What Am I Allowed to Eat?
Last updated: March 2022
Being diagnosed with diabetes can be an overwhelming experience. There are many myths that go along with the diagnosis, making it difficult to navigate truth from fallacy. One of the first thoughts that may have entered your brain upon learning of your diagnosis may have been “well, now what can I eat?”
What can you eat when living with type 2 diabetes?
Let’s break down some tips on eating with diabetes to ease your discomfort, whether you are a new diabetic, or have had it for years!
Eat whole foods
You may hear this “whole foods” term often, and no, it does not mean you have to shop at a specific grocery store. Instead, eating a whole foods diet involves choosing foods that are as close to their original state as possible. For example, a banana has been picked from the plant, transported to the store, and then purchased for consumption. If you have a garden, eating your own produce is even fewer steps! In contrast, a product such as a granola bar has many different steps. The oats and rice are harvested, cooked, and covered in sugar, processed additions such as dried fruit and chocolate chips have been added and then all the ingredients have been mixed, cut, and packaged. This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat granola bars, but choosing ones with minimal ingredients, or making homemade granola are wonderful alternatives that stick more closely to the whole foods diet. Here are a few quick tips:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Choose whole grains such as quinoa, farro, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta
- Reach for minimally processed meats ie: chicken breast over sausage links
Limit or avoid refined foods
Refined foods are those products that use refined grains and added sugars in their ingredients. When grains go through the refining process, they are stripped of many important nutrients including B vitamins making them less nutritionally valuable. Added sugar is created by pulling the sugar out of sugar cane or beet juice. Both sugars and refined grains are frequently found in snack foods such as cookies, cakes, crackers, etc. Limiting or avoiding these foods is important for everyone, but especially those with diabetes as they are usually high in carbohydrates and can lead to undesired blood glucose levels. Here are a few quick tips:
- Choose foods containing natural sugars such as fruit and yogurt when you are in need of something sweet
- Opt for whole grain-based crackers and bread (check for the first ingredient in the list to be “whole grain wheat flour”
- Read food labels to see how much added sugar a product contains
Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables are the answer to your diet questions. Not only are they chock-full of important vitamins and minerals, they are also loaded with fiber to help you reach that happy, satisfied feeling. Shoot to have half of your plate covered with non-starchy vegetables at each meal, with the other half evenly split between protein and carbohydrate options.
Non-starchy vegetables include:
- leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and arugula
- mushrooms and many more!
Starchy vegetables should be consumed in correct portion sizes and accounted for in daily carbohydrate intakes. They include:
- sweet potatoes and more
Drink lots of water
If you are a pop drinker, now is a great time to transition over to water. Water is the best beverage for hydrating the body and has zero calories and zero carbohydrates.
Tips to remember:
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat lots of non-starchy vegetables
- Avoid processed foods loaded with refined grains and added sugars
- Choose whole foods
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