What to Eat with Type 2 Diabetes
5 Healthy Eating Tips
As we age, our risk for Type 2 diabetes – a condition in which the body doesn’t make enough insulin –increases; in fact, according the American Diabetes Association, one in four people over the age of 60 has diabetes. Type 2 diabetics can experience symptoms such as high blood sugar, fatigue, blurred vision, increased appetite, and excessive thirst or urination.
While diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed – thereby helping you avoid the more debilitating side effects (untreated diabetes can cause stroke, heart problems, and even amputation of limbs) – by managing your glucose levels. For Type 2 diabetes, this often means making healthier food and lifestyle choices.
While Type 1 diabetes is a natural condition often diagnosed at a young age and requiring an insulin pump, Type 2 typically occurs later in life as a result of diet, weight gain, and other health habits. Diabetics use insulin monitors to prick the finger to draw a small amount of blood to monitor the blood sugar levels throughout the day (the normal blood sugar range for diabetics, as determined by the American Diabetes Association, is between 70 and 130 mg/dL before meals and less than 180 mg/dL a few hours after you began eating).
The good news is that people wanting to treat their Type 2 diabetes through an improved diet do not have to purchase special foods; the best choices for diabetics are actually great choices for everyone. For example, foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar, and high in fiber can not only help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, but also help stabilize your blood sugar levels. In honor of Defeat Diabetes Month this April, here are some additional guidelines on improving your diet as a Type 2 diabetic:
1. Avoid foods high in sugar that can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
The obvious culprit is refined (white) sugar, but remember that certain carbohydrates (like white bread or potatoes) can spike your blood sugar levels in the same way. The spikes in insulin can often lead to even lower “crashes” later, causing an unhealthy cycle of high- and low-blood sugar levels.
2. Consider the levels of natural sugars and choose wisely.
While fruit can be a delicious part of a balanced diet, keep in mind that some fruit contains more natural sugars than others; the higher sugared fruit can spike your insulin levels, so when you have a choice pick lower-sugar fruit like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, pears, cantaloupes, grapefruit, and cherries). Limit or avoid high-sugar fruits like watermelon, pineapple, raisins, apricots, grapes, and oranges.
3. Choose the right starches.
You don’t have to eliminate starches totally; just choose the right ones. Look for options that are considered “whole grain” (that is, they contain more than 8 grams of whole grains per serving), and select whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, rice, crackers, and tortillas. Again, avoid the pre-packaged starches as much as possible, such as potato chips, packaged snacks, and candy bars.
4. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
In order to keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day, plan for smaller 300-cal meals that you can eat more often. The idea is to keep your internal “furnace” stoked by feeding it just enough fuel to keep going. If you exercise, be prepared to eat a small, healthy snack before and afterwards.
5. Enlist the help of an expert.
If you’re not totally sure what to eat, or what products to purchase at the store, why not enlist the help of your doctor or a local nutritionist or dietitian? They can help you create a meal plan for the week and show you how to track and evaluate your sugar levels in response to certain foods. This can help making better choices for your body even easier.