Eat to Beat Diabetes: 5 Simple Rules

Take Control Back with Nutrition

So many of my patients who are newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes think that they can never enjoy food again or that they can never eat carbohydrates again, but nothing is further from the truth.

  • Reverse or manage their diabetes
  • Achieve a healthy body weight
  • Achieve glycemic, blood pressure, and lipid goals; and
  • Prevent diabetes complications

A Diabetic Diet is NOT Complicated

In its most simple terms, a diabetic diet is a healthy diet that focuses on consuming nutritious foods, being mindful of portion sizes, and focusing on eating at regular mealtimes.

Understanding Blood Sugar and Insulin

Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is the sugar that circulates in the blood stream and is delivered to the body’s cells to provide energy.

Hyperglycemia — Blood Sugar Spike

When glucose sugar is unable to enter the cells to be burned and used as energy, it remains in the blood stream. High amounts of sugar in the blood stream is called hyperglycemia. Continuing to have this high amount of sugar in your blood can lead to blood vessel, nerve, and organ damage.

Hypoglycemia — Blood Sugar Drop

Hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar is too low. Although not very common in Type 2 Diabetics, it is possible to have low blood sugar, defined as blood glucose levels below 70 mg/dl (or 4.0 mmol/L) as a result of excessive exercise or excessive use of blood-sugar-lowering medication.

What should my blood sugar level be?

Type 2 Diabetes should aim for a blood glucose reading of between 70 to 130 mg/dL BEFORE meals and less than 180 mg/dL approximately 2 hours AFTER meals.

Understanding Macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fats

Macronutrients, commonly referred to as “macros,” are the nutritive components of food needed in larger amounts, compared with micronutrients, which are needed by the body to maintain physiological systems and structures.


Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. They are essential to fuel the body and the brain. The foods that contain both good and bad carbohydrates include:

  1. Grains, breads, cereals and dried beans
  2. Starchy vegetables — corn, peas, and potatoes
  3. Fruit and fruit juices
  4. Milk and yogurt
  5. Sweets, sugar, soda and desserts


Protein plays an important role in providing structure for tissues including, but not limited to, organs, muscle, skin, nails, ligaments, tendons, and bones. The foods that contain protein include:

  1. Beans
  2. Lentils
  3. Lean meats like chicken, fish, seafood and beef
  4. Tofu and tempeh
  5. Eggs whites


Fats play an important role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, hormone production, cell growth, and organ insulation. The foods that contain fats include:

  1. Avocado
  2. Healthy oils like olive oil and avocado oil
  3. Nuts
  4. Seeds

The 5 Rules of Diabetic Nutrition

1. Eat 5–6 Smaller, More Frequent Meals

Although everyone will have a slightly different eating patterns that work best for their lifestyle, typically the rule of thumb is to have 3 meals — Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, with 2–3 small healthy snacks in-between.

2. Eat Carbohydrates with a Protein OR a Fat

One way to slow the release of glucose into the blood stream is by consuming your carbohydrate source like bread, rice, pasta, or crackers with either a protein source or a fat source. Protein and fats digest in the body more slowly than carbohydrates which in turn slow the rate of blood glucose released in the blood stream.

  • Apples slices + almonds
  • Celery sticks + peanut butter
  • Crackers + cheese
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt + berries
  • 100% Whole Wheat slice of toast + turkey, lettuce, tomato, and avocado

3. Use the Diabetes Plate Method

The Diabetic Plate Method is very simple, and can be broken down into 4 easy steps:

  1. Start with a 9-inch dinner plate
  2. Fill ½ your plate with “non-starchy” vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower or a leafy green salad
  3. Fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein like chicken, fish, turkey, beans, or tofu
  4. Fill ¼ of your plate with grains or starchy vegetables like pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, and peas.

4. Choose the Right Foods

  • Non-starchy vegetables: leafy greens, asparagus, zucchini broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
  • Healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, nuts, eggs, chia seeds, flax seeds
  • Heart Healthy Fish: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Lean Meats: chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef
  • Whole Grains: brown rice, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, quinoa barley, rye

5. Steer Clear of the Wrong Foods

  • White bread, white pasta, and white rice
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages and sodas. That includes green juices! — When making green juices, the fiber is stripped away, which helps slow the absorption of sugar in the body. Without the fiber, like in whole fruits, you are essentially drinking a sugar-bomb that will spike your blood sugar.
  • Saturated and Trans fat — Typically found in processed snack foods and meat (check the nutrition label for this!)
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals
  • Fruit-flavored yogurt — You can avoid added sugars by purchasing plain yogurt and adding your own fiber-rich fruit likes berries
I Follow a Diabetic Diet, and I Don’t have Diabetes!

Here’s What I Tell my Patients…

Type 2 Diabetes is one of most prevalent chronic illnesses in the United States. Through proper nutrition, healthy eating habits, and balanced meals it’s possible to manage and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes.



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Jasmine El Nabli

Jasmine El Nabli

Registered Dietitian and Health and Wellness Director