Type 2 diabetes food

The best grocery lists for type 2 diabetes

Share on PinterestBuying healthful foods at the grocery store is easier if you bring a grocery list.

One thing that can make it easier to avoid buying unhealthful foods is to make a list before going to the grocery store.

Choosing healthful, satisfying foods that meet individual nutrition requirements can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition.

By making smart food choices and buying the right foods, a person can ensure they have enough suitable ingredients on hand to take them from breakfast through to the last meal, or snack, of the day.

Find out more here about the best foods for diabetes.


Vegetables form the basis of a healthy diet. They offer excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber and complex carbohydrates, present in many vegetables, can help the body feel full and satisfied.

This, in turn, can deter overeating, which may lead to weight gain and blood sugar issues.

Some vegetables to add to the shopping list include:

  • salad greens
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • squash
  • green beans
  • asparagus
  • Brussel sprouts
  • red, green, orange, or yellow peppers
  • onions

What are the best vegetables for type 2 diabetes? .

Beans and legumes

Beans, lentils, and other pulses are an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein.

The high fiber content of foods in the pulse family means that the digestive tract absorbs fewer carbohydrates than it does from other low-fiber, high-carb foods.

This makes these foods an excellent carb choice for those with diabetes.

This makes these foods an excellent carb choice for those with diabetes. People can also use them in place of meat or cheese.

Here are some examples of what beans to pick up in either their canned or dried forms:

  • black beans
  • lentils
  • white beans
  • chickpeas
  • kidney beans
  • pinto beans

Dried beans and pulses may need soaking overnight and boiling for several hours before a person can use them. Check the instructions for whichever one you buy.

Dried kidney beans need soaking for at least 8 hours, boiling for 10 minutes, and then simmering for another 45 minutes or so until soft. Kidney beans contain a toxin that boiling for 10 minutes can eliminate.

Pressure or slow cooking beans can help improve the digestibility of beans as well.

Learn more here about the health benefits of beans.


Fruits can have a high sugar content, but, whether fresh or frozen, they are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Share on PinterestBerries are full of vitamins and fiber.

The following fruits make a solid addition to the diet of anyone who has type 2 diabetes, due to their low glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL).

  • plums
  • all berries
  • oranges
  • peaches
  • tomatoes
  • grapefruit
  • apples
  • pears
  • apricots
  • cherries

about fruits and diabetes.

Whole grains

Unlike simple carbohydrates, whole grains break down slowly. This means they are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes as refined carbohydrates do, so it is easier to manage blood sugar levels.

People should avoid bleached and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, and instead choose some of the following when consuming grains:

  • whole-wheat or legume pasta
  • whole-grain bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice
  • quinoa
  • wild rice
  • 100 percent whole-grain, or whole-wheat flour
  • cornmeal
  • oatmeal
  • millet
  • amaranth
  • barley

Not only are whole grains more healthful, but they will also leave a person feeling full for longer, and they often have more flavor than processed carbs.

What are the health benefits of whole grains?


Dairy products contain essential nutrients, including calcium and protein. Some research even suggests that dairy has a positive effect on insulin secretions in some people with type 2 diabetes.

Some of the best options to add to the list are:

  • Parmesan, ricotta, or cottage cheese
  • low-fat or skimmed milk
  • low-fat or fat-free Greek or plain yogurt

What is the best type of milk for people with diabetes?

Meats, poultry, and fish

Share on PinterestFish such as salmon and tuna are good sources of protein for people with diabetes.

Proteins are important for people with diabetes.

Similarly to high-fiber and high-fat foods, proteins are slow to digest and cause only mild increases in blood sugar.

Here are some good sources of protein to choose from:

  • skinless, boneless chicken breasts or strips
  • salmon, sardines, tuna, and other fatty fish
  • white fish fillets
  • skinless turkey breast
  • tofu and tempeh
  • tuna
  • eggs

What type of meat is the most healthful choice? .

Dressings, dips, spices, and condiments

Plenty of flavorings and dressings can be great for those trying to manage blood sugar.

