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Vegetarian Diet and Type 2 Diabetes

By Cristina F. Toscano, RD

Vegetarian diets are rising in popularity. More people are choosing to not eat meat for environmental, ethical, and health related reasons. The American Diabetes Association links vegetarian diets with A1C reduction and weight loss. Anytime you eliminate a food group, especially when you have a pre-existing health condition, you need to make sure you are getting enough nutrients. So, how can you follow both a vegetarian and diabetes friendly diet?

The basics of a healthy diabetes friendly diet still apply to those who do not consume meat. It is important to have regular balanced meals. One quarter of the ideal plate should contain carbohydrates. Some examples are whole grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, or starchy vegetables such as potatoes, peas, beans, lentils and yucca. Half of your plate should be full of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, celery, peppers, and spinach. The remaining quarter of your plate should consist of protein.

There are many sources of vegetarian protein. Some examples include eggs, low fat cheese, nuts, nut butters, seeds, tofu, and meat substitutes. Some vegetarian protein sources, however, are higher in carbohydrates. These include chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas, quinoa, and soy milk. If your blood sugar rises too much after eating these foods, you may need to consume smaller portions.

When it comes to snacks, make sure that you pair a carbohydrate with a protein. This can help keep your blood sugar level stable. If you want to eat fruit as a snack, for example, cut it in half and pair it with a small handful of nuts, nut butter, a piece of low-fat cheese, or a hard-boiled egg.

Everybody responds differently to certain foods. It is important to pay attention to your blood sugar and how it reacts to different meals and portion sizes. It is always advised to meet with a registered dietitian to create an individualized diet plan that works for you.


Cristina is a Registered Dietitian, Diabetes Educator and Family Health Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at


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