Dietary changes are helpful in managing type 2 diabetes, but you don’t have to change everything all at once.

A recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes may leave you feeling overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information out there. Plus, you may get random advice from friends and neighbors. It can be hard to sort through it all.

Food choices and eating patterns can play a big part in managing type 2 diabetes. There’s no one perfect way to eat. There are general eating patterns that may help to keep blood sugar more stable.

Remember that dietary changes are not the only approach to managing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a complex chronic condition. Sometimes dietary changes are not enough. That doesn’t mean you didn’t try hard enough.

For many people, dietary changes are a good place to start. Here’s some advice on dietary changes that may help with type 2 diabetes.

Many people find that making changes in what and how they eat helps to manage their blood sugar levels.

Eating patterns are important. Do your best to eat at regular times and try not to skip meals. Eat a variety of foods. Foods that are high in fiber and protein can help to keep blood sugar more stable after you eat.

Try to limit foods and drinks that only contain sugar and not much else, such as juice, soda, and candy. These can raise blood sugar quickly.

It’s not just about food either. Exercise, stress management, sleep, and medications are also part of managing type 2 diabetes. You don’t need to change everything all at once. Think about your current habits and consider what you might be able to work on.

Managing type 2 diabetes is about overall eating patterns, but it may help to avoid or reduce certain foods if possible.

If you’ve ever followed a diet where you had to avoid certain foods or even full food groups, you’ll know how tough that is. When you feel deprived or restricted, it can make those foods even more appealing.

It’s also important to recognize that food is a big part of our culture and celebrations. Think about the foods you currently eat that bring you joy. Those are important to keep in your diet.

Consider getting a glucose meter to check your blood sugar at home. Try testing just before you eat and one to two hours after you eat. This can help you explore how different foods and meals affect your blood sugar.

Sometimes, type 2 diabetes can be managed just with dietary changes. Other times, you’ll need more than just diet as part of your treatment plan.

Type 2 diabetes is a combination of insulin resistance and insulin production. Sometimes, you have insulin but your body can’t use it properly. You need insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. When insulin isn’t regulated properly, blood sugar levels rise.

Foods that contain carbohydrates break down into sugar when they are digested. This sugar goes into your bloodstream. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid carbohydrates. They provide important nutrients and they are your brain’s best source of fuel.

Sources of carbohydrates include:

  • starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta, cereal, and other grains
  • fruit
  • starchy vegetables such as potato, squash, corn, and sweet potatoes
  • milk, yogurt, and ice cream
  • foods with added sugar, such as baked goods, candy, chocolate, and soda

Some people use carbohydrate counting to manage diabetes. This is when you calculate how many carbohydrates you are eating and try to stay within a targeted amount.

If you’re newly diagnosed, you probably won’t need to carbohydrate count. Instead, choose higher-fiber carbohydrates. Add protein and healthy fats to your meal to slow down how fast blood sugar rises after eating.

Diabetes is a chronic condition and the way you manage it will change over time. Even if you are managing with diet and exercise to start, you might need medications or insulin at some point. That’s a normal part of managing a long-term condition.

Moderation is a term that gets used a lot, but it’s hard to define. There are no foods that are off-limits when you have type 2 diabetes. There are ways to include foods that you love and still manage your blood sugar.

That said, there’s evidence that eating certain foods should be promoted while others reduced. For example, unprocessed and processed red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined grains should be avoided while vegetables, legumes, and whole grains should be encouraged.

An eating pattern to manage diabetes still needs to provide enough food, variety, and satisfaction. If you’re eating in a way that controls blood sugar, but you’re not getting enough to eat, then it’s not sustainable.

An eating pattern for type 2 diabetes will help to keep blood sugar more stable and promote heart health.

A high-fiber diet can help you manage cholesterol and can slow down how fast your blood sugar rises after a meal.

Sources of fiber include:

  • whole grains such as oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and barley
  • nuts and seeds such as almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseed, and chia
  • beans and lentils such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and red, brown, and green lentils
  • vegetables, including green beans, peas, broccoli, sweet potato, and beets
  • fruits, including apples, pears, berries, avocado, and kiwi

When you have protein with a meal or snack, it can help to keep you feeling full for longer. Protein also slows down how fast your blood sugar rises after a meal.

Sources of protein include:

  • meat, chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood
  • eggs
  • dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • beans and lentils
  • soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and soy beverage

Here are some other general tips to manage type 2 diabetes:

  • eat meals at regular times
  • add a snack if your meals will be more than 6 hours apart
  • try not to skip meals
  • eat slowly and enjoy your meals
  • include a source of protein with your meals and snacks
  • add more fiber sources to your diet
  • add healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fish
  • considering checking your blood sugar at home to monitor levels
  • keep in touch with your healthcare professional

Type 2 diabetes can feel complicated to manage, especially if you’re newly diagnosed. There’s a lot of advice out there, both helpful and not-so-helpful.

You don’t need to change everything all at once. Think about your current habits and consider one or two small changes you could make to help manage your blood sugar levels.

If you need extra support, consider working with a registered dietitian. Keep in touch with your healthcare professional. Over time, the way you manage your type 2 diabetes is likely to change. That’s part of managing a chronic condition.