Basics of diabetic diet

Contents

Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity

In this section:

  • What foods can I eat if I have diabetes?
  • What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?
  • When should I eat if I have diabetes?
  • How much can I eat if I have diabetes?
  • What is medical nutrition therapy?
  • Will supplements and vitamins help my diabetes?
  • Why should I be physically active if I have diabetes?
  • How can I be physically active safely if I have diabetes?
  • What physical activities should I do if I have diabetes?

Nutrition and physical activity are important parts of a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes. Along with other benefits, following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you keep your blood glucose level, also called blood sugar, in your target range. To manage your blood glucose, you need to balance what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medicine, if you take any. What you choose to eat, how much you eat, and when you eat are all important in keeping your blood glucose level in the range that your health care team recommends.

Becoming more active and making changes in what you eat and drink can seem challenging at first. You may find it easier to start with small changes and get help from your family, friends, and health care team.

Eating well and being physically active most days of the week can help you

  • keep your blood glucose level, blood pressure, and cholesterol in your target ranges
  • lose weