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A Healthy Type 2 Diabetes Diet

Maintaining a healthy diet is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with diabetes. A type 2 diabetes diet and following the right meal plan can make all the difference to a person struggling to keep their blood sugar under control. But, what is the right meal plan? How much of which food group should you eat?

Along with a visit to a dietitian, this guide should help answer questions you may have about diabetes and nutrition.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including screening tests for type 2 diabetes, at no cost to you. Learn more.

Health Insurance Center

Carbohydrates and Fiber in a Type 2 Diabetes Diet

Carbohydrates are one of the major food categories (the others include proteins and fats) in a type 2 diabetes diet. They provide fuel for the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is a sugar that is the primary source of energy for all of the body's cells.

There are two ways to classify carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars, like glucose, sucrose(table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and fructose. They are found in refined sugar and in fruits. Complex carbohydrates are the starches, which are the simple sugars bonded together chemically. They are found in beans, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains. Complex carbohydrates are considered healthier mostly because they are digested by the body more slowly, providing a steady source of energy. They also contain valuable amounts of fiber.

Carbohydrates, rather than fats or proteins, have the most immediate effect on your blood sugar since carbohydrates are broken down directly into sugar early during digestion. 

Carbohydrates are mainly found in the following food groups:

  • Fruit
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Bread, cereal, rice, pasta
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and beans

What Is Carbohydrate Counting?

Carbohydrate counting is a method of meal planning that is a simple way to keep track of the amount of total carbohydrates you eat each day. It helps allow you to eat what you want. Counting grams of carbohydrate and evenly distributing them at meals will help you control your blood sugar.

Instead of following an exchange list, with carbohydrate counting you monitor how much carbohydrates (sugar and starch) you eat daily. One carbohydrate serving is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrates.

With carbohydrate counting, you plan your carbohydrate intake based on what your pre-meal sugar is and your intake or insulin dose can be adjusted. Carbohydrate counting can be used by anyone and not just by people with diabetes that are taking insulin. If you eat more carbohydrates than your insulin supply can handle, your blood sugar level goes up. If you eat too little, your blood sugar level may fall too low. These fluctuations can be managed by knowing how to count your carbohydrate intake.

A registered dietitian will help you figure out a carbohydrate counting plan that meets your specific needs. For adults, a typical plan generally includes three to four carbohydrates at each meal, and one to two carbohydrate servings as snacks.

With carbohydrate counting, you can pick almost any food product off the shelf, read the label, and use the information about grams of carbohydrates to fit the food into your type 2 diabetes meal plan.

Carbohydrate counting is most useful for people who take multiple daily injections of insulin, use the insulin pump, or who want more flexibility and variety in their food choices. However, it may not be for everyone, and the traditional method of following food exchange lists may be used instead.

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