Easy-to-Follow Guidelines to Reverse Insulin Resistance

Article written and reviewed by Tara Kemp
Published May 8, 2018

Here at Mastering Diabetes, we like to keep things as simple as possible for you.

When it comes to nutrition, things can get particularly complicated. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when searching for information on the internet.

To make things simple, we’ve set up a chart where you can see which foods we recommend and which foods we suggest avoiding to maximize your diabetes health.

This is our recipe for success when it comes to reversing insulin resistance.

There are 3 categories:

  • The green light category contains the foods that you can eat ad libitum (i.e. as much as you want). These are all unrefined whole foods. They are optimal for reversing insulin resistance and there is no need to limit how much to eat.
  • The yellow light category contains foods that you can include in small quantities, because they are either slightly processed or have a higher fat content. They shouldn’t be daily staples, but they are still considered “healthy” choices.
  • The red light category contains the foods that we recommend removing from your fridge, your kitchen cabinets, and most importantly your plate. These foods have been documented by evidence-based research to cause insulin resistance, increase your blood glucose, and promote chronic diseases.

Green Light

Yellow Light

Red Light

All fruits (exceptions: dates, avocados, and durian)

Whole grain or bean pastas

All red meat (beef, lamb, ham, pork, bacon, veal, sausage)

All non-starchy vegetables

Whole grain cereals

All white meat (chicken, turkey)

All starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and root vegetables)

Refined grains (ex: rolled oats, barley flakes, puffed rice)

Fish (salmon, tuna, shellfish etc.)

All legumes, including beans, peas, and lentils (exception: soybeans)

Whole grain breads and tortillas

Eggs (both egg whites and egg yolks)

Intact whole grains (minimally processed)


All dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, butter, ghee, ice cream, sour cream etc.)

Herbs and spices


All refined oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, canola oil, etc.)


All refined sugars (table sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)

Coconut Meat

Soybeans and processed soy products including tofu and tempeh

For the most part, the green light category is almost always full speed ahead, and the red light category is always stop, drop, and roll on back to the green light foods. 

The yellow light category is where you experience some nuanced and personal variation based on your lifestyle, current health status, and goals.

Like anything, there are always exceptions. For instance, if you are in the initial transition phases of switching to a high-carbohydrate, plant-based diet and are experiencing spikes in your blood glucose after eating starch-heavy or fruit-heavy meals, it may be best to focus on leafy greens, legumes, and non-starchy vegetables until your blood glucose control improves.

The table above and the image below should give you a solid foundation to guide your transition to a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food lifestyle to reverse insulin resistance and gain control over your diabetes health.


*If you would like personal guidance in making the transition or adjusting your diabetes nutrition to fit your personal needs, you can work with our coaches in the Mastering Diabetes Coaching Program.

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About the author 

Tara Kemp

Tara Kemp is the Director of Nutrition Education at Mastering Diabetes. She has been active in the field of health and nutrition for many years, including working with Forks Over Knives, Engine 2, and Dr. Neal Barnard and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Tara has a bachelor's degree in Education from Bucknell University, a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell, and is a Certified Food For Life Instructor through the Physicians Committee.