The following are some tasty options that people with diabetes can choose from:

  • vinegar
  • olive oil
  • mustard
  • any spice or herb
  • any variety of extracts
  • hot sauces
  • salsa

To make a vinaigrette, whisk together:

  • equal quantities of olive oil and balsamic or another vinegar
  • salt, pepper, mustard, and herbs to taste

Remember to account for the carbohydrates a dressing provides.

Barbeque sauces, ketchup, and certain salad dressings may also be high in fat, sugar, or both, so remember to check the label before you buy.

Dessert foods

People with type 2 diabetes can have desserts, but they should take care when choosing portion sizes and how often they consume them.

Here are some of the safer dessert options that have less impact on blood sugars that regular sweetened desserts:

  • popsicles with no added sugar
  • 100-percent fruit popsicles
  • dessert made with sugar-free gelatin
  • pudding or ice cream sweetened with no- or low-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia or erythritol

Fruit-based desserts, such as homemade fruit salad without added sugar, or mixed summer fruits, can be a tasty and healthful way to finish a meal.

Remember, however, to account for the sugar in fruit when counting carbs.

What kind of sweets and desserts can people eat when they have diabetes?


For between-meal cravings, a person can try:

  • home-made popcorn, but not premade or sweetened varieties
  • nuts, but not sweetened
  • carrot or celery sticks with hummus
  • small amounts of fresh fruit, such as an apple with almond butter

Find out here what other snacks people can eat when they have diabetes.


Water is healthful for everyone, including people with diabetes.

There are other options, but drinks such as milk and juice can contain high levels of carbohydrates, so it is important to account for these as for food. They will impact a person’s blood sugar.

Here are a few options:

  • iced or hot tea, unsweetened
  • coffee, unsweetened
  • low-fat or skimmed milk
  • unsweetened plant-based milks
  • sparkling water

Doctors do not usually recommend diet sodas and other diet drinks, as they may be unhealthful in other ways. Find out more here.

The Diabetes Diet

Healthy eating can help you prevent, control, and even reverse diabetes. And with these tips, you can still enjoy your food without feeling hungry or deprived.

People with diabetes have nearly double the risk of heart disease and are at a greater risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression. But most cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable and some can even be reversed. Taking steps to prevent or control diabetes doesn’t mean living in deprivation; it means eating a tasty, balanced diet that will also boost your energy and improve your mood. You don’t have to give up sweets entirely or resign yourself to a lifetime of bland food.

Whether you’re trying to prevent or control diabetes, your nutritional needs are virtually the same as everyone else, so no special foods are necessary. But you do need to pay attention to some of your food choices—most notably the carbohydrates you eat. While following a Mediterranean or other heart-healthy diet can help with this, the most important thing you can do is to lose a little weight.

Losing just 5% to 10% of your total weight can help you lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Losing weight and eating healthier can also have a profound effect on your mood, energy, and sense of wellbeing. Even if you’ve already developed diabetes, it’s not too late to make a positive change. By eating healthier, being more physically active, and losing weight, you can reduce your symptoms or even reverse diabetes. The bottom line is that you have more control over your health than you may think.

The biggest risk for diabetes: belly fat

Being overweight or obese is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. However, your risk is higher if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs. A lot of belly fat surrounds the abdominal organs and liver and is closely linked to insulin resistance. You are at an increased risk of developing diabetes if you are:

  • A woman with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more
  • A man with a waist circumference of 40 inches or more

Calories obtained from fructose (found in sugary beverages such as soda, energy and sports drinks, coffee drinks, and processed foods like doughnuts, muffins, cereal, candy and granola bars) are more likely to add weight around your abdomen. Cutting back on sugary foods can mean a slimmer waistline as well as a lower risk of diabetes.

Planning a diabetes diet

A diabetic diet doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to give up all your favorite foods. The first step to making smarter choices is to separate the myths from the facts about eating to prevent or control diabetes.

Myths and facts about diabetes and diet

Myth: You must avoid sugar at all costs.

Fact: You can enjoy your favorite treats as long as you plan properly and limit hidden sugars. Dessert doesn’t have to be off limits, as long as it’s a part of a healthy meal plan.

Myth: You have to cut way down on carbs.

