Restrictive diets are hard to maintain over long periods of time, so they’re not recommended for most people. However, some people with diabetes require diets that restrict intake of carbohydrates and sugar in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. If you and your doctor have decided it would be best for you to be on a diet, here are some that can help with diabetes management.


Consistently rated as one of the top diets of the year, DASH (or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) prioritizes plant-based food paired with small portions of lean meat. Originally designed to lower blood pressure, this diet is also effective for weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and managing or preventing diabetes. Because this diet favors healthful eating over calorie counting or severe restriction, it’s healthy enough to follow your entire life.

  • What to eat: fruits, vegetables, nuts, low-fat and non-fat dairy, lean meats, fish, poultry, whole grains, and heart healthy fats
  • What not to eat: sodium, sweets, sugary drinks, and red meats

Mediterranean Diet

This diet is based on the kind of food people in countries like Italy and Greece would have eaten in the 1960s. Specifically, it focuses on the types of fat you can eat and encourages the use of olive oil over butter or margarine. It’s a good choice for people prioritizing heart health and can aid in weight loss, prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, premature death, and ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

  • What to eat: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil
  • What to eat in moderation: poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt
  • What not to eat: sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods

Flexitarian Diet

Also known as “flexible vegetarian,” the flexitarian diet is considered more of a way of eating than a diet. For beginners, experts suggest going meatless two days per week and gradually increasing the meatless days until you are eating meat-free five days per week and limiting yourself to 9 ounces of meat the remaining days. This is a good option for those looking to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol, BMI, risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes, and those looking to manage diabetes. In addition to all of the health benefits, cutting back on meat can also minimize your carbon footprint and help save money when you buy cheaper protein alternatives like soy, lentils, and beans.

  • What to eat: all the vegetables you want
  • What to eat in moderation: meats, especially red meat
  • What not to eat: sweets and processed food

Weight Watchers

Ranked the Best Commercial Diet Plan and Best Weight Loss Diet in 2018 by U.S. News & World Report, Weight Watchers is ideal if the thought of counting calories makes your head spin. Under this eating plan, nothing is truly off-limits and everything is okay in moderation. The diet operates on a point system where you receive lower points for healthier foods and more points for less healthy options. The new Weight Watchers Freestyle includes roll-over points and an array of 0-point foods like chicken, fish, eggs, corn, beans, and over 200 more foods. The program allows you to track food choices, exercise, progress, and find recipes and workout all on their handy app or website. Weight Watchers also offers in-person meetings or coaching, both of which have been shown to lead to increased weight loss.

  • What to eat: anything, as long as it’s within your point limit


MIND diet (or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) borrows from the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet with the intent of protecting the brain and fighting off neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The diet does this by decreasing oxidative stress and free radicals, which can damage cell strength and increase and memory loss. In a study published by the scientific journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, Dr. Martha Clare Morris revealed that people who followed the diet closely decreased the chances of developing Alzheimer’s by 54% while people who followed the diet moderately decreased their chances by 35%. The diet is meant to protect the brain, but it can also result in hearth health and weight loss. With new research showing a link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, this is also a good option for people who have diabetes or insulin resistance.

  • What to eat: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, whole grains, fish, poultry, and olive oil
  • What not to eat: red meat, butter or margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets, and fried and fast foods

Ketogenic Diet

Regularly tied for last place for top diet of the year, the ketogenic diet requires severe restriction of carbohydrates and allows high fat foods. Many experts do not think this kind of severe restriction is sustainable. However, this is a great diet for those who are diabetic or insulin resistant. The diet works by placing your body in a state or ketosis which produces ketones. Ketones encourage excess fat burning when the body is deprived of its first energy source—carbohydrates. This diet is also known to increase mental focus and energy levels and has been used to treat conditions like epilepsy and acne.

  • What to eat: meats, leafy greens, above-ground vegetables, high-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, avocado, berries, sweeteners, and other fats
  • What not to eat: grains, sugar, fruit, and starchy vegetables like potatoes

Intermittent Fasting

This up-and-coming diet encourages periodic fasting, a process most of us already do between dinner and the next day’s breakfast. Because food digests better and faster when the body is upright, this pattern of eating encourages and early eating period in order to give the body time to digest the last meal before lying down to sleep. Alternatively, you could also have a late eating period like 2pm-8pm. If neither of these options works for you, you could fast for 18 hours one or two times a week and still experience similar results. Benefits of this eating pattern include increased mood and mental energy, improved blood sugar levels, decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, and it can ward off neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Even better, this diet can also be beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes.

  • What to eat: it’s best to eat a healthy meal with plenty of protein after the fasting period as the body will immediately attempt to turn the meal into energy
  • What not to eat: as with most diets, it’s best to avoid sugary, fried, and processed foods with this one

Choosing a diet is about more than how much weight you want to lose. It’s about knowing how your body works and how to eat in a way that is healthy for you. Consult your doctor or nutritionist to determine which diet is right for you.