"What should I eat?" That's the most common question that newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics ask when they visit Adee Rasabi, RD, CDN, CDE, senior dietitian of the Ambulatory Care Network at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

Her answer?

"A diabetic diet is all about healthy eating," Rasabi says. "And I encourage a variety of food groups with each meal."

Having diabetes doesn't equate with a lifelong sentence to a punitive and restrictive meal plan. "It simply translates into eating a variety of foods in moderate amounts and trying to stick to regular mealtimes," says Caroline Bohl, MS, RD, CDE, nutritionist at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

And ideally it features foods that are rich in nutrients and low in fat. In fact, it's a great diet for everyone to be on.

Here's how to follow the proper diabetes diet.

Stick with the New York Department of Health's "My Plate Planner" meal plan, recommends Rasabi. Start with a 9-inch dinner plate. Fill it halfway up with non-starchy vegetables (like peppers, broccoli, zucchini and tomatoes). One quarter of the plate is for protein, and the other quarter is for carbohydrates. Protein could be grilled or roasted lean meat, chicken or fish.

Choose complex carbohydrates for that quarter-plate serving: whole grain cereal, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat bread. They fill you up more and they have more nutrients than white bread, rice and pasta.

Plan on consuming between 45 and 60 grams of carbohydrate in a meal. "Everyone has different calorie needs, but generally it is 45 to 60 grams," Rasabi says. To give you some idea of what this amounts to, a slice of bread or a half cup serving of a starchy vegetable like corn, green peas or potatoes is about 15 grams of carbohydrates.

Keep moderation in mind. Be aware of what foods contain carbohydrates, and balance these out with heart-healthy fats and lean proteins at each meal, Bohl says.

If you want to lose weight, avoid a low carbohydrate diet that is high in fat and protein. "A diet like this can increase the risk of heart disease and perhaps some types of cancer," Bohl says. "And if a person is limiting fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods, they may not get enough fiber." This can cause constipation and other gastrointestinal woes.

Another problem that can result from following a very low carbohydrate diet is ketosis, a condition caused by incomplete fat breakdown. It can cause weakness, nausea, dehydration, dizziness, and irritability, Bohl says. "There is also little research on the long-term health of people on a low carb diet," she says.

The best snacks contain some lean protein and healthy fat. "This prevents overeating carbs and makes a person more full and satisfied," Bohl says. Some options: whole grain crackers with lowfat cheese, peanut butter, or a small portion of nuts. Other snacks to try include three cups of popcorn with a handful of nuts, or turkey or lean ham wrapped in lettuce leaves.

The ideal desserts are a piece of fresh fruit or a half cup of canned fruit. Increase the serving size to one cup if you are having melon or berries.

Ideally, drink water with lemon or lime. If you have coffee or tea, use skim milk, which aids in keeping bones and teeth strong.

As for alcohol, restrict yourself to one five-ounce glass of wine per day if you are a woman and two drinks if you are a male. "Mixed drinks can be mixed in, but ideally, stick with non-caloric mixers that have zero carbs," Rasabi advises.