How to Choose the Best Diet For Diabetics in 2022

As if having diabetes is not difficult enough, you also have to deal with choosing the right foods to eat to keep your blood glucose at healthy levels. What makes this tricky is that a healthy diet for diabetics can be different from diets meant for shedding a few pounds. Not only do you have to be mindful of what, how, and when to eat, you also have to consider eating in ways that will help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

While there are no foods that are strictly forbidden for people with diabetes, it’s common knowledge that patients should limit the consumption of foods high in sugar, since they can definitely elevate their blood sugar levels. We’re not just talking about sugary-sweet items - we are also including foods that contain high glycemic content and can raise glucose levels quickly, such as pasta, white potatoes, white rice, bread, and corn.

What Makes a Diet Diabetes-friendly?

An excellent diet for diabetics consists of complex carbohydrates, which you can get from fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Physicians also recommend foods that are rich in fiber since these are slower to digest and make you feel full, while at the same time keeping your glucose levels in check. 

Balance is the key to keeping glucose levels from rising. This involves focusing more on meals that have complex carbs while making sure that you don’t consume too many carbs at one sitting. Adding lean protein to the mix will keep you satiated and allow you to control yourself from overeating.

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Foods That Diabetics Should Avoid

One should be mindful of the trendy diets that are becoming popular nowadays, especially if you’re a diabetic. The highly carbohydrate-restricted diet is an example, specifically extreme keto diets. Since these diets tend to eliminate entire food groups, it can result in poorly balanced meals that can cause nutrient deficiency.  

Generally, a diabetic person should avoid or limit his intake of foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats. The same also goes for fried foods. You should also avoid sweets, including candy, ice cream, baked goods, and sugary beverages.

Starting a Diabetic Diet Plan

If you have to start a new diet to keep your diabetes symptoms in check, you may be surprised that it’s not as hard as it sounds. In order to make this easier for you,  plan your meals ahead to ensure that your food items will not mess with your blood sugar levels. According to the CDC, you should monitor the carbohydrates you consume and establish a limit for each meal. (1) You can ask your doctor, a dietician, or a diabetes educator to help you do just that.

The basic and useful method for diabetic meal planning is The Diabetes Plate method (2). It asks you to use a plate for planning out your meal items, where you fill one-quarter of your plate with lean protein, another quarter with carbs, and then the remaining half of your plate should be for non-starchy vegetables. While you’re at it, you should also mind your portion sizes too, and not necessarily follow the serving sizes that you can find on labels. Don’t forget to hydrate with water or a zero-calorie drink.

Diet Options For People With Diabetes

There have been a lot of diet plans out there - the Atkins, Zone, South Beach, etc.- and all promise to improve health. But before you try any diet plan, it is always best to consult your physician so that you can factor in your individual needs such as lifestyle factors and other health conditions (chronic illness, allergies, other medications).

With all the options out there, here are some of the recommended diets that prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes; or if you’re diabetic already, help manage your symptoms.

  • The Mediterranean Diet

This diet is known to be helpful in preventing diabetes since it focuses on consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. (3) A study involving 25,000 overweight, female health care providers revealed that those who are on the Mediterranean Diet had a 30% lower chance of having diabetes 20 years later. (4)  Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, the diet will also make you load up on fish, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and extra virgin olive oil. It will also limit your intake of processed meats, red meats, and sweets.

  • The DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and involves a low-sodium approach to improve heart health. This makes it a good eating plan for diabetics since they are also vulnerable to cardiovascular problems. The DASH diet helps keep blood pressure under control. (5) It’s also rich in magnesium, which can aid in insulin resistance as well (6). This diet will make you eat mostly grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meat, fish, and poultry. It will also limit your intake of foods high in saturated fat, as well as sweets and added sugars.

Here’s a sample DASH Diet dish that’s easy to make and delightful to eat:

Ginger-marinated Grilled Portobello Mushrooms (7)


1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

4 large portobello mushrooms (about 4 ounces each), cleaned and stems removed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, peeled

  • Whisk pineapple juice, balsamic vinegar, and ginger together in a bowl
  • Put the mushrooms in a glass dish, making sure that the stemless side is up. Pour the marinade over the mushrooms. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for around an hour. Turn the mushrooms once while waiting.
  • Heat a gas grill or broiler or fire up a charcoal grill. Coat the broiler pan or grill rack lightly with cooking spray. Make sure that you do this away from the heat source. Place the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.
  • Broil or grill the mushrooms on medium heat. Turn the mushrooms often, about 5 minutes on each side, until they become tender. Baste the mushrooms with marinade to prevent them from drying out.
  • Transfer the mushrooms to a serving platter (use tongs for safety) and then garnish the dish with basil. Serve right away.

Mindful eating complements diet 

Mindful eating  has nothing to do with what you are eating.  Rather, it  is an approach that asks you to pay full attention to your meal: to savor each bite, focus on the flavors of the food, and enhance the eating experience. The goal really is to enjoy what you have, instead of thinking about what you can’t have; to appreciate rather than to feel deprived. 

More than just positive thinking, there is solid science behind this: there is considerable research that mindful eating may improve diets by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, and decreasing likelihood of binge eating, a commonly experienced issue in people with type 2 diabetes (8). It also improves mental health as well; reducing anxiety, depression symptoms, and diabetes-related distress (9).

To end this on a sweet note, here is a recipe for a refreshing and healthy beverage that’s perfect for the coming summer months:

Blueberry Lavender Lemonade (10)


1 package (16 ounces) blueberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers

2 cups water

2 tablespoons Splenda sweetener

Cold water

  • Add 4 cups of ice in a 1-gallon pitcher and then set aside
  • Boil 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and then add the blueberries, lavender, and sugar. Boil some more for about 5 minutes until the sugar has entirely dissolved and the blueberries have all popped.
  • Strain the mixture over the pitcher of ice and then discard the remains. Add the lemon juice and Splenda. Fill the pitcher with cold water and mix well. Serve.

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