “good” cholesterol. This result happens independently of the increase in fiber intake that has been shown to reduce LDL, low-density lipoproteins, or “bad” cholesterol. Vegetarians also tend to have lower blood pressure than omnivores.

The key to a healthy vegetarian, diabetic diet centers around having a diet that consists of unrefined, whole foods. Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and other low glycemic carbohydrates make up the bulk of the daily intake. Protein comes from combinations of complex carbohydrates. The most common example is the versatile dish of beans and brown rice. The best vegetarian diets have a high fiber content. High fiber diets support healthy digestion and heart health. Vegetarian diets support weight loss goals without dramatically reducing portion sizes. Nutrient-rich plant foods have high water content and lots of fiber. The foods are bulky and filling. Overweight and obese patients who are used to overeating adhere to vegetarian and vegan diets more easily because they feel fuller and more satisfied with their meals.

Vegetarian diets can be low in nutrients like iron. Those who still eat eggs and dairy milk products must also keep an eye on their saturated fat intake. It’s also key that vegetarians get most of their daily caloric intake from whole or minimally processed foods.

Vegan Diet

Vegan diets that consist of whole, unrefined foods are nutrient-dense, energy light diets. The diabetic diet for vegans reduces cholesterol because all fats consumed are unsaturated. Vegans have half the odds of developing high blood pressure as omnivores. Vegan diabetics experience reduced incidents of neuropathic pain.

Vegan diets benefit elderly people at risk for diabetes. For people over 60 years old, lifestyle interventions reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 71%. Geriatric people reap the greatest benefit from changing their diet. Unrefined plant-based diets have causal links to reduced obesity rates, lower risks of dying from cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and certain cancers. These risk reductions come without an increase in activity. 

Vegans must take care to ensure that they consume enough vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and omega 3s. Vegan milk beverages come enriched with B12. Other vegan sources of B12 are brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast, and yeast extracts like Marmite or Vegemite. Vitamin B12 is vital to life functions and has few non animal sources. Calcium can be found in leafy greens like kale, chard, and collard greens. There are many iron-rich plant foods like spinach and beetroot. Flaxseed meal and oil are excellent for getting omega 3s.

Most patients involved in vegan, diabetic studies found that they could adhere to the diet with ease. One reason is that the diet does not involve counting calories, measuring portions, or tracking carbohydrates. They were allowed to eat their fill of beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Their satisfaction points to the notion that switching to a healthy vegan diet is a sustainable long term eating pattern for diabetics. Whole, unprocessed plant-based food is a budget-friendly option for diabetic eating as well.

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Low Carbohydrate Diet

Employing a low carb diet to manage diabetes remains a controversial approach. Multiple studies show that a low carbohydrate, high protein, and fat diet is effective in managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, since these diets tend to be high in saturated fats, few healthcare providers seem willing to be on board with endorsing this eating pattern. Diabetic diets low carb approach prove effective in controlling blood glucose in the short term but lack long-term results.

Researchers are unclear whether the weight loss and glycemic benefits of a low carb diabetic diet come from the reduced caloric intake that results from specifically reducing carbohydrates or simply a reduced caloric intake. Another thing that muddies studying the positive effects low carb eating potentially has on managing diabetes is that the term “low carb” covers a wide range of meal plans. Dr. Atkins’s diet that is high in saturated fat and animal protein counts is an extremely low carb eating plan. The South Beach Diet, Paleo and the Zone represent moderately low carbohydrate diets. The Mediterranean diet also counts as a low carb approach. Of all the variations of the lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet might be the most sustainable and beneficial. It is not full of saturated fats.

Ultimately, the balance of fat intake may make the most difference in whether low carb diets have real benefits in treating diabetes. Diets that are low in saturated fats and rich in polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are known to reduce cholesterol, promote weight loss, and reduce the risk of hypertension and heart disease. A low carb diabetic meal plan that is high in animal protein may have negative implications for diabetic chronic kidney disease.

