What Kind of Foods to Eat with Type 2 Diabetes?

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Glycemic Index

Try using the glycemic index to help plan your type 2 diabetes food list. Your target blood glucose levels before you begin to eat should be between 70 to 130. About one to two hours after the start of your meal, your glucose level should be less than 180. Select foods that do not cause your blood sugar levels to sharply spike. The glycemic index, or GI, tells you how a food will affect your blood sugar. It can help you decide what kind of foods to eat with type 2 diabetes. The glycemic index rates foods based on how quickly they are absorbed into the bloodstream. The more quickly a food is absorbed, the more your blood sugar will spike. Choose foods with a low glycemic index value. This will help maintain steady glucose levels, as well as help you feel full for a longer period of time.

Carbohydrates and Starches

Refined carbohydrates will drastically increase your blood sugar. Examples of refined carbohydrates include foods made with white flour and sugar, such as cakes, muffins, and bagels. Instead, choose six to 11 daily servings of starches made from whole grains. Select bran cereal with no added sugar. Cook whole-grain pasta and brown rice. And avoid products (such as bread) that use the label “enriched.” Bear in mind that if you’re carbohydrate-counting, count starchy vegetables as carbohydrates. These include corn, potatoes, and peas.

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables should always have a significant presence in all type 2 diabetes diets. Not only do fruits and vegetables contain essential minerals, vitamins and fiber, but they are also low-fat and low-calorie. Experiment with different vegetable and fruit choices to find your favorites: try bok choy, kale, melons, or kiwi. Try to eat at least three to five servings of vegetables every day, and two to four servings of fruit. Just keep in mind that how you prepare vegetables is as important as how much you eat: avoid high-calorie buttery sauces or dressings.

Dairy and Protein

The American Diabetes Association recommends choosing two to three servings of dairy products per day. Add low-fat or non-fat milk or yogurt to your type 2 diabetes food list to obtain calcium and protein. You should also select four to six ounces of meat or meat substitutes daily. Eat lean cuts of meat and fish. If you’re a vegetarian, you may prefer tofu, cottage cheese, eggs, or peanut butter.


Being a type 2 diabetic does not mean you have to restrict yourself to an utterly draconian diet. Once you understand what kind of foods to eat with type 2 diabetes, you can also fit in small treats – in moderation. While you should typically avoid alcohol, candy, and fried foods, if your blood sugar levels are stable, you may indulge once in a while. A serving size of ice cream is considered to be a half cup, or you could eat two small cookies, or one small muffin or cupcake. Double-check your blood sugar before and after you indulge.

Getting Help

If you’re having trouble planning your type 2 diabetes diet, consult your diabetes care team, which should ideally include a nutritionist or dietitian. You can also ask your doctor for referrals to local or online diabetes support groups. Organize your friends and share healthy recipes for maintaining your blood sugar.


American Diabetes Association

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

The Mayo Clinic