Foods to Eat if you Have Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy diet is a way to avoid diabetes

People over the age of 65 are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, with estimates of up to 26% of seniors affected in both Canada and the United States. If your doctor diagnoses you with type 2 diabetes, an important thing to remember is that in most cases, the long term complications of type 2 diabetes can be substantially decreased with proper management. A health conscious diet is one of the primary ways of tackling diabetes.

There are a few important principles to know when planning your meals:

  • What you eat matters. Carbohydrates tend to enter the blood stream at a quicker rate (thus raising your blood sugars) than proteins and fats do.
  • There are good carbs and bad carbs. Learning which ones to stay away from can really improve blood sugar levels.
  • Meals need to be balanced and well paced. Eating too many sugars or carbohydrates at once can cause blood sugar levels to spike.

Glycemic Index (GI)

The glycemic index is an indicator of how much a food will raise your blood sugar levels. 100 is the index for pure glucose (the sugar the body uses) to enter the blood stream (which happens almost instantly.  In contrast, something that wouldn’t affect blood sugar at all (like water) would be 0. To learn more about GI, visit here.


It’s best to eat whole grains, rather than refined grains. What do we mean by refined?  Any time you grind a grain into flour, the body absorbs it quicker and it enters the blood stream quicker. For non-diabetics, this isn’t a problem. But for diabetics, quick entering sugar into the blood stream means high blood sugar levels which may be difficult to get back down. Sugars, even natural sugars from fruit, can also enter the blood stream rapidly.

The following is a quick guide to some common carbohydrates:

Best (Low GI  –  Less than 55)    

  • Many Whole Grains: Oats, barley, quinoa, lentils, beans
  • Yams, sweet potato, carrots, corn
  • Certain whole fruits: Apples, berries, bananas

Next Best (Medium GI 55-69)

  • Brown, multigrain, or rye bread
  • Brown or basmati rice
  • Couscous

Try your best to avoid (GI 70-100)

  • White products (white bread, white rice products, etc.)
  • Russet Potato
  • Cookies, cakes, pastries
  • Sugary drinks, including fruit juices
  • Some fruits: Melon and pineapple actually raise blood sugar very quickly

To fill yourself up, try loading yourself up with fiber-packed veggies low in carbs.

Non Starchy Vegetables

  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, lettuce, kale
  • Root Vegetables: Carrots, radishes, turnips
  • Other: Cucumbers, tomato, zucchini, squash

Make sure to also balance your meal with some fat and protein.


Fat is an essential part of every healthy diet. Choose foods which contain mono and poly unsaturated Fats. Avoid trans fats and saturated fat.  Good fats are in:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Olive Oil


Make sure to eat foods which are high in protein. If they also contain fat, make sure it’s healthy fat.

  • Poultry – great for baking, stir frys,
  • Fish – Sashimi, Baked Salmon or white fish
  • Eggs – If you have problems with cholesterol, consider using only egg whites

It’s also important to realize for the vast majority of people it’s not bad to “cheat” once in a while. A slice of cake on a special occasion will not set you off. But it is important to be sticking with a healthy diet if you want good control of your diabetes. Find fruits that can satisfy that dessert craving. Try new recipes with whole grain products instead of white products.

Happy eating!

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