5 Weight Loss Diets Safe for Diabetics

Overweight or obese persons are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (1). At the same time, patients with diabetes are prone to weight gain which makes their blood glucose (sugar) levels even more difficult to control. Weight loss is easier said than done for persons with diabetes (2). Although slimming down is tricky, it’s not impossible. Diet adjustments are vital for weight loss, but as a person with diabetes, you need to be careful. Not every eating pattern is safe for you. So, scroll down to learn more about weight-loss diets that are safe for persons with diabetes.

1. Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a type of diet inspired by the eating habits of countries in the Mediterranean area. Considered one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world, the Mediterranean diet is not a program that you should follow for a few weeks. Instead, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle. Unlike fad diets that bring more harm than good, this eating pattern is associated with a wide range of benefits and may be a suitable option for persons with diabetes.

A growing body of evidence confirms adherence to the Mediterranean diet is inversely linked to the type 2 diabetes risk in the general population. Additionally, this type of diet also aids the management of diabetes through improved glycemic control and cardiovascular disease risk factors (3).

The Diabetes Spectrum published a review of evidence on this subject. It was concluded that the Mediterranean diet does improve fasting glucose levels more effectively than low-fat diets. One potential mechanism behind these effects is a favorable influence on insulin sensitivity. Subjects who eat a Mediterranean diet also have lower BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, and metabolic syndrome prevalence (4).

Studies confirm adherence to the Mediterranean diet supports weight loss. Not just that, this diet also promotes weight management and prevents you from putting on pounds (567). It works through several mechanisms. Through the Mediterranean diet, you consume nutrients the body really needs for proper function. Many foods here are rich in fiber, which is necessary for good digestion and appetite suppression. The Mediterranean diet also delivers plenty of protein, which promotes a feeling of fullness. In other words, this eating pattern helps you slim down without “starving” yourself.

Foods consumed on the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Plant-based foods: nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, legumes
  • Protein: red meat, poultry, salmon and other fatty fish, eggs
  • Healthy fats: nuts, olive oil

The focus of the Mediterranean diet is the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Nothing is restricted per se, which is the beauty of this diet, but some foods should be consumed in low amounts. A good example is red meat, which you should strive to eat once a month.

Even though wine is okay to drink in the Mediterranean diet, you may want to avoid it or make sure not to drink it on an empty stomach if you’re taking medications that increase insulin levels.

2. Gluten-free Diet

Gluten is a protein from barley, wheat, and rye whose purpose is to act as glue and allow foods and other products to retain their shape. In fact, gluten is responsible for the soft and chewy texture of certain foods, but not everyone can tolerate it. Persons with celiac disease and gluten intolerance can experience digestive issues, skin problems, fatigue, confusion, and other symptoms (8).

A gluten-free diet is becoming increasingly popular not just among those who can’t eat gluten in the first place, but also among other men and women. People who want to make healthier diet choices and improve their lifestyle often ditch gluten from their diet.

Consumption of a gluten-free diet could be a beneficial way for a person with diabetes to slim down. It’s also useful to mention 6% of people with type 1 diabetes also have celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation (9). Celiac disease is a condition wherein the immune system starts attacking the body’s tissues when a person eats gluten. This autoimmune condition affects the small intestine and complicates the absorption of nutrients.

Even though gluten itself is not, actually, harmful for persons with diabetes the foods that contain it are high in carbs and sugar. These foods have a major impact on blood glucose levels and may contribute to insulin sensitivity. For that reason, limiting the intake of these foods can aid the management of diabetes.

Of course, it’s useful to bear in mind that gluten-free foods also contain calories and carbs, but usually in lower amounts. That means you should still be careful regarding things you eat and pay more attention to nutrients and compounds those foods deliver.

A gluten-free diet is beneficial for weight loss, despite the claims, there’s no evidence to support this effect. You see, foods that contain gluten tend to be high in carbs and calories (10). The most important weight-loss rule is to consume fewer calories than you burn. A gluten-free diet can help achieve that result; it limits calorie intake and prevents spikes in blood glucose levels. As a result, you may start losing weight.

Before you start this or any other diet, you should consult your doctor to see whether it’s a safe approach for diabetes management.

Gluten-free foods that belong to your diet include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds (in natural, unprocessed forms)
  • Legumes
  • Fish, poultry, and lean, unprocessed meats
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Rice
  • Soy
  • Gluten-free flours

On the other hand, you should avoid consuming foods that contain oats, wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between rye and wheat).

Gluten may be present in the following foods unless they’re labeled “gluten-free”:

  • Bread
  • Beer
  • Candies, cakes, pies, cookies
  • Crackers and croutons
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Gravies
  • French fries
  • Salad dressings
  • Pasta
  • Soups and soup mixes
  • Sauces
  • Seasoned snack foods, rice mixes

Basically, processed foods may contain gluten since different items are produced in the same facility.

If you take a look at gluten-free and gluten-containing foods, you can easily recognize the pattern – whole, fresh foods generally don’t contain it. For that reason, it may be easier for you to avoid gluten entirely or reduce its intake.

3. Paleo Diet

Paleolithic diet, or paleo diet for short, is a dietary pattern that focuses on the intake of foods that are similar to those consumed by people in the Paleolithic age. The Paleolithic era lasted between 2.5 million years ago to 10.000BC.

Even though the Paleo diet has become a worldwide popular eating pattern recently, it was created several decades ago. Gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin created the paleo diet back in the 1970s. He was the first person to claim eating like our ancestors in the Paleolithic area could improve our health (11).