Low Fat Diet

An omnivorous, low-fat diet is one of the most widely recommended diabetic eating plans. Dr. Richard Kahn first recommended the approach which he based on the USDA food pyramid because, as the chief medical and scientific officer for the ADA, he had to. The public needed advice as to what dietary interventions could treat and prevent type 2 diabetes. He found that there was a shortage of compelling research on the effects that diet had on diabetes at the time.

His decision to recommend a low fat, high carbohydrate omnivorous diet the National Institute of Health also recommended soon became almost gospel.

The diet is not without merit. By minding portion sizes and calorie intake, people have and still do lose weight and reduce their risks of diabetic complications, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and cancer. Compared to high-fat, low-fiber diets, low-fat/high-fiber diets do result in weight loss and better management of type 2 diabetes. There is ample evidence that a high fiber, low-fat diet is a sound one.

In recent years, however, the low-fat diet has become increasingly controversial. Numerous studies that compare the effectiveness of a high-fiber, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet that includes animal protein versus lower carbohydrate, high-fat diet in weight loss, insulin resistance and reduction of risks for cardiovascular disease mortality, the traditional low-fat diet does not prove to be more effective than low-carb/high-fat diets.

Part of the problem came when in the eighties and nineties, all dietary fat was vilified. Sugar-laden “fat-free” salad dressings, cream cheese, sour cream, and other items naturally high in fat were touted as healthy. Equally problematic was the epidemic of processed grain foods that had been popular for decades. As a result, sugar consumption soared, people continued to gain weight, and diabetes numbers kept rising.

It seems that for a low-fat diet to be effective, it must also have a high fiber content. Fat provides a sense of satiety and slows the digestion of carbohydrates, which lessens the effect the carbs have on blood glucose levels. Dietary fiber acts similarly. Fiber also increases good cholesterol as it lowers the bad. Low-fat diets for diabetes can be and are beneficial in managing a healthy weight and in keeping blood sugar in the target range. Low-fat diets that are also high in fiber decrease cardiovascular risk.

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DASH Diet

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet helps control high blood pressure. Many diabetics have hypertension or are at an increased risk for it; so, this eating pattern is worth examining. The eating pattern is a moderately low carbohydrate plan that gets 55% of daily calories from carbs, 27% from fats, and 18% from protein with 150mg of cholesterol and 30g fiber each day. DASH is a low sodium eating approach. Adherents aim to consume between 1500mg to 2300 mg of sodium every day. The diet is high in potassium, calcium, and prescribes movement as part of the eating pattern. DASH recommends that folks exercise 150 minutes each week.

The diet’s benefits as a diabetic meal plan remain undecided. For patients who have both diabetes and high blood pressure, the benefit is clear. Reduced sodium intake can manage the conditions by aiding in weight loss. To adequately reduce excessive dietary sodium, one must limit or eliminate shelf-stable processed foods from your diet. Like all truly effective dietary interventions, this move towards a diet that’s full of unprocessed foods increases health.

But for patients who have diabetes without hypertension, the benefits come mainly from weight loss. The diet is not designed as a weight-loss diet. Still, it is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-dairy. It contributes to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

The Plate Method

Of all the diabetic eating patterns, the Plate Method is the most beginner-friendly. Sticking to it requires a few new skills. Portion control is central to the approach. It is highly customizable. There are five food groups in this approach: carbs, protein, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy. What makes this method so simple is that it comes down to visually segmenting the plate-one half gets filled with non-starchy vegetables; one quarter is where lean proteins go; the last quarter of the plate is for complex carbohydrates. Round out the meal with a serving of low-fat dairy and a serving of fruit. How much fat you’re allotted is up to your dietitian.

This approach can be very useful as a diabetic diet education tool. The website dedicated to this eating pattern was developed as a self-help tool to empower diabetics to learn how to manage the disease with diet. The site features a four-part, peer-reviewed curriculum that is interactive. 

