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Healthy Eating with Type 2 Diabetes

By Victoria Nam | November 24, 2020 | 4 min read | Healthy Lifestyle, Health Conditions, Nutrition

Woman and her young daughter cook bell peppers over the stove

Eating healthy, balanced meals is an important part of controlling type 2 diabetes, just like exercising and taking medications as your doctor recommends. Not only can what you eat help improve your blood sugar levels, it can help control blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. Eating healthy can also help prevent heart disease or stroke.

What does it mean to eat healthy and to help control your blood sugar and protect your heart?

We’ve sourced some tips for you from the American Diabetes Association. Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

What is type 2 diabetes?

There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps the body use sugar for energy. In type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin but does not respond to it, causing blood sugar levels to rise.

Make Healthy Choices: Find a balance that works for YOU!

Eat more of this:

Non-starchy vegetables: leafy greens (like spinach or kale), broccoli, carrots, green beans, Brussels spouts

Whole Grains: oatmeal, barley, brown rice

Lean Protein: fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), soy foods (tofu), chicken, turkey, eggs, beans

Healthy fats: avocados, nuts, olive oil

Fruits: apples, oranges, peaches, berries

Eat less of this:

Added Sugars: juice, soda, candy, desserts, processed sweets like Little Debbie® treats

Starchy Carbohydrates: potatoes, white bread, white rice

High-Fat Meats: beef, skin from poultry, bacon, processed meats

Less Healthy Fats: saturated fats (butter, lard, coconut oil) and trans fats (baked goods, processed snacks, margarine)

Meal Planning

This is a simple method that will help you make a balanced meal of vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates without having to calculate or measure portions. Divide a 9-inch plate in half, then one of the halves into two.

  1. Non-starchy vegetables: ½ the plate
    • These include leafy greens and carrots
    • These are low in carbohydrates and high in vitamins and fiber.
  1. Protein: ¼ the plate
    • These include animal protein, like chicken breast, and plant protein, like beans.
    • Protein will keep you full longer with minimal effects on your blood sugar.
  1. Carbohydrates: ¼ the plate
    • These include whole grains, starchier vegetables (potatoes or beans), and fruits
    • Carbohydrates have the greatest effect on your blood sugar, so limiting your portion will keep your blood glucose levels from rising after a meal.
  1. Drink: Water or non-sugary low-calorie drink
    • Non-water options include seltzer water, diet/zero calorie sodas.
    • These are the best choices as they won’t affect your blood sugar after a meal.

Read the nutrition label

Understanding how to read the Nutrition Facts Label will help you make smart food and drink choices.

1. Check the serving size. A serving size is the amount of food that equals the information on the nutrition label. Keep in mind a package of food may be more than 1 serving!

2. Look at the fats. Watch out for saturated and trans fats in each serving. These fats can increase the cholesterol in your blood which can put you at risk of heart disease and stroke.

3. Limit the sodium. Sodium does not affect your blood sugar, but it affects your blood pressure. Most adults eat more sodium than they need. Try to limit your salt intake to no more than 2300 milligrams or 1 teaspoon per day.

4. Count the carbs. Carbohydrates include starches (complex), sugars (simple), and fiber. Since carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels quickly, it is important to keep track of how much you eat. Adults with diabetes should aim for 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal and 15 to 20 grams per snack.

5. Get your fiber. Fiber is part of plant foods that the body cannot digest but is an important component of a balanced diet. It will not affect your blood sugar and will improve your digestive health. Adults should eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

6. Limit added sugars. Simple sugars can increase blood sugar quickly, so these should be eaten in moderation.

7. Eat your protein. Most adults do not eat enough protein. Protein is important because it builds, repairs, and maintains tissue in our body. Adults with diabetes should eat 0.5g of protein per 1lb of body weight (1g/kg).


  1. American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes – 2019. Diabetes Care. Diabetes Care. January 2019; 42 (Supplement 1): S1-S2.
  2. What is the Diabetes Plate Method? American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Food Hub. February 2020.
  3. Diabetes Meal Plans and a Healthy Diet. American Diabetes Association. July 2015.
  4. Hamdy O, Horton ES. Protein content in diabetes nutrition plan. Curr Diab Rep. 2011;11(2):111-119. doi:10.1007/s11892-010-0171-x

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