Fact: The type of carbohydrates you eat as well as serving size is key. Focus on whole grain carbs instead of starchy carbs since they’re high in fiber and digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more even.

Myth: You’ll need special diabetic meals.

Fact: The principles of healthy eating are the same—whether or not you’re diabetic. Expensive diabetic foods generally offer no special benefit.

Myth: A high-protein diet is best.

Fact: Studies have shown that eating too much protein, especially animal protein, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes. A healthy diet includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Our bodies need all three to function properly. The key is a balanced diet.

As with any healthy eating program, a diabetic diet is more about your overall dietary pattern rather than obsessing over specific foods. Aim to eat more natural, unprocessed food and less packaged and convenience foods.

Eat more

  • Healthy fats from nuts, olive oil, fish oils, flax seeds, or avocados
  • Fruits and vegetables—ideally fresh, the more colorful the better; whole fruit rather than juices
  • High-fiber cereals and breads made from whole grains
  • Fish and shellfish, organic chicken or turkey
  • High-quality protein such as eggs, beans, low-fat dairy, and unsweetened yogurt

Eat less

  • Trans fats from partially hydrogenated or deep-fried foods
  • Packaged and fast foods, especially those high in sugar, baked goods, sweets, chips, desserts
  • White bread, sugary cereals, refined pastas or rice
  • Processed meat and red meat
  • Low-fat products that have replaced fat with added sugar, such as fat-free yogurt

Choose high-fiber, slow-release carbs

Carbohydrates have a big impact on your blood sugar levels—more so than fats and proteins—so you need to be smart about what types of carbs you eat. Limit refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice, as well as soda, candy, packaged meals, and snack foods. Focus on high-fiber complex carbohydrates—also known as slow-release carbs. They are digested more slowly, thus preventing your body from producing too much insulin.

What about the glycemic index?

High glycemic index (GI) foods spike your blood sugar rapidly, while low GI foods have the least effect on blood sugar. While the GI has long been promoted as a tool to help manage blood sugar, there are some notable drawbacks.

  • The true health benefits of using the GI remain unclear.
  • Having to refer to GI tables makes eating unnecessarily complicated.
  • The GI is not a measure of a food’s healthfulness.
  • Research suggests that by simply following the guidelines of the Mediterranean or other heart-healthy diets, you’ll not only lower your glycemic load but also improve the quality of your diet.
Choosing carbs that are packed with fiber (and don’t spike your blood sugar)
Instead of… Try these high-fiber options…
White rice Brown or wild rice, riced cauliflower
White potatoes (including fries and mashed potatoes) Sweet potatoes, yams, cauliflower mash
Regular pasta Whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti squash
White bread Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread
Sugary breakfast cereal High-fiber, low-sugar cereal
Instant oatmeal Steel-cut or rolled oats
Cornflakes Low-sugar bran flakes
Corn Peas or leafy greens

Be smart about sweets

Eating a diabetic diet doesn’t mean eliminating sugar altogether, but like most of us, chances are you consume more sugar than is healthy. If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy a small serving of your favorite dessert now and then. The key is moderation.

Reduce your cravings for sweets by slowly reduce the sugar in your diet a little at a time to give your taste buds time to adjust.

Hold the bread (or rice or pasta) if you want dessert. Eating sweets at a meal adds extra carbohydrates so cut back on the other carb-heavy foods at the same meal.

Add some healthy fat to your dessert. Fat slows down the digestive process, meaning blood sugar levels don’t spike as quickly. That doesn’t mean you should reach for the donuts, though. Think healthy fats, such as peanut butter, ricotta cheese, yogurt, or nuts.

Eat sweets with a meal, rather than as a stand-alone snack. When eaten on their own, sweets cause your blood sugar to spike. But if you eat them along with other healthy foods as part of your meal, your blood sugar won’t rise as rapidly.

When you eat dessert, truly savor each bite. How many times have you mindlessly eaten your way through a bag of cookies or a huge piece of cake? Can you really say that you enjoyed each bite? Make your indulgence count by eating slowly and paying attention to the flavors and textures. You’ll enjoy it more, plus you’re less likely to overeat.