Diabetes is a global epidemic. Not many people have access to diabetic educators who can assist in meal planning. The website, http://www.extension.uidaho.edu/diabetesplate/, takes visitors through a needs assessment, a lesson on the five food groups, a supermarket tour, and interactive meal planning.

Experts recommend diabetes diet education to help patients control their disease. Most dietitians are concentrated in urban areas. The information offered in classes is often difficult for participants to understand. The University of Idaho adapted the Swedish Plate Method to provide an easy to understand way for people in more isolated rural areas to manage diabetes.

The Plate Method democratizes diabetic diet habits. It is as close to a one-size solution as currently exists. People who finish the interactive lessons can plan their meals effectively. They learned the importance of controlling portions. Participants also learned why it is vital to receive nutrients from a variety of foods.

People who receive diabetic diet education lose weight, regulate their blood sugar, increase activity, and reduce risks of kidney failure, heart damage, nerve damage, and blindness that are all associated with uncontrolled diabetes.

How Does Food Affect Blood Sugar?

Carbohydrates

The body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose to be absorbed by the cells. Glucose travels through the blood to the cells to provide energy for life. All energy not immediately needed gets stored as fat. Simple sugar breaks down into glucose quickly. This causes blood sugar to rise. This is how carbohydrates affect blood sugar. Healthcare providers calculate insulin dosages based on the number of carbohydrates you eat daily. Carbohydrates need to be part of each of the three meals taken. Carbohydrates should not be cut out of a diabetic diet.

It is important to be aware of how many grams of carbohydrates you eat each day. The quality of the carbs you eat matter, too. It’s best to eat carbs that have a low glycemic index. Complex carbohydrates take longer to breakdown and do not cause blood glucose levels to spike and crash. For a healthy diabetic diet, choose carbohydrates sources such as vegetables, diabetic diet fruits, fiber-rich whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Whole, unrefined carbohydrates are better for you than processed carbs that are full of added sugar, salt, and fat.

Proteins

Proteins are necessary to build muscle. Foods that are rich in protein have little effect on blood glucose levels. Too much protein, if it is in the form of excess calories, can lead to weight gain. In the absence of insulin, too much dietary protein can cause blood sugar to rise. It’s important to find the right proportion of protein for your diet. Studies show that diets with a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrates and fats improve the body’s response to blood glucose. Compared to diets where protein made up 15% of daily intake, high protein diets, 30% of daily calories came from protein, resulting in lower fasting glucose and insulin resistance went down.

Fats

Fats play a vital role in a healthy diabetic diet. The quality of the fats you consume has an indirect effect on how your body metabolizes sugar in your blood. Diets that are high in saturated fats encourage insulin resistance and support blood lipids and bad cholesterol

Unhealthy fat consumption increases the incidence of hyperglycemia in diabetic patients. Conversely, diets that contain high amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats cam fight symptoms of type 2 diabetes. High carbohydrate diets, like a whole food vegan diet that are also rich in unsaturated fats, produce more glucose control and better blood lipid levels. 

Healthy fats slow digestion and can help moderate blood glucose levels in a high carbohydrate diet. Research recommends that diabetic patients reduce or eliminate saturated fats from their diets in favor of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats to help prevent the onset of diabetic complications, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Dining Out On a Diabetic Diet

People who can incorporate healthy diabetic eating into their lives fare better than those who view lifestyle changes as a hardship. Just because you’re a diabetic does not mean that you cannot enjoy a meal at a restaurant with friends and loved ones. Sometimes eating out is inevitable due to travel, or perhaps dining out is an activity you enjoy. With a few adjustments and some pre-planning, diabetes need not stop you from having a wonderful time dining out.

