Newly Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes: What Can I Eat?

Gretchen Becker Health Guide November 06, 2009
  • You've recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and you don't know what you can eat.

     

    One expert says you need to cut back on fat, but you can eat a lot of carbohydrate (starches and sugars). Another says you need to cut back on carbohydrate, and fat doesn't matter. A third says the important thing is the glycemic index. Your head is spinning. You may wonder why you can't seem to get a handle on all this.

     

    Don't worry. You're not alone. Even the experts who have had diabetes for decades find the constant barrage of news about diabetes diets confusing. Expert David Mendosa recently wrote about this here.

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    What I recommend is starting off with whatever diet your health care team or your dietician recommends. It takes a little time to come to terms with a diabetes diagnosis, and you don't need the extra burden of arguing with your health care team right now. Maybe your first diet won't be the diet you eventually settle on, but it's a good start.

     

    If you've been eating a "standard American diet," meaning a lot of calories and a lot of both fat and carbohydrate, then almost any diet will be an improvement. So start with whatever your dietician/health care team want you to eat and use your meter to find out how this diet affects your blood glucose (BG) levels. If you wish, you can follow Jennifer's advice for when to test.

     

    Also make sure your doctor tells you what your blood pressure and lipid levels are right now. Then you can see if they improve or get worse on the diet you started with.

     

    After a month or so, when you have a good idea of how your starting diet affects your BG levels and your lipid levels and blood pressure, and how it makes you feel, you might want to try another eating plan. Again, use your meter to see how this diet affects you.

     

    Remember, we're all different. Depending on how advanced your diabetes was when you were diagnosed, whether or not you're able to get your insulin resistance down with exercise and weight loss (weight loss doesn't seem to help some people), and your own particular physiology, you may be able to tolerate more or less carbohydrate than someone else.

     

    Some people can tolerate potato but not rice; others are exactly the reverse.

     

    What foods you can eat also depends on how much of them you eat. One person might cut out rice completely, saying she couldn't tolerate rice, but it would turn out she was eating a whole cup per serving and no fat with the meal. Another person might say he could tolerate rice, but it would turn out he was eating only 2 tablespoons per serving, slathered with butter, which slows down digestion.

     

    So never take someone else's word for it. Try new foods and see if they work for you.

     

    Don't feel overwhelmed. You've probably had higher-than-normal BG levels for up to 10 years before you were diagnosed. Another few weeks won't make a huge difference. Just do what you can.

     

    If you can start cold turkey with a totally new lifestyle, that's great. If you have to start slowly, cutting back on one food you love and then another one until you reach a diet you can live with while controlling your BG levels, that's OK too.

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    Remember, you have a lot of companions on this difficult journey. It takes time to absorb everything you need to know. Just hang in there. You can do it, and eventually you'll discover new foods and new tastes and may wonder why you ever liked the tasteless packaged junk food you used to eat.