Tricks for cutting down on sugar

Reduce soft drinks, soda and juice. For each 12 oz. serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage you drink a day, your risk for diabetes increases by about 15 percent. Try sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime instead. Cut down on creamers and sweeteners you add to tea and coffee.

Don’t replace saturated fat with sugar. Many of us replace saturated fat such as whole milk dairy with refined carbs, thinking we’re making a healthier choice. Low-fat doesn’t mean healthy when the fat has been replaced by added sugar.

Sweeten foods yourself. Buy unsweetened iced tea, plain yogurt, or unflavored oatmeal, for example, and add sweetener (or fruit) yourself. You’ll likely add far less sugar than the manufacturer.

Check labels and opt for low sugar products and use fresh or frozen ingredients instead of canned goods. Be especially aware of the sugar content of cereals and sugary drinks.

Avoid processed or packaged foods like canned soups, frozen dinners, or low-fat meals that often contain hidden sugar. Prepare more meals at home.

Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes by ¼ to ⅓. You can boost sweetness with mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract instead of sugar.

Find healthy ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Instead of ice cream, blend up frozen bananas for a creamy, frozen treat. Or enjoy a small chunk of dark chocolate, rather than a milk chocolate bar.

Start with half of the dessert you normally eat, and replace the other half with fruit.

Be careful about alcohol

It’s easy to underestimate the calories and carbs in alcoholic drinks, including beer and wine. And cocktails mixed with soda and juice can be loaded with sugar. Choose calorie-free mixers, drink only with food, and monitor your blood glucose as alcohol can interfere with diabetes medication and insulin.

Spot hidden sugar

Being smart about sweets is only part of the battle. Sugar is also hidden in many packaged foods, fast food meals, and grocery store staples such as bread, cereals, canned goods, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, low-fat meals, and ketchup. The first step is to spot hidden sugar on food labels, which can take some sleuthing:

  • Manufacturers provide the total amount of sugar on their labels but do not have to differentiate between added sugar and sugar that is naturally in the food.
  • Added sugars are listed in the ingredients but aren’t always easily recognizable as such. While sugar, honey, or molasses are easy enough to spot, added sugar could also be listed as corn sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, cane crystals, invert sugar, or any kind of fructose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, or syrup.
  • While you’d expect sugary foods to have sugar listed near the top of their list of ingredients, manufacturers often use different types of added sugars which then appear scattered down the list. But all these little doses of different sweeteners can add up to a lot of extra sugar and empty calories!

Choose fats wisely

Some fats are unhealthy and others have enormous health benefits, so it’s important to choose fats wisely.

Unhealthy fats. The most damaging fats are artificial trans fats, which make vegetable oils less likely to spoil. Avoid commercially-baked goods, packaged snack foods, fried food, and anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil in the ingredients, even if it claims to be trans fat-free.

Healthy fats. The healthiest fats are unsaturated fats, which come from fish and plant sources such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and support brain and heart health. Good sources include salmon, tuna, and flaxseeds.

Saturated fats. Found mainly in tropical oils, red meat, and dairy, there’s no need to completely eliminate saturated fat from your diet—but rather, enjoy in moderation. The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming no more than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat.

Ways to reduce unhealthy fats and add healthy fats:

  1. Instead of chips or crackers, snack on nuts or seeds or add them to your morning cereal. Nut butters are also very satisfying.
  2. Instead of frying, choose to broil, bake, or stir-fry.
  3. Avoid saturated fat from processed meats, packaged meals, and takeout food.
  4. Instead of just red meat, vary your diet with skinless chicken, eggs, fish, and vegetarian sources of protein.
  5. Use extra-virgin olive oil to dress salads, cooked vegetables, or pasta dishes.
  6. Commercial salad dressings are often high in calories and trans fat so create your own with olive oil, flaxseed oil, or sesame oil.
  7. Add avocados to sandwiches and salads or make guacamole. Along with being loaded with healthy fats, they make for a filling and satisfying meal.
  8. Enjoy dairy in moderation.

Eat regularly and keep a food diary

It’s encouraging to know that you only have to lose 7% of your body weight to cut your risk of diabetes in half. And you don’t have to obsessively count calories or starve yourself to do it. Two of the most helpful strategies involve following a regular eating schedule and recording what you eat.

