Food is an important part of our culture and celebrations. If you live with type 2 diabetes, following a well-balanced meal plan can also become a way to help manage this condition.

It’s possible to enjoy foods you love while also making some simple swaps that can help keep your blood sugar stable.

One nutrient to focus on is fiber. Fiber is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. It slows down how fast food breaks down to keep your blood sugar more stable. Fiber can also help you manage your cholesterol. Many diabetes-friendly swaps focus on ways to boost the fiber content of your meal.

Other important things to include with your meals are protein, whole fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats.

Protein also helps to slow down the rise in blood sugar after the meal. Heart-healthy protein sources include fish, beans, lentils, low fat dairy products, soy, nuts, and seeds.

Meals full of colorful fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants can help to reduce inflammation in your body. Many chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, are inflammatory conditions. Antioxidants may play a role in helping you manage them.

To round out your meals, include some healthy fats. Unsaturated fats such as fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil can play a role in reducing inflammation and keeping your heart healthy.

The following tips and substitutions can help lessen the impact of some of your favorite meals on your blood sugar.

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Brunch staples like sugary cereals, muffins, or bagels are full of refined carbs and may spike your blood sugar. Choosing foods that are full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats instead can help you start your day off right and keep your blood sugar in your target range.

Go for whole-wheat instead of white

Look for whole wheat or whole grain products. For extra fiber, choose (or make) pancakes, waffles, bread, bagels, muffins, and other grain products with added ground flax and oats.

Add vegetables to egg dishes

If you’re cooking up a quiche or frittata, try adding veggies like spinach, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, or asparagus. This will increase the fiber and antioxidants in your meal. If you want to add some cheese to your egg dish, low fat cottage cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, or Swiss cheese may be good options.

Try roasted sweet potatoes instead of hash browns or home fries

Sweet potatoes are higher in fiber and have a lower glycemic index than regular potatoes. They may raise your blood sugar more slowly than white potatoes.

Choose avocado or peanut butter instead of jam or honey

If you’re adding a topping to toast, bagels, or waffles, try avocado, peanut butter, or almond butter. These are sources of healthy fats. Jam and honey are high in sugar and may cause blood sugar to rise.

Enjoy yogurt and fruit instead of other sweets

To round out the meal, finish with yogurt and fruit for protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Yogurt is also a good source of probiotics, which may help lower fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

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Salads and sandwiches can be healthy lunch options. You may just need to watch your portion sizes and your choice of condiments, dressings, and toppings.

Add more veggies and less meat

Load up on veggies on your sandwich or wrap. These are full of antioxidants and fiber. Plus, they add color and crunch to your meal.

Choose whole wheat instead of white

Whole wheat buns, bread, and wraps are a great way to get some extra fiber into your lunch.

Add flavor with avocado

Avocado is a source of healthy fats. If avocado isn’t your thing, consider hummus (to add some protein) or mayo (as a source of healthy fat).

Use an olive oil-based dressing instead of a creamy one

Olive oil contains healthy fats. It’s a key part of a Mediterranean eating pattern, which is associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body.

Add nuts or seeds to your salad instead of croutons

Nuts and seeds give a nice crunch like croutons but with the bonus of fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

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You don’t need to give up pasta if you have type 2 diabetes. Making some simple substitutions to the type of pasta or sauce you use can help you enjoy pasta night without the blood sugar spike.

Try whole wheat instead of white pasta

Cooking up whole wheat pasta is a great way to get some extra fiber.

Switch up the sauce

Use an olive oil-based sauce to get some anti-inflammatory fat. You can also make a creamy avocado-based sauce or pesto. These offer more nutrients compared to a cream-based sauce.

Trade meat for lentils

If you’re planning to do pasta with meat sauce, try lentils instead. Lentils have a similar texture to ground beef with bonus antioxidants and fiber.

Try vegetable-based pasta

If you’re looking for something different, try zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash instead of regular pasta noodles.

Swap meat and cheese for vegetables

Instead of meat or cheese-based pasta dishes, opt for a veggie-loaded pasta. Get creative with the veggies you add. Try zucchini, peas, spinach, tomatoes, or mushrooms.

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Celebrate your next Taco Tuesday by filling a whole-grain taco or a lettuce wrap with extra veggies, beans, and lean meat.

Load up on veggies

Top your taco with extra lettuce or other leafy greens, tomato, bell peppers, olives, radishes, and cabbage. This will give you a boost of antioxidants and fiber.

Cook up ground turkey or chicken instead of beef

Use ground turkey or chicken to reduce your saturated fat intake. Saturated fat may raise cholesterol levels.

Use beans instead of ground meat

Combine beans with ground meat, or use beans only for a meatless meal. Beans are a high fiber food and can help keep blood sugar more stable.

Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream

Greek yogurt and sour cream have a similar flavor and texture, but Greek yogurt is a great way to get extra protein. There is also research suggesting that yogurt may help your body use insulin better.

Swap your wrap

Try having your taco in a whole grain shell, corn tortilla, or even a lettuce wrap. These can add some extra fiber to your meal. If you mostly just love the toppings, you could also just throw it all in a bowl and enjoy a taco salad.

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When you think barbecue, you might think of meat on white buns and high carb sides like potato salads. But some simple tweaks can help make your next cookout a more diabetes-friendly event.

Eat bean salad instead of potato salad

A bean salad is full of protein and fiber. A salad made with leafy greens and other vegetables is another way to get some fiber on the side.

Choose chicken instead of red meat

To reduce the amount of saturated fat in your meal, choose grilled chicken instead of pork or beef. Saturated fat from meats can raise your cholesterol.

Have a veggie burger instead of a hamburger

Try a meatless veggie burger. But remember, not all veggie burgers are created equally. Look for one made with whole grains, beans, and vegetables for plenty of antioxidants and fiber.

Choose a whole-grain bun instead of white

Add fiber to your meal by choosing a whole wheat or whole grain bun. Look for whole wheat or whole grain listed as the first ingredient on the package.

Drink water instead of soda

Choose water as your main beverage. Soda is high in sugar and can raise your blood sugar.

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Dessert isn’t off-limits if you have type 2 diabetes. These tips will help satisfy your sweet tooth without sending your blood sugar soaring.

Eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate

Dark chocolate is a source of antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation in your body. Some research suggests that it could help to manage blood pressure. Just be sure to eat it in moderation.

Enjoy a frozen yogurt bar instead of an ice cream bar

If you want something cold, enjoy a frozen yogurt bar or make your own at home. They often have added fruit for some extra fiber and antioxidants.

Bake your own dessert instead of buying

When you do your baking at home, you can opt to use ingredients such as oats, fruit, ground flax, and whole grains.

Choose fruit instead of baked goods

Eat fruit to add some sweetness at the end of your meal. Dark-colored fruits, especially berries, are high in antioxidants and fiber.

Try angel food cake instead of pound cake

If you love to finish your meal with cake, try angel food cake instead of a heavier pound cake. Angel food cake is lower in fat and sugar than other types of cake. It’s also delicious topped with fruit.

You can make changes to your favorite meals to add more fiber, protein, antioxidants, and healthy fats. These can help you manage your type 2 diabetes and heart health while still enjoying some of the meals you love.