The American Diabetes Association does not endorse or recommend one particular diet, instead, they recommend a healthy and balanced diet combined with a physical lifestyle. While there is no one specific definition for a healthy eating plan, it typically emphasizes plant-based foods, whole grains, poultry, fish and a limited intake of sugar, alcohol and saturated or trans fats. And most importantly, is balanced and something you can maintain.

The Journal of Family Practice summarized several eating plans found to be effective at lowering HbA1c – a blood test that measures how well blood sugar has been controlled over time.

If you have diabetes, consider trying one of these three eating plans:

  1. Low Glycemic Diet: The low glycemic diet focuses on slowly digested carbohydrates, or those with a low glycemic index – a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar. A food with a high GI (70 or greater) raises glucose more than a food with a medium GI (56-69) or low GI (55 and below). Consuming mostly low and moderate GI foods, while combining a high GI food with low GI foods, will help balance meals and blood sugar.

Examples of foods containing carbohydrates with a low GI score are beans and legumes (kidney beans and lentils), non-starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes), fruits and whole grain breads and cereals. Highly processed and refined baked goods and cereals typically have a high GI score. Meats and fats don’t have a GI rating, because they do not contain carbohydrates.

  1. Mediterranean Diet: The Mediterranean diet is a simple, healthy and delicious eating plan. It consists of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, unsaturated fats (olive oil and avocados), fish, lean meats, poultry and limited amounts of red wine.

Study participants who followed the Mediterranean diet had improved blood sugar control, reduced systemic inflammation and reduced insulin resistance. Research also suggests that following a Mediterranean diet can help to reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 81%.

As with any eating plan, portion control is of the upmost importance to control calorie intake.

  1. Vegetarian Diet: A healthy vegetarian diet that eliminates animal products and emphasizes whole foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and is lower in saturated fats is beneficial to those with diabetes. This eating plan can be higher in fiber and lower in calories compared to other eating plans. Variations of the vegetarian diet, such as eating plans that include dairy and fish, are also beneficial.

Balance and variety are important in meal planning for vegetarians. A meat-free diet encompassing no more than mac and cheese, crackers and juice doesn’t provide the nutrients necessary for a healthy lifestyle.

As with any diet or nutrition program, please consult your physician or healthcare provider to ensure it’s right for you.