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What is the Diabetes Plate Method?

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What is the Diabetes Plate Method?

Type 2 diabetes has become a growing public health concern worldwide; over 400 million people currently have type 2 diabetes, and by 2045, that number is estimated to reach 700 million. Type 2 diabetes is preventable and reversible with lifestyle changes, especially diet. The Diabetes Plate Method is the preferred diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association for those who want to manage their blood sugar levels. This article will discuss what the Diabetes Plate Method is, including foods to eat and foods to avoid when following this diet. We'll then discuss who can benefit from the Diabetes Plate Method and functional medicine testing to help further assess diabetes.


What is The Diabetes Plate Method

The Diabetes Plate Method, as developed by the American Diabetes Association, was created with the sole intent of helping to balance blood sugar. Blood sugar dysregulation found in type 2 diabetes can cause symptoms of fatigue, blurred vision, increased hunger and thirst, frequent infections, slow wound healing, increased urination, tingling in the hands and feet, and darkened areas of skin. If not managed appropriately, type 2 diabetes can lead to strokes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, retinopathies (eye problems), and peripheral neuropathies (numbness and pain in the limbs).

The Diabetes Plate Method is easy to follow, as there is no counting, weighing, or measuring necessary with this diet, unlike many other diets out there. The only requirement for the Diabetes Plate Method is a plate! Plate sizes can vary, so the American Diabetes Association recommends a plate that is around 9 inches across.

There are four main components to the Diabetes Plate Method: nonstarchy vegetables, protein foods, carbohydrate foods, and water or zero-calorie drinks. The plate will be divided in half vertically. The side on the right will then be divided in half horizontally, leaving three different sections in the plate. The entire half section on the left will be non-starchy vegetables. One of the other sections will be protein, and the last section will consist of carbohydrates.

Source: Photo from American Diabetes Association

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Besides providing vitamins and minerals, vegetables are also high in fiber. Vegetables can also contain a type of carbohydrate called starches. Starches will break down into sugar, which can spike your blood sugar. Non-starchy vegetables tend to be lower or devoid of starches, meaning you’ll still obtain vitamins, minerals, and fiber from them, but you won’t get the blood sugar spike that starchy vegetables can cause.

Non-Starchy Vegetables Options

Examples of nonstarchy vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, celery, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, cucumber, eggplant, okra, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, pea pods, snow peas, sugar snap peas, leafy greens (kale, collards, mustard greens, Swiss chard) and salad greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, endive), squashes (zucchini, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, chayote).


Proteins are found and utilized everywhere in the body, especially in the skin, hair, muscles, and bones. Food sources of protein can also be high in fat, especially saturated fat, which some research suggests may increase the risk of heart disease. Lean proteins are lower or devoid of saturated fats and thus may be a better choice for those with type 2 diabetes.  

Protein Options

Lean protein options can include chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, shellfish (shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, lobster), fish (salmon, cod, tuna, tilapia, swordfish), lean pork (tenderloin, center cuts), and lean beef (tenderloin, chuck, round, sirloin, flank). Additionally, plant-based sources of protein include tofu, tempeh, edamame, plant-based meat substitutes, nuts and nut butter, beans, hummus, lentils, and falafel. If choosing plant-based options, it’s essential to watch the carbohydrate content as well, as options such as beans can also be high in carbohydrates.


Carbohydrates break down into sugars and have the potential to spike blood sugar. Fruit, grains, starchy vegetables, beans and legumes, milk, and yogurt have large amounts of carbohydrates in them. Reducing carbohydrates in the diet can help to prevent blood sugar spikes.

Carbohydrate Options

Carbohydrate options include fruit and dried fruits (blueberries, apples, oranges, bananas, pomegranate, grapefruit, strawberries), beans and legumes (black, pinto, kidney, and garbanzo beans), whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, oats, quinoa), whole grain products (bread, pasta, tortillas), and starchy veggies (green peas, pumpkins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantains, parsnips, acorn squash, butternut squash).

Water or Low-Calorie Drink

To complete the Diabetes Plate Method, a low-calorie or zero-calorie drink is recommended.