The first and most important step in ensuring that you have a successful trip to a restaurant is to plan ahead. Most chain restaurants and many local bistros post their menus online. Choose a restaurant with a large selection of healthy menu items. If you can, opt for a restaurant that has a cuisine that complements your selected eating pattern. For example, vegetarians and vegans would do well going to an Indian restaurant because there will be a wide array of menu options there. If you adhere to the Mediterranean diet, an Italian, Greek, or Lebanese eatery will likely have menu items that fit comfortably in your meal plan. Most local Chinese take-outs in urban areas offer steamed menu choices that come with sauces on the side. Do your research ahead of time so you can make the best possible choice.

Once you have decided on a restaurant and cuisine, phone the place ahead of time to check if they accommodate special requests and substitutions. Doing so avoids awkward interactions with wait staff that may call undue attention to your dietary needs. On the other hand, do not be afraid to speak up and ask for what you need. Most restaurants will do what they can to accommodate you, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

Ask the folks you’ll be dining with to schedule the meal during your regular mealtime. It is important that people with diabetes eat at the same time every day. If that isn’t possible, have a snack or bring a snack, so you don’t get too hungry and end up in the breadbasket.

Enlist the help of your server. Find out how the dish you want is prepared. Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side. Share entrees with friends. Choose the smallest size meal, especially if you’re opting for a portion of food that is best eaten occasionally. Don’t be afraid to make substitutions. Swap fries for a salad. Instead of cheese and guacamole on burritos, have salsa. Choose mustard on your sandwich instead of mayonnaise. Skip the bacon bits, shredded cheese, croutons and salad dressing or have them on the side. If you must order a huge entree, ask the server to pack half of it in a takeaway container for you or bring you the box so you can pack it up yourself. That way, you’ll have leftovers.

Other practical tips for a successful restaurant trip include:

  • Only have one glass of wine with your meal if you drink at all.
  • Choose baked, steamed, grilled, or broiled entrees.
  • Remove the skin from your chicken before you eat it.
  • Remember, you can always make a meal out of a salad, soup, and/or appetizer.
  • Most of the time, dining out is about having a good time with the people you care about. Enjoy yourself.
  • If you want dessert, order it and share it with your party!

Working with an app like Noom, you can track the foods you eat so you know the carb count and other factors that impact blood sugar.

The database of foods is huge, and nutritionists manage and update often.

Studies on the Diabetic Diet

Eating Whole Fruits Linked to Lower Risk of Type Diabetes

In a 24 year-long study out of the Harvard School of Public Health compared the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in nearly 190,000 people. Those who drank fruit juice every day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 21%. Study participants who ate whole fruit, especially apples, pears, and grapes, reduced their risk of diabetes by 23%. Switching fruit juice for whole fruit just three times a week reduced risk by 7%.

Asparagus adscendens (Shweta musali) stimulates insulin secretion, insulin action and inhibits starch digestion

Asparagus may increase insulin production and slow starch digestion. An extract of asparagus showed anti-diabetic properties. The extract showed antioxidant activity. Asparagus showed to be as effective as the anti-diabetic drug called glibenclamide. The study was done on rats, but shows promise for humans.

Dietary fat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in women

A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who ate diets high in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats developed type 2 diabetes 25% less often women who had diets high in trans fats over fourteen years of observation. The study results recommend switching trans fats for non-hydrogenated polyunsaturated fats to cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality

A study of Asian populations who traditionally consume diets with lots of cruciferous vegetables in them. The study’s findings support the recommendation that to prevent premature death from cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and complications from diabetes, one should increase the amount of fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower in your diet.

Omega Fatty Acids and Cardiac Arrhythmias: Prior Studies and Recommendations for Future Research

A study of Japanese people, particularly from Okinawa, who habitually ate fish rich in omega fatty acids, showed a reduction in sudden death from cardiac arrhythmia. Non-fish sources such as supplements and flaxseeds proved just as effective.

“The effect of flaxseed powder on insulin resistance indices and blood pressure in prediabetic individuals: A randomized clinical trial

Flaxseed meal has a positive effect on fasting glucose in prediabetic individuals. Flaxseed meal and oil in the diet lowered blood pressure but did not show direct glycemic improvement. Even though that was the case, flaxseed consumption resulted in lower fasting glucose levels.