Eat at regularly set times

Your body is better able to regulate blood sugar levels—and your weight—when you maintain a regular meal schedule. Aim for moderate and consistent portion sizes for each meal.

Start your day off with a good breakfast. It will provide energy as well as steady blood sugar levels.

Eat regular small meals—up to 6 per day. Eating regularly will help you keep your portions in check.

Keep calorie intake the same. To regulate blood sugar levels, try to eat roughly the same amount every day, rather than overeating one day or at one meal, and then skimping the next.

Keep a food diary

A recent study found that people who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. Why? A written record helps you identify problem areas—such as your afternoon snack or your morning latte—where you’re getting more calories than you realized. It also increases your awareness of what, why, and how much you’re eating, which helps you cut back on mindless snacking.

Get more active

Exercise can help you manage your weight and may improve your insulin sensitivity. An easy way to start exercising is to walk for 30 minutes a day (or for three 10-minute sessions if that’s easier). You can also try swimming, biking, or any other moderate-intensity activity that has you working up a light sweat and breathing harder.

Next step…

Learn how to lose weight and keep it off. If your last diet attempt wasn’t a success, or life events have caused you to gain weight, don’t be discouraged. The key is to find a plan that works with your body’s individual needs so that you can avoid common diet pitfalls and find long-term, weight loss success.

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Medication for diabetes, whether in tablet or injection form, is definitely not the only way to control your blood sugar (glucose) levels.

How does type 2 diabetes affect your weight?

Dr Partha Kar

The food you eat on a daily basis plays an important role in managing your diabetes, as well as ensuring you keep well and have enough energy for your daily activities. The same healthy eating principles apply whether you have diabetes or not. In fact, getting the whole family to eat this sort of balanced diet if you have diabetes can benefit their health as well as yours. Including foods from each of the main food groups described below will provide your body with the essential nutrients. See also separate leaflet called Healthy Eating.

Fruit and vegetables

Rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Low in calories and fat.

  • Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Try to ‘eat a rainbow’ – combine several different vegetables or fruits of different colours to get the maximum vitamins and minerals.
  • These can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried (remember 30 g is a portion of dried fruit – some people can find it easy to eat too much).
  • Limit your intake of fruit juice or smoothies to 150 ml per day, as these drinks have their fibre and carbohydrates already broken down. This means they can cause your blood sugars to rise more quickly. They are also very easy to drink so you can end up having too much, which means extra calories, carbohydrate and sugar!
  • Remember that fruit contains natural sugars, which can put your blood sugar up – so control your portion size and try to spread your fruit intake throughout the day.

One portion is:

  • one piece of medium-sized fruit (banana, apple, orange etc)
  • two pieces of small fruit (satsumas, plums, kiwi fruit etc)
  • one handful of grapes
  • around 30grams of dried fruit (about 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins, two figs or three prunes)
  • three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables, beans or pulses
  • one medium onion or tomato
  • one large sweet potato

Practical suggestions:

  • Add sliced fruit or berries to porridge oats for breakfast.
  • Prepare some chopped vegetables for an afternoon snack – for example, carrot, pepper or celery.
  • Choose 2-3 vegetables to add to each meal you cook – for example, onions and pepper to a stir-fry or tomatoes and spinach to pasta.

Starchy carbohydrates

An important energy source and source of fibre. Carbohydrates are broken down by your body into glucose, which is used as fuel by your cells.

  • Include some in your diet each day.
  • Choose wholegrain alternatives where possible to increase the fibre content of foods – this slows down energy release which can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer – for example, multigrain/seeded bread.
  • Control your portion size of these foods, as the more you eat, the greater the rise in your blood glucose levels.

Practical suggestions:

  • Choose wholegrain cereals or wholegrain/seeded bread for breakfast.
  • Try a baked potato or sweet potato with the skin left on for added fibre for lunch.
  • Use wholemeal flour in baking and for breads such as chapattis or naans.
  • Choose brown rice or brown pasta instead of white.

Dairy and dairy alternatives

Rich in calcium and other vitamins and minerals.

