How balanced is your diet? When you have type 2 diabetes, eating a well-balanced diet is essential for keeping your blood glucose level under control. In the long run, it can help you avoid potentially serious complications. It can also lower your risk of other chronic health conditions.

Fortunately, it’s possible to eat a diabetes-friendly diet without sacrificing all of your favorite foods. Here are some tips for eating a healthy diet while still enjoying the occasional treat.

Develop a meal plan that works for you

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating with type 2 diabetes. Instead, the ADA recommends working with a registered dietitian to develop an eating plan that works for you. This plan should take your health needs and goals into account, as well as your likes and dislikes.

If your ideal meal is a steak dinner, a low-carbohydrate diet might work well for you. On the other hand, a diet that heavily restricts carbohydrates might be harder to follow if your favorite foods are rich in grains. In that case, swapping some of your current go-to foods for whole-grain options might be a good approach.

Any meal plan that you adopt will likely involve some changes, including restrictions on your carbohydrate or saturated fat intake. But some approaches will be better suited to you than others.

Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian. They can help you develop a diabetes-friendly eating plan that takes your personal preferences into account.

Adapt your favorite dishes

In some cases, simple substitutions or tweaks might bring your favorite foods into line with your recommended eating plan.

Does your eating plan restrict refined carbohydrates? It might help to:

  • cut the amount of sugar in your recipes
  • replace a portion of all-purpose flour in baking recipes with high-protein almond flour
  • enjoy whole wheat pasta, bread, or crackers for instead of white alternatives
  • choose brown rice, quinoa, millet, or other whole grains instead of white rice
  • use spaghetti squash or spiraled zucchini in place of noodles
  • use lettuce wraps instead of tortillas
  • use turnips or cauliflower instead of potatoes

Does your meal plan limit the amount of fat that you can eat? Consider:

  • baking, broiling, or grilling foods, instead of frying them
  • trimming visible fat and removing skin from meats
  • adding flavor with lemon juice, hot sauce, herbs, and spices, instead of high-fat condiments

Ask your dietitian for more tips to help you adapt your favorite recipes, meals, and snacks to your recommended eating plan.

Practice moderation

Eating sweets, potato chips, and high-calorie comfort foods on a regular basis can put your health at risk, especially when you have type 2 diabetes. But that doesn’t mean that you need to forgo these foods altogether. It might be safe for you to indulge in them from time to time, as long as you don’t go overboard.

The trick is to save high-calorie comfort foods for the occasional treat. When you do eat them, practice portion control. It might help to:

  • decide how much you will eat beforehand and stick to that goal
  • put the portion on a small bowl or plate, rather than eating from a package
  • omit or remove high-calorie garnishes, such as whipped cream
  • split a serving with a friend or other dining companion
  • consciously savor each bite, instead of mindlessly munching

In some cases, you might need to adjust the rest of your snack or meal to account for your special treat. For example, if you’re counting calories or carbohydrates, you might need to adjust the types or quantities of food that you eat during your main course to balance out dessert.

The takeaway

To control your blood glucose level and lower your risk of diabetes-related complications, it’s essential to eat a well-balanced diet. A registered dietitian can help you develop a diabetes-friendly eating plan that takes your personal preferences, goals, and needs into account. In many cases, you can still enjoy your favorite foods by making small adjustments, practicing portion control, and saving treats for special occasions. Over time, you might find your tastes shift to reflect your healthier eating habits.