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Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes

Nutrition Know-How

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When you have diabetes, your diet plays a key role in controlling your blood sugar levels. SparkPeople strongly encourages everyone with diabetes to meet with a Registered Dietitian or a Certified Diabetes Educator in their area. These health professionals can assess your individual nutritional needs and develop a specific plan to meet your physical needs, work schedule and activities, medication schedule, health goals, tastes and lifestyle. You should not alter your diabetes management plan without discussing your options with your health care provider. With all this in mind, SparkPeople will still be a great resource for you. Use this article to review key points for eating with type 2 diabetes. Note: SparkPeople does offer meal plans designed for people with diabetes. Click here to learn more.

Carbohydrate Basics
Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. During digestion, sugar (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood sugar (glucose). If you consume too much carbohydrate-rich foods at one time, your blood sugar levels may raise too high, which can be problematic.

Carbohydrates are found in cereals and grains, fruits and fruit juices, milk and yogurt, and sweets. Because they are important sources of energy, it's important to include nutritious carbohydrates at each meal and snack. But keep in mind that the healthiest carbohydrate choices are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, and low-fat dairy products.

Portion Control
Portion control is a problem for many people, but for individuals with type 2 diabetes it becomes even more important—especially when concerning carbohydrates. About half (50%) of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates--even when you have diabetes. A general recommendation is to eat about 2-3 carbohydrate servings (30-45 grams) at each meal for women and 3-4 carbohydrate servings (45-60 grams) at each meal for men. Both men and women should limit carbohydrates at snacktime to 1-2 carbohydrate servings (15-30 grams). Click here for a detailed, printable chart that shows single (15-gram) servings of carbohydrate-containing foods

Your healthcare professional will help you determine the ideal carbohydrate range that is right for you each day. If this number differs from SparkPeople's Spark*D nutrition recommendations, that's OK; follow your practitioner's advice. Note and memorize your mealtime and daily carbohydrate goals, and use SparkPeople's detailed and free Nutrition Tracker to track your foods. Even if our recommendations are different, you'll still be able to see how many carbs you're eating during every meal and snack, which will be helpful in your diabetes management.

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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Sad to see you're still recommending toxic artificial sweeteners, especially to diabetics. :( - 10/12/2014 11:01:15 AM
  • LAKES232
    I agree that each person has their own level of Carbs needed. I do agree with the comment made about the amount of carbs is too much. I tried using 45 carbs per meal. My blood sugars rose up to 220. I was, at that time under a diabetic nurses care. She was teaching me about eating as a diabetic. I had just been diagnosed. So for one week I followed the ADA plan. My blood sugars were horrible. Now, I go to a Nurse practitioner, who specializes in Diabetes. She has gotten my diet more to my body's requirements. But I believe in simple foods. A meat, a salad, and non-starchy vegetables. On occasion I allow myself a potato or rice. The potato is a small red potato, and only 1/2 cup of rice. It sounds strict, but those starches and extra carbs are just that, extra carbs, not really too necessary, except for my appetites. I used to love starchy food. I now realize that that food and too much of it set me up for diabetes and heart problems. I have lost a good 29 pounds. My A1c test was 6.1, which is fantastic for a diabetic. So watching carefully, the amount of carbs taken in helps. I found some sugar free whole wheat bread made by Nature's Own. Make sure it says sugar free. They make another whole wheat bread that looks like the sugar free one. - 9/19/2014 7:40:12 AM
  • CRODLIVE
    I think the ranges of carbs are too high. For a person with diabetes or pre diabetes these ranges are very dangerous. Besides, take in consideration that carbs trigger your hunger, so this information is not useful. - 1/27/2014 10:59:44 AM
  • Thank you for that list, will be printing out and keeping in my purse so wherever I go it will be with me. - 8/16/2013 10:02:33 PM
  • Thanks for the info. - 8/9/2013 12:55:50 PM
  • Once you've chosen a diabetes program, the nutrition tracker won't let you change your carb goals, so it's pretty useless. I've considered switching to the regular program, but then it won't let you enter the glucose level. - 6/29/2013 12:20:50 AM
  • Thank you for this Very helpful article. - 4/25/2013 10:56:22 AM
  • WHAT DRINKS CAN A PERSON WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES DRINK?? BESIDES DIET SODA??? PLEASE SOMEONE TELL ME, MY HUSBAND-TO-BE NEEDS SOMETHING OTHER THAN DIET SODAS!! HE'S GETTING SICK OF DRINKING DIET SODAS!!! THANKS, LAUREN
    - 4/3/2013 4:32:32 PM
  • Amen Lee. They are following the party line on how to treat diabetes. There's nothing wrong with saturated fat or cholesterol. The body needs cholesterol to make hormones. It isn't cholesterol that causes heart disease, it's carbs! - 12/31/2012 12:51:56 AM
  • YASMIN211
    I am a South African, living in South Africa, Cape Town, and we dont always have what is listed on the diet, is there a possibilty for a South African Diet, because i like what i see. i am a dibetic type 2 and on insulin as well.
    thanking you June - 8/16/2012 8:30:13 AM
  • ALYNNMAHLE
    Those who are looking for gluten-free whole grains should try quinoa, millet and chia seeds. Also, brown rice is an excellent gluten-free grain. Quinoa, millet and chia are ancient "new" grains full of protein, fiber and many other healthy nutrients, too. - 7/24/2012 3:28:58 PM
  • Dear Mrs. Becky Hand (Author),

    i have to also follow a glutenfree diet which makes it very difficult to get whole grain products in my lokal food store here in germany. i wonder how easy it is in USA, because i am planing to visit my daughter in Texas. Could u or anyone here reading give me some advise where to find whole grain but glutenfree bread, oats, cereals + noodles in San Antanio? Do i have to order thru internet like i have to do here in germany?

    the glutenfree oats do cost me 10x more than regular, the whole-grain noodles 15x more ...
    but including the oats which lowered my blood sugar is very important for me.

    i have also heard from different Doctors that chromium is also important for diabetic's, is there anyone who has good experiences?

    i apreciate any response - wishing all a gr8 new week with lots of good success in everything - 7/2/2012 8:16:20 AM
  • I just love SP. So much information. Diagnosed in Nov. with Type 2 and I try to spend a little bit of time every day on this site to help me learn to manage this disease. I am continually impressed and I really do learn something new everyday. - 12/21/2011 1:30:44 PM
  • This article and the chart will be of great asistance. - 7/5/2011 9:30:22 AM
  • This was a great article. I have had Type II Diabetes for 5 years and still struggle with denial. I appreciated how specific the author was about certain foods and also the step by step instructions on setting the Nutrition Tracker for my needs. Thanks! - 2/16/2011 9:13:50 PM

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