  • Swap full-fat versions for lower-fat and sugar alternatives to reduce fat, sugar and calorie intake, and opt for unsweetened versions of dairy alternatives (for example, unsweetened almond or soy milk).

Practical suggestions:

  • Choose semi-skimmed or skimmed milk rather than full-fat milk.
  • Top fresh fruit with natural or low-fat Greek yoghurt for a healthy breakfast or snack idea.
  • Top baked potatoes or wholegrain crackers with cottage cheese instead of a regular hard cheese.
  • Grate cheese rather than using slices as you tend to eat smaller amounts this way.

Meats, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, nuts and other proteins

High in protein for building and repairing processes in the body. A source of iron. Oe portion of meat or fish is about the size of your palm

  • Include this food group daily.
  • Eat two portions of oily fish per week to promote heart health.
  • Reduce intake of processed meat; choose leaner cuts of meat and try to replace meat with beans, pulses and lentils on some days. This will reduce fat and boost fibre intake.
  • Whether you’re vegetarian or not, try substituting tofu for meat in stir-fries and stews.

Practical suggestions:

  • Eggs any way are a great way to start the day – boiled, scrambled, poached, dry fried or in an omelette.
  • Grill meat, poultry, fish or meat alternative and serve with mixed vegetables for dinner.
  • Snack on a handful of nuts and seeds if feeling hungry.
  • Add extra beans and pulses to meals to add bulk or replace meats – for example, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas.


Keeps you hydrated.

  • Aim to drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid per day. Include plenty of non-fizzy and no-added-sugar drinks – water is best and is calorie-free!

Practical suggestions:

  • Caffeinated drinks up to 400 mg caffeine a day (about eight cups of tea or four cups of coffee) don’t carry health risks and can contribute to your daily fluid intake. If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t have more than 200 mg caffeine a day.
  • Beware the calorie count of your favourite full-fat latte!
  • Always carry a bottle of water with you.
  • Switch from full-sugar fizzy drinks to sugar-free alternatives – or better still, water.
  • Drink 1-2 glasses of water 15 minutes before a meal to help with hydration and portion control.


  • Lowering your intake can reduce blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart disease.
  • Reduce intake of processed foods and ready meals which tend to have a high salt content.
  • Prepare foods freshly where possible, as this gives you control of the amount of salt in the foods.

Practical suggestions:

  • Remove the salt from the table to resist the temptation to add extra to foods before eating.
  • Use other flavourings in cooking, such as dried herbs and spices – for example, paprika, cumin seeds, chilli flakes.
  • Try to cook from fresh and make home-made sauces and marinades where possible.
  • Limit your intake of processed meats like bacon and salami, which are high in salt.
  • Choose low-salt stock cubes to use in soups, in gravy and for cooking.

Foods high in fat and sugar

While we all need some fat in our diets, most of us get far more than we need. High-sugar and high-fat food and drink can contribute to weight gain, and sugary foods can cause sharp rises in your blood glucose levels. If you do eat these foods, keep them as an occasional treat.

Practical suggestions:

  • Reduce amount and swap type of fat to unsaturated alternatives such as vegetable, rapeseed or olive oil in cooking.
  • Try swapping butter for an olive-based spread.
  • Try using a spray oil instead, as you generally use less and some can be as low as 1 kcal per spray.
  • Start looking at food labels and choose lower-fat varieties (less than 3 g total fat per 100 g and less than 1.5 g saturated fat per 100 g).

Which foods cause your blood glucose levels to rise?

All carbohydrates cause your blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise. This includes:

  • Starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and cereals.
  • Sugary carbohydrates found naturally in milk and fruit and in refined forms in sweets, chocolates and sugary drinks.

Starchy carbohydrates and foods containing natural sugars form part of a healthy balanced diet, so you should eat them daily. Be aware of and stick to the recommended portion sizes for these foods – the amount of carbohydrate you eat or drink determines how much your blood glucose levels rise.

What is the glycaemic index?

The glycaemic index (GI) of a food tells you how quickly the food is digested and absorbed, and how quickly your blood sugar (glucose) levels rise (low GI = slowly, high GI = quickly).