Low-Calorie Drink Options

Water is always the best option for hydrating our bodies. It has no calories, no carbohydrates, and our bodies need it. Other low-calorie options may include unsweetened teas, unsweetened coffee, club soda or sparkling water, flavored water or sparkling water with no sugar, and diet drinks.  

Diabetes Superfoods

Superfood” is a term used by many marketing companies to promote a specific food or food product. However, the term "superfoods" is not recognized by the Food and Drug Administration, and thus, the word has no true definition. Instead, the American Diabetes Association has created a list of “superstar foods”: foods that contain good amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. These “superstar foods” can be utilized to form a healthy diet and may be beneficial in the prevention of many diseases.

Diabetes Superfoods Options

Diabetes “superstar foods,” as recommended by the American Diabetes Association, include beans, dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, whole grains, milk and yogurt.

Food to Avoid on The Diabetes Plate Method

Foods to avoid on the Diabetes Plate Method include foods high in added sugars, including sugary beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee drinks, desserts, and refined grains, including pasta, bread, and rice, that have less than two grams of fiber per serving.

Can Both Type I and Type II Diabetes Patients Benefit From The Diabetes Plate Method?

While the origins and causes of type 2 diabetes differ from type 1, blood sugar control and management are a focus in both. Since the Diabetes Plate Method aims to regulate blood sugar levels, it can be used and may be beneficial for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Functional Medicine Labs Commonly Used For Individualized Treatment Options for Diabetics

There are many functional medicine labs that can help to individualize treatment plans for those with diabetes.

Diabetic Blood Markers

Markers related to blood sugar, including glucose (the medical term for blood sugar), insulin (the carrier for glucose into the cell where it will be converted into energy), and Hba1c (an average measurement of glucose over the past three months) provide value insight for practitioners. These markers can not only help to diagnose diabetes but are also used to monitor the progression or regression of the disease.

Micronutrient Panel

Micronutrient tests assess numerous vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant levels in one convenient test. Micronutrient deficiencies, including inositol, vitamin D, chromium, and magnesium, can contribute to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and thus, knowing the levels of these micronutrients is important when evaluating a patient for type 2 diabetes. Spectracell Laboratories Micronutrient Test is an excellent choice as it measures 31 different micronutrients, including the previously discussed nutrients in relation to type 2 diabetes.

Comprehensive Stool Test

A comprehensive stool test evaluates gastrointestinal health, including markers of digestion, absorption, immune function, inflammation, and the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a collective group of organisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites, that live within our large intestine and affect the digestive process, create vitamins for us to absorb, aid in immune function, creation of neurotransmitters, hormone metabolism, and more. Research has shown that the gut microbiome contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes as it can affect how sensitive our cells are to insulin, the carry of glucose in the body. GI Effects by Genova Diagnostics is a great comprehensive stool test choice.

How to Find a Diabetes Nutritionist?

A Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN) are professionals trained in medical nutrition therapy. RDs and RDNs are the same, the only difference being some schools call their programs “RD” and others “RDNs.” RDs must have received a bachelor's degree followed by a practice program at a food service corporation, healthcare facility, or community agency. After, they must take and pass their national boards given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. While all RDs are able to give nutritional guidance to diabetics, there is an additional education opportunity for RDs to learn more about nutritional guidelines for diabetes, specifically. Those who complete this program are called certified diabetes educators (CDEs). CDEs have an additional test that they must pass before using the CDE credentials, and they must recertify every five years. The Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education has a search tool on its website that can help you find a CDE near you.



Type 2 diabetes is a complicated disease that can cause severe, life-threatening complications, including strokes, heart, liver, and kidney disease. It should give those with type 2 diabetes hope to know that their condition can be reversed without drugs or medication by lifestyle changes, including diet. The Diabetes Plate Method has many appealing qualities, from its simplicity of use ( not needing to count calories or macronutrients, for example) to its inclusion of a variety of foods. For functional medicine practitioners, pairing the Diabetes Plate Method with functional medicine testing can lead to the creation of a personalized, tailored treatment plan with the goal of not only eliminating symptoms and improving markers of type 2 diabetes but with the intention of complete disease reversal and maintaining remission.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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