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Diabetes Health Center

Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes

How to make healthy changes without giving up all your favorites
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WebMD Commentary

Forget the idea of the "diabetic diet" -- a restrictive regime that puts certain foods strictly off-limits. The healthiest diet for people with type 2 diabetes is the same diet that's best for everyone else.

That means eating a wide variety of foods, and including items from all the major food groups represented on the Food Pyramid -- protein, dairy, grains, and fruits and vegetables -- every day. It means watching your portion sizes. It means getting enough fiber, and avoiding an overload of fat, salt, alcohol, and sugar. (Yes, you can have dessert -- in moderation, and with a little planning!)

Editor's Note: Food Pyramid Replaced

In June 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a new plate icon.

Following these steps will not only help control your blood sugar, but can also help you reach a healthy weight, something that's especially important for people with diabetes.

Your Healthy Eating Plan

As with any medical condition, people with type 2 diabetes should check with their doctors before starting any diet or exercise program. It's also a good idea to work with a registered dietitian and/or diabetes educator to come up with an eating plan that suits your needs.

Two of the main tools doctors and dietitians use to help you plan healthy meals are:

  • Food exchanges. This system divides foods into major categories -- starches, fruits and vegetables, dairy, proteins, and fats -- and tells you how many portions of each you should have each day.
  • Carbohydrate counting. With this system, you keep track of the grams of carbohydrate (starches and sugars) you consume, with the idea of spreading them out through the day to help keep your blood sugar steady.

The end result should be a plan tailored to your needs: one that takes your age, gender, lifestyle, and eating habits into account.

Putting Your Plan Into Action

While you should be able to eat most of the same things as everyone else, people with diabetes often have to limit the amounts they eat, prepare food in different ways than they may have been used to, and think about when they eat.

Consider the issue of consistency: If you have diabetes, you need to eat about the same amount every day, and at about the same times. You shouldn't skip meals, or go more than four or five hours without eating during the day.

Another important element of a healthy diet is portion control. Your health-care team can help you learn to gauge correct portion sizes, which are often smaller than we've come to expect in the age of super-sizing. For example, one serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, and a serving of pasta is about the size of half a tennis ball.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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