Foods with a lower GI release energy more slowly, helping you to feel fuller for longer. They also help reduce sharp fluctuations in blood glucose levels.

Healthy lower GI foods include pulses, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables, and wholegrain starchy varieties. The GI of foods should not be the only focus of your diet.

This is because unhealthy low GI options do exist – chocolate being an obvious example. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that if you eat these in large quantities, lower GI foods will still cause a large rise in your blood glucose levels. The focus should remain on general healthy eating principles and portion control.

Why is food portion size important?

Controlling your portion size can be a really helpful way to stabilise or lose weight. It can also help you to manage your blood sugar (glucose) levels better. Top tips for portion control include:

  • Use smaller-sized plates.
  • Measure out portion sizes.
  • Fill your plate with low-calorie food, such as salads and vegetables, before adding other types of food.
  • Drink a glass or two of water about 15 minutes before a meal.
  • Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register how much you’ve eaten, so if you eat fast you may have overeaten long before your brain tells you you’re full.
  • Don’t do anything else while you’re eating. Research shows we all tend to eat more if we’re distracted (for example, watching television or playing on a computer).
  • Resist the temptation to return for seconds.

Example portions: 2-3 tablespoons rice, pasta or cereals, 1 slice of bread, 30 g cheese, a palm-sized piece of meat/fish/poultry.

What are the benefits of weight loss if you’re overweight?

Losing weight if you’re overweight can greatly improve your blood sugar (glucose) levels. Losing weight can also help reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This in turn helps to reduce risk of stroke and heart disease.

Weight loss of 5-10% of your current body weight is enough to gain significant health benefits. Whether you lose weight through diet, physical activity or a combination of both, it doesn’t matter. The key to success is finding out what works for you and sticking to it.

Do ‘diabetic foods’ need to be included in your diet?

Foods labelled as ‘suitable for people with diabetes’ on the supermarket shelves do not provide you with any special benefit above that of ordinary foods and so are not recommended. These foods are often more expensive, high in calories and still able to cause your blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise.

Five take home messages

  • There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’ – a normal, healthy and balanced diet is key!
  • Your diet should be high in fibre with plenty of fruit and vegetables, low in fat (particularly saturated fat), low in sugar and low in salt.
  • Be mindful of the portion size of foods you eat – portions which are too large can contribute to weight gain and lead to poorer management of blood sugar (glucose) levels.
  • If you’re overweight, aim for 5-10% weight loss – using a method you are likely to stick to.
  • ‘Diabetic foods’ offer no additional benefit above ‘normal’ foods and so are not advised.

Control Type 2 Diabetes, Shed Fat

Our Shopping List for Diabetics is based on the Pritikin Eating Plan, regarded worldwide as among the healthiest diets on earth. The Pritikin Program has been documented in more than 100 studies in peer-reviewed medical journals to prevent and control many of our nation’s leading killers – heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and obesity as well as type 2 diabetes.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, pay special attention. Research on newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics coming to the Pritikin Longevity Center illustrate how profoundly beneficial early intervention can be. Scientists from UCLA followed 243 people in the early stages of diabetes (not yet on medications). Within three weeks of coming to Pritikin, their fasting blood sugar (glucose) plummeted on average from 160 to 124. Research has also found that the Pritikin Program reduces fasting insulin by 25 to 40%.

Shopping List for Diabetics – More Features

Here’s another big plus to our Shopping List for Diabetics. In addition to icons that are diabetes-focused like “sugar free,” this list uses icons like “low cholesterol” and “low sodium” because many people with diabetes are working to control not just diabetes but related conditions like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. This list can help you identify those foods most advantageous in helping you reach your personal health goals.

Diabetic Food Taboos? Not Anymore!

Have you been told you have to give up juicy watermelon or sweet grapes? What if we told you those foods really aren’t taboo? Watch the Video

Our Healthy Shopping List for Diabetics also lists the top 10 things to put back on the shelf if you’re trying to:

  • Lose Weight
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Lower Cholesterol

Live long. Live well. Download our genuinely healthy Shopping List for Diabetics now.

Download This List

Shop smart & control diabetes. Download this shopping list for diabetics

Pritikin Diet

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