Nutrition Articles

Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes

Nutrition Know-How

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

  • While agreeing that carbohydrate restriction helps people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar, ADA spokesman Nathaniel G. Clark, MD, tells WebMD that the ADA does not recommend very low-carb diets because patients find them too restrictive.

    "We want to promote a diet that people can live with long-term," says Clark, who is vice president of clinical affairs and youth strategies for the ADA. "People who go on very low carbohydrate diets generally aren't able to stick with them for long periods of time."

    So there ya go. We'll recommend a diet that will kill you and put you out of your misery. Then you won't have to stick to a diet that will let you live a healthy life.

    Sigh. - 2/5/2015 8:11:44 AM
  • Club soda is high in sodium. Seltzer water is a better choice. - 1/2/2015 2:05:37 PM
  • Here's some information about an alternative view. Please read this if you have just read this article, and you're under the impression that these recommendations are the only realistic way to deal with diabetes through diet. This article is from 2006, and even more is known now.


    Research. Talk to your doctor. Research some more. There is a lot of information out there! - 12/29/2014 2:48:31 AM
  • These kinds of recommendations made my grandpa go from type 2 meds dependant diabetic to insulin dependant diabetic then dead from complications diabetic.

    These kinds of recommendations have made my dad a meds dependant diabetic switching to insulin dependant diabetic very soon.

    These kinds of recommendations are far to high in carbohydrates for diabetics. Especially those that want to control the disease through diet alone. Because you can control this disease with diet, you just have to want to.

    Please do your research people. Your quality and length of life depends on it! - 11/26/2014 9:45:06 AM
  • 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
    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
    - 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
    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

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