Oat: unique among the cereals

Oat bran, more than any other cereal, lowers cholesterol and prevents heart disease. Oat bran has positive effects on glucose and insulin responses by reducing the risk of hyperglycemia. Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber that delays digestion and slows the rate sugar gets absorbed into the blood.

Flavonoid intake and risk of chronic illnesses

Onions have flavonoids that lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Flavonoids are antioxidants that are effective because they scavenge for free radicals. People with the highest consumption of flavonoids had the lowest mortality risks. Foods like onions, cabbage, and others rich in flavonoids contribute to overall health.

Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health

Vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene (found in tomatoes) are antioxidants that reduce the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke by counteracting the ill effects of oxidative stress.

Tea and Cardiovascular Disease

Tea helps blood vessels dilate, relieves stress, reduces cholesterol, and lowers the risk of certain cancers. The study looked a the tea-drinking habits of a population in Japan. It found that drinking green tea reduced risk mortality from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Case studies from China show that drinking up to five cups of green and/or oolong tea is related to a significant reduction of cardiovascular mortality risks.

Questions and Answers (QA)

What is a good diabetic diet?

A good diabetic diet is one that consists of whole foods, natural healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Processed foods are replaced with natural options, which are lower in sugar, fat, and preservatives, in most cases. 

What should a diabetic eat and not eat?

A diabetic should eat whole foods and leave behind processed, high-fat foods. Foods labeled low-fat or fat-free tend to be high sugar, so skip those to help maintain stable blood glucose.

What is a good breakfast for a diabetic?

When you think of a well-rounded meal, which is crucial for diabetics, a breakfast may consist of an egg, slice of whole wheat toast, coffee with milk, and a piece of fruit. Of course, this is just one example, there are tons of proteins, carbs, and dairy products that work. 

What fruits should diabetics avoid?

No fruit should be avoided on a diabetic diet. In more serious cases, high-glycemic, or fruits high in natural sugars, may be avoided. Fruits with the highest glycemic index are:

  • Banana
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Watermelon

How many carbs should a diabetic have each day?

Total carb intake is a personalized topic. Discuss your current health with your provider and work through the best diabetic diet for your needs. Many providers will suggest patients seek assistance from dietitians or nutritionists. 

What are good carbs for a diabetic?

Whole carbs as they are found in nature are the best carbohydrates for diabetics. Whole grains, with all parts in tact, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish. 

What can a diabetic drink besides water?

Some of the best alternatives to water in a diabetic diet are tea, coffee, sugar-free fruit juices, and various drink enhancers that contain no sugar. There are a small number of people who react to artificial sweeteners with increased blood glucose. This effect is rare. 

What is a diabetic carb?

In some circles, a diabetic carb is the same as a net carb. This is especially true in those following a low-carb diet for diabetes.

What is the best diet for diabetes and high blood pressure?

One of the healthiest diets available today is the Mediterranean Diet. If high blood pressure is an issue, talk with your healthcare provider about the best dietary steps. Recent research suggests that sodium intake may not play a big a factor in blood pressure levels as once thought.

Can a diabetic eat:

Rice – Yes, whole grain and wild rice are complex carbohydrates that have less effect on glucose levels. 

Bananas – Bananas have more natural sugar than many other fruits. Diabetics can consume bananas, in moderation, but fiber-rich fruits like apples have a lower glycemic index. 

Potatoes – Yes, potatoes are allowed on a diabetic diet. White potatoes are the least nutrient-rich. Choose yams or sweet potatoes, in moderate portion sizes. Some diabetics choose to use cauliflower, broccoli, or root vegetables in place of potatoes. 

Bread – Skip the white bread and choose whole wheat or whole grain options instead. The fiber content of this bread helps regulate the glycemic load of the food.