Paleo diet usually includes fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, nuts, and seeds i.e. foods our ancestors obtained by hunting and gathering. Basically, the theory is that people at that time were healthier and stronger than we are today. For that reason, the paleo diet limits the consumption of foods that people started eating thanks to farming. These include grains, dairy products, and legumes.

Advocates of the paleo diet claim it has numerous health benefits. Indeed, this eating pattern can be particularly useful for persons with diabetes. Adhering to the “caveman diet” could improve insulin sensitivity, heart health, and contribute to weight loss. The diet works by reducing the intake of carbohydrates to reduce the body’s need for insulin. A vast majority of foods allowed on this diet are low in carbs. For this reason, the paleo diet may prevent insulin resistance (12).

Evidence confirms the Paleolithic diet can assist in controlling weight and waist circumference even in the management of chronic diseases (13). Compared to other eating patterns like Nordic Nutrition Recommendation, the paleo diet exhibits more beneficial effects on weight loss, abdominal obesity, fat mass, and triglyceride levels (14).

What makes the paleo diet beneficial for weight loss is that it delivers high levels of protein, but is low in carbs. That’s why this diet promotes a feeling of fullness while helping you reduce your intake of calories.

Foods to eat on a paleo diet include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fish, particularly salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, and other fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Lean meats, preferably wild game or grass-fed animals
  • Oils from nuts and fruits such as walnut oil or olive oil

Foods to avoid on paleo diet include:

  • Potatoes
  • Dairy products
  • Refined sugar
  • Highly processed foods
  • Grains (wheat, barley, oats) and legumes (lentils, beans, peas, peanuts)

4. DASH Plan

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a healthy eating plan created specifically to prevent or treat hypertension (high blood pressure). The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute helped develop this diet, which is also recommended by the American Heart Association (15).

This eating pattern emphasizes the importance of consuming healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. Even though the DASH plan was mainly created to prevent/treat hypertension, it can be equally beneficial for persons with diabetes who want to slim down.

Studies confirm the DASH eating plan can improve insulin sensitivity which is why it can be helpful for men and women with prediabetes or those who are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, DASH and Mediterranean diets can reduce the risk of diabetes by at least 20%. In people with diabetes, a DASH diet may prevent weight gain and thereby improve glycemic control (16). The DASH diet is effective for weight loss, especially when combined with regular exercise (17).

People who want to follow the DASH diet to slim down are encouraged to decrease the size of portions they eat. Regular exercise is also important.

Unlike many other diet plans, DASH is not too restrictive. Instead, it’s pretty balanced and easy to follow. When following this diet, you need to opt for foods that are low in sodium and saturated fat, and rich in calcium, potassium, protein, fiber, and magnesium. Instead of salt, you may want to use sodium-free spices or flavorings.

5. Vegan or Vegetarian Diet

Vegan or vegetarian diets revolve around the intake of plant-based foods primarily. That being said, vegetarian diets still allow for the intake of some animal-based products like milk or eggs and butter.

A vegan or vegetarian diet is more like a lifestyle, instead of a diet fad. This type of diet can help people with diabetes lose weight. One review of studies on this subject confirmed that a plant-based diet can aid weight loss in participants with diabetes.

Basically, participants of varying ages consumed either vegan or a diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which included meat too. The subjects who ate a vegan diet lost 14.3 lbs (6.5kg) on average while those on ADA-recommended diet lost 6.8 lbs (3.1kg). At the same time, 43% of subjects from the vegan group also decreased medications for diabetes while only 26% of participants from the ADA group achieved that result (18).

If you decide to go down this road, you need to maintain a healthy nutritional profile. While a vegan diet can be beneficial, it may prevent you from getting enough nutrients such as calcium, iodine, vitamin B12, and zinc. Supplementation may be necessary to avoid nutritional deficiencies. But, if you’re taking medications to manage your diabetes, you should consult the doctor before you buy and start using supplements.

Weight Loss Requires More Than A Diet

Successful weight loss, especially for a person with diabetes, requires hard work. More than a healthy diet is necessary to achieve this goal. While a challenging endeavor, weight loss comes with many rewards that manifest themselves through better health and wellbeing, or improved diabetes management. These tips can help you slim down successfully and in a healthy, sustainable manner:

  • Set realistic goals and divide them into smaller milestones to keep yourself motivated
  • Strive to exercise regularly
  • Increase physical activity levels, in general e.g. walk more, sit less
  • Avoid skipping meals, schedule them, including your breakfast
  • Say no to fad diets that may jeopardize your health
  • Keep track of the goals and progress you’ve made
  • Keep a food journal to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage stress through yoga and meditation


Weight gain and diabetes often go hand in hand. While excess weight may increase the risk of diabetes, this lifelong condition can lead to weight gain and make it more complicated to slim down. In this post, we focused on diets that are friendly for persons with diabetes who want to lose weight. You probably noticed these diets are not temporary programs to follow for a while, they are a lifestyle choice and deliver a wide range of nutrients that may promote your weight loss without jeopardizing diabetes control. Keep in mind weight loss with diabetes requires more than changing what you eat, you also need to adapt your lifestyle for long-lasting results.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5741209/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8521149/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4011042/
  4. https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/1/36.full
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5916888/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32829455/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26721635/
  8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-gluten#symptoms
  9. https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/related-conditions/diabetes-and-celiac-disease/
  10. https://www.verywellhealth.com/gluten-free-weight-loss-563074
  11. https://www.history.com/news/going-paleo-what-prehistoricman-actually-ate
  12. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diet/paleolithic-diet.html
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6647066/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4216932/
  15. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000784.htm
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5439361/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633078/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466941/
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