Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important factors in controlling type 2 diabetes.

In fact, some people with type 2 diabetes may be able to treat their condition through changes to their diet and other lifestyle factors alone, particularly if their diabetes is diagnosed at an early stage.

Ideally, a good diet will help:

Watch the calories

If you are carrying excess body weight, maintaining a low calorie diet over a long term basis is generally recommended. It is often preferable to choose a diet that aims to reduce body weight steadily.


Low calorie diets are usually set at:

  • Between 1,000 and 1,200 calories per day for most women
  • Between 1,000 and 1,600 calories a day for men and for women who either exercise regularly or weigh 165 pounds or above

Key to maintaining an effective low calorie diet is being aware of what and when you’re eating and having an understanding of the calories in the foods you regularly eat.

Establishing a regular eating routine can help to prevent snacking indiscriminately and there are a number of books and apps available that will help you to work out the calories in different foods.

A food diary can be very helpful for reviewing your diet.

Keep an eye on carbs

Carbohydrate has a direct effect on blood glucose levels so it makes sense to monitor how much carbohydrate you’re taking in.

Research studies indicate that lower carbohydrate diets can be particularly effective for blood glucose control whilst providing benefits for heart health as well.

Eat plenty of fruit and veg

Vegetables and fruit have a number of key benefits. As well as being low in calories, they:

  • Help us to feel full
  • Provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals
  • Help reduce blood glucose levels after meals
  • Improve heart health

If you’re looking to lose weight, dedicating half of your plate to non-starchy vegetables is an effective way to satisfy your appetite.

If you’re looking for fruit and veg that will have less of an impact on blood sugar levels, opt for non-starchy varieties like avocado, broccoli, carrots and berries.

Which diet plans are recommended for type 2?

A number of diets are applicable for people with type 2 diabetes.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has been highlighted by experts as being a good example of a healthy diet as it typically comprises of:

  • Plenty of vegetables and fruits
  • Whole grain foods
  • Lean meat in preference to red meat
  • Regular fish intake
  • Moderate dairy intake

The diet has been shown to help improve blood sugar control in some people with type 2 diabetes, and recent studies have found that combining elements of this diet plan with a low carbohydrate diet can be even more effective in helping to manage type 2 diabetes.

Low carbohydrate diets

Low carbohydrate diets are a popular choice for people with type 2 diabetes as they tend to be effective in helping people reduce blood glucose levels, particularly in the short term.

A low carb diet doesn’t need to be extreme and can include starchy foods, albeit usually in smaller portions.

If following a low carbohydrate diet, it’s important to ensure it’s well balanced and includes plenty of vegetables and some fruit. If you are considering reducing your carbohydrate intake, it’s advisable to inform your doctor before doing so.

Very low calorie diets

Very low calorie diets are defined as diets with a daily calorie intake of 800 calories or less.

Research has shown that following a very low calorie diet (800 calories or less each day) can be very effective in improving the body’s response to insulin. The improvement is thought to result from a reduction in a type of fat the surrounds the internal organs (visceral fat).

While a number of people have had significant success on very low calorie diets, it’s important to note that it is an extreme diet and should only be carried out with the support of your doctor and diabetes health team.