Diet is essential for managing type 2 diabetes. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet for diabetes management, some dietary choices may act as the foundation for your eating plan.

Your diet plan should work with your body — not against it — so it’s crucial that the food you eat won’t spike your blood sugar levels too high.

Keep reading to learn more about how what you eat can affect your blood sugar and which foods you may want to pick up at the grocery store or toss out of your pantry.

When someone with diabetes has low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a spoonful of sugar or honey can help raise glucose levels. However, sugar is often considered the nemesis of diabetes because of how quickly it can spike blood glucose levels when eaten alone.

If you have diabetes, you should closely monitor your consumption of foods with a high glycemic index (GI). Foods with a high GI can cause blood sugar spikes, and persistent long-term high blood sugar can jeopardize your health and life if you have diabetes. Examples of high-GI foods include:

  • white rice
  • bread
  • pasta

Make sure that most of your carb choices are whole-grain, high fiber options. For example, if you’d like to have a piece of chocolate cake with frosting, eat it immediately after a balanced meal containing lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and fiber.

Eating quick-digesting foods with other foods will help slow their digestion and help you avoid spikes in blood sugar. If you’re counting carbs, be sure to include the cake when you total your meal.

Limiting quick-digesting carbs doesn’t mean avoiding all carbs. Whole, unprocessed grains are an excellent source of energy and are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It’s a good idea to choose whole grain options because they maximize nutrition and digest slowly, providing sustained energy.

Whole-grain food options include:

  • sprouted and whole-grain bread
  • legumes and beans
  • whole wheat pasta
  • wild or brown rice
  • high fiber whole-grain cereal
  • grains such as quinoa, amaranth, and millet

Foods high in sodium, saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats can elevate your risk of heart disease and stroke. However, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all fats.

Foods rich in “good fats” can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are good fats.

Lean red meats and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring are good additions to your diet. Fatty fish is high in omega 3s, an essential fatty acid that has been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

Other healthy fats include:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds

Try to limit:

  • red meat
  • processed meats
  • high fat dairy products like cheese

Balancing carbohydrates is integral to a diabetes-friendly diet. Processed and refined carbs aren’t the best options, but including whole grains and dietary fiber can be beneficial in many ways.

Whole grains are rich in fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Dietary fiber helps with digestive health and helps you feel more satisfied.

Fruits are often packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Be sure to choose whole fruits over juice to get the beneficial fiber. The more skin on the fruit, the more fiber it contains.

All fruits contain fiber and various. For example:

  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries
  • cranberries
  • pears
  • cantaloupes
  • grapefruit
  • cherries

Vegetables are also a great addition to every meal. They are low in calories and high in water content so they can help you feel full with fewer calories. Go for color and increased variety. Some good options include:

  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • peppers
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • tomatoes
  • celery
  • cabbage

If you have diabetes, spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day to avoid spikes in your blood sugar levels. And be sure to choose portions that help you meet or maintain your weight goals.

Be sure to monitor and record your blood sugar levels throughout the day, as well as before and after meals. If you have any concerns, talk with a doctor or a dietitian. They can work with you to create a diet plan that best suits your needs.

Maintaining a routine and developing a proper meal plan are fundamental to managing diabetes. Eating a balanced diet that manages your intake of carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, and sodium can help you manage your overall health.

Physical activity combined with a healthy diet can also help you better manage your diabetes. Maintaining a moderate weight can help lower your blood sugar and cholesterol levels and improve your blood pressure.

Speak with a doctor or a dietitian about a diet plan that’s safe for you and any other steps you can take to improve your health.