Foods That Are Suggested for Type 2 Diabetes

The goal of a healthy diet in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is to support normal blood sugars and a healthy weight in order to prevent diabetic complications and promote general health. Type 2 diabetics can enjoy all types of food however some should be limited more than others. The best diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products and is balanced with physical activity.

Whole Grains

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends eating whole grains such as brown rice, whole grain bread and pasta, barley, popcorn and oats. Whole grains are high in fiber, which benefits the heart and stabilizes blood sugar. “Current Diabetes Report” stated in a 2009 article titled “Fiber Facts” that soluble fiber improves weight management by inducing satiety in patients with T2DM. Federal guidelines recommend 25 to 38g of dietary fiber every day to benefit health and prevent diseases.

Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that support health and prevent disease. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables with emphasis on dark green and orange vegetables like broccoli, carrots, bell peppers and leafy greens. Limit added sugar and salt by choosing canned fruits packed in water and sodium-free canned vegetables. Fruits and starchy vegetables like peas, corn, potato, sweet potato and pumpkin contain higher levels of carbohydrates that elevate blood sugar and so these should be carefully portioned.

Lean Meats & Low-fat Dairy Products

Meat and dairy foods provide protein, calcium and other nutrients that the body needs, but can also be high in calories and fat. Consume lean meats, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Remove visible fat and skin from meat and poultry, and cook using healthy methods like grilling, broiling, baking, steaming and poaching.

Heart Healthy Fats

Excess dietary fat can lead to obesity and T2DM complications. The ADA advocates a moderate intake of heart-healthy unsaturated fats from olive oil, vegetable oils, avocado, fish and nuts. Limit saturated and trans fats like butter, lard, pork fat and hydrogenated oil because they raise cholesterol and can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Sugar Substitutes

Sugar elevates blood sugar and type 2 diabetics who are frequently encounter high blood sugar or hyperglycemia may eventually have problems with vision, nerve and kidney function. Limit sugary desserts, candy, snacks and beverages to prevent prolonged hyperglycemia. Sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose can replace regular sugar because they do not raise blood sugar and are low in calories.


Recommendations for diabetes management published in 2004 in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” state that the guidelines for consuming alcohol are the same for diabetics and healthy individuals. Alcohol may increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if an individual uses insulin however moderate alcohol intake is okay if blood sugar is well controlled. The ADA advocates that women should limit themselves to one drink a day and men to two drinks a day. Alcohol should also be consumed with food and water to minimize side effects and prevent sudden changes in blood sugar.

About this Author

Bethany Fong is a registered dietitian and chef from Honolulu, Hawaii. She has produced a variety of health education materials on multiple topics relating to wellness, and worked in many industries, including clinical dietetics, food service management and public health.