The Best Macronutrient Ratios for People With Diabetes

For people with diabetes, eating the right macronutrient mix helps with blood sugar management.
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If you have type 2 diabetes, you know it can be a challenge to manage your blood sugar — much less track the right ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fats for diabetes. Here, experts weigh in on the best macronutrient ratio for diabetes and give a sample eating plan to make it easier to navigate.

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The Ideal Ratio of Carbs for Type 2 Diabetes

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't process blood sugar properly, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). That's why counting carbs — which become glucose in the blood and raise blood sugar — can help with diabetes control.

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You should also monitor the quality of carbs that you eat, says Florida-based Amy Kimberlain, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. When you eat more nutritious carbs, the fiber can keep your blood sugar from spiking too high and will keep you full longer, she says. That includes foods like:

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  • Brown rice
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Rolled oats

A registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help you determine the ideal amount of carbs for your specific needs, which will depend on your weight-management goals and activity level, per the ADA.

But, while the right amount of carbs per person will vary, a general recommendation is to get about 50 percent of your overall daily calories from carbs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's about 200 to 250 grams a day on an 1,800- to 2,000-calorie diet, which you can spread out evenly through your meals.

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It's worth noting that when planning meals for diabetes, per the CDC, 1 serving of carbs is 15 grams.

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The Ideal Ratio of Protein for Type 2 Diabetes

The right ratio of protein per day will also vary per person; however, aiming for 20 to 25 percent of your daily calories from protein can provide the right fuel for many people with type 2 diabetes, Kimberlain says.

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Per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), that translates to about 140 to 184 grams per day.

Kimberlain says some good sources of protein include:

  • Beans
  • Chicken
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Seafood
  • Turkey

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If you rely on animal sources for protein, aim for leaner cuts, Kimberlain says. Follow these tips from the NLM:

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  • Choose lean cuts of pork, veal, beef and wild game.
  • Add fish and poultry to your menu more often.
  • Trim visible fat from meat.
  • Remove skin from turkey and chicken.
  • Roast, bake, boil or broil over frying proteins.

The Ideal Ratio of Fat for Type 2 Diabetes

When it comes to fat intake, a general recommendation is to get 25 to 30 percent of your calories from fat each day, Kimberlain says.

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However, the source of fat is important, per the ADA, which outlines the four main types as:

  • Monounsaturated
  • Polyunsaturated
  • Saturated
  • Trans

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthier choices, according to the ADA, adding that good sources of these healthier fats include:

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  • Avocado
  • Canola oil
  • Nuts like walnuts and seeds
  • Oily fish like salmon

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A Sample Meal Plan

So, just what does this mix of carbs, protein and fats look like in a day?

Kimberlain provides this example for what your daily menu could look like:

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  • Breakfast:‌ two slices of whole-wheat toast, 1 egg and 1 egg white, spinach and tomato, 1/4 avocado
  • Lunch:‌ 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/2 cup black beans, mixed salad greens, tomatoes, grilled chicken breast strips, 1/4 avocado
  • Dinner:‌ 2 ounces whole-wheat pasta; 10 medium shrimp; 1 cup zucchini; salad with lettuce, tomato, carrots and ranch yogurt dressing
  • Dessert:‌ one square of 60 percent cacao dark chocolate

You can also browse the ADA's database of healthy meals based on various eating styles such as lower-carb, Mediterranean or vegetarian diets. Each recipe includes macronutrient information to help you track toward your daily targets.

Still, you should always check with your doctor or a registered dietitian to make sure you get the right ratio for your specific needs, per the ADA.

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