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Type 2 Diabetes: A Basic Guide to Your Daily Nutrition Needs

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on April 5, 2023

Author: Kassy Montgomery, RDN, CDCES 🍉

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas which moves sugar into our cells to be turned into energy, does not work effectively anymore. Type 2 diabetes can happen due to genetics, aging and lifestyle factors. This results in high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. When blood sugars are not managed, the body may stop making insulin and chronic disease conditions like neuropathy or retinopathy may occur. Nutrition plays a critical role in managing type 2 diabetes as the food we eat can affect blood glucose levels. In this blog post, we will go through basic macronutrient and glycemic index  guidelines to help manage type 2 diabetes. 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main macronutrient that affects blood glucose levels. Therefore, managing carbohydrate intake is essential for people with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with type 2 diabetes consume 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, depending on individual needs and preferences. Carbohydrates should come primarily from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Protein

Protein is important for building and repairing tissues in the body. The ADA recommends that people with type 2 diabetes consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and tofu.

Fats

Fats provide energy and help the body absorb certain vitamins. However, consuming too much saturated and trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease, which is a common complication of type 2 diabetes. The ADA recommends that people with type 2 diabetes consume less than 7% of total calories from saturated fats and avoid trans fats altogether. Instead, they should consume healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.

Fiber

Fiber is important for maintaining digestive health and can help improve blood glucose control. The ADA recommends that people with type 2 diabetes consume at least 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed, or a minimum of 25-30 grams per day. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates based on how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a high GI value can cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels, while foods with a low GI value are digested more slowly and cause a slower rise in blood glucose levels. The ADA recommends that people with type 2 diabetes focus on consuming low to medium GI carbohydrates to help improve blood glucose control.

Conclusion

Nutrition plays a critical role in managing type 2 diabetes. The ADA recommends that people with type 2 diabetes focus on consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. They should also manage their carbohydrate intake, consume adequate amounts of fiber, and focus on consuming low to medium GI carbohydrates. By following these evidence-based guidelines for nutrition, people with type 2 diabetes can improve blood glucose control and reduce the risk of complications such as heart disease. It is important to work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to develop an individualized nutrition plan that meets your specific needs and preferences.

One-Day Sample Meal Plan: 1500-1800 calories

Breakfast:

  • 1 small banana
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 slice of whole-grain toast
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Snack:

  • 1 small handful of baby carrots with 2 tbsp hummus

Lunch:

  • Turkey and avocado wrap (2 oz turkey, 1/4 avocado, lettuce, tomato, and 1 small whole-grain wrap)
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 cup of mixed greens with 2 tbsp vinaigrette dressing

Snack:

  • 1 small non-fat Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup raspberries

Dinner:

  • 4 oz grilled chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup of roasted sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup steamed green beans
  • 1 small whole-grain roll

Sources:

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