For those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—or even people diagnosed a long time ago—what to eat with diabetes is a common question. It may feel like they’re expected to give up all the foods they love. And indeed, in the past people with diabetes were expected to follow a very strict diet.
But as our understanding of diabetes has grown, advice on how to eat has also changed. For instance, in the past diabetics were often told to eat a very high-carbohydrate diet. Today, though official recommendations are slow to change, people with diabetes are more often advised to limit their overall carbohydrate intake and to stick to high-quality carbs.
So what does that mean on a day-to-day basis? What can people with type 2 diabetes eat?
Eat what you love. Just use your head
The answer is that what to eat with diabetes is as individual as each unique body. For most people, it means they can still have the foods they love, though they may have to eat them less often or in smaller quantities. Type 2 diabetes hinges on how the body processes carbohydrates, so how carbohydrates fit into their diet is the ultimate question.
One person may be able to eat more carbohydrate than another before they see any measurable effect on blood sugar. Others may need to cut carbohydrate intake radically. Different people may find that carbohydrates from different sources affect them in different ways—that they can eat an apple but not a banana, an occasional oatmeal cookie but not even a quarter-slice of devil’s food cake.
While diabetics with a sweet tooth will certainly have to cut down on sweets, and carb lovers will need to cut down on high-carb foods like bread and pasta, being diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t mean never eating these foods again. It does mean eating them in moderation, and structuring the rest of the meal to accommodate them when you do. Most of all, it means eating a balanced diet of real food rather than processed and pre-packaged products, and watching overall calorie intake along with carbs.