Though there is no one best diet for blood sugar control, it is possible to take good care of yourself and your diabetes with an overall healthy diet. Managing type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise is often the first recommended step after the initial diagnosis of diabetes.

Trying new recipes is a great way to incorporate new foods and dishes. New recipes can keep a fresh variety of foods in your diet and keep you from becoming bored and returning to less healthy eating habits. Good recipes for type 2 diabetes include many nutritional components, like produce, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein.

Must-Haves for Type 2 Diabetes Recipes 

Healthy recipe choices for people with type 2 diabetes should include items from the categories of whole grains, produce, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These components are listed below with example foods in each group.

Whole grains

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Barley
  • Oats

Healthy fats

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and seeds

 Fruits

  • Berries, like blackberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Apples
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple

Non-starchy vegetables

  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash, like zucchini or yellow squash
  • Snap peas
  • Greens, like collards, spinach, kale
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions

Lean proteins

  • White meat turkey or chicken
  • Lean cuts of pork, like pork loin
  • Lean types of beef, like flank steak or 93% lean ground beef
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Tempeh

Keep an eye on the suggested serving size and the number of servings per recipe. Eating multiple servings of even a healthy food or recipe can cause problems with your diet management.

Foods To Avoid

  • High-fat foods, such as fried foods, high-fat meats, and full-fat dairy products
  • Trans fats usually found in vegetable shortening, hydrogenated oils, or shelf-stable baked goods
  • Sugary-sweet foods, like cakes, cookies, and candy
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, like sweet tea, regular soda, or fruit juices
  • Highly processed foods, like packaged meats or packaged snack and meal foods

Obese woman eating donut

How To Find a Great Recipe for Managing Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes recipes should contain healthy ingredients but can also be delicious. Healthy diabetes recipes include a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. National organizations like the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association have many cookbooks available, and their websites also have suggested recipes. A local library is excellent for checking out cookbooks or browsing different recipes. Try cookbooks that focus on healthier eating, like vegetarian, vegan, heart-healthy, or whole-grain cooking.

Helpful Cooking Tools for Managing Diabetes

Multicooker (example: instant pot): Multicookers containing a pressure cooker component can save much time in the kitchen. Multicookers can save time in these ways: cooking a big batch of whole grains to eat as sides or in salads, cooking multiple servings of lean meats to keep on hand as a protein option for quick salad or wrap, and veggie-filled soups.

A good knife and cutting board: Good knives can make chopping fresh ingredients for recipes and snacks take less time and feel more enjoyable. A quality cutting board gives you a steady, stable surface for chopping hearty vegetables.

Roasting sheets: Oven baking foods can reduce the amount of oil in a recipe and make vegetables crispier with delicious roasted flavors. Roasting foods can add variety to healthy cooking instead of only eating fresh or streamed foods. Quality cooking sheets can be used repeatedly and are easy to clean if sprayed well with nonstick spray.

Measuring cups: Measuring cups are necessary to ensure accuracy when cooking a recipe, but also help ensure you’re using correct portions of foods to help them fit in your diet plan. Glass and metal measuring cups are good options.

Female operating multicooker

Tips to Save Time on Healthy Cooking

  •  Buy pre-chopped vegetables and fruit, either fresh or frozen. 
  • Shop the freezer section of the grocery store. Plain frozen vegetables and fruit are available in a wide variety in most stores. Keep several options in the freezer at home for easy access when the refrigerator or crisper drawer is low.
  •  Keep a well-stocked pantry with dried grains, cans of low sodium or no salt added vegetables, olive oil, and fruit packed in water or 100% fruit juice.
  • Keep fresh fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated on the counter to encourage you to eat them for snacks, like bananas, oranges, and apples. 
  • Cook healthy foods in bigger batches. Make a big weekly batch of whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, a pot of vegetable soup, or a tray of baked chicken to keep in the refrigerator to make quick and easy meals within minutes.
  •   Freeze extra servings of healthy meals you cook at home. Soups and casseroles freeze well and can be frozen in individual servings for easy lunches or quick meals at home.
  •  Try fruit for dessert. Grilling fruit adds new flavors, and baking fruit with cinnamon is a delicious way to make fruit feel special without adding extra sugar.

It may be helpful to work with a Registered Dietitian to make a diet and meal plan that works for you and helps manage blood sugar levels. Trying new recipes and methods is a great start when learning type 2 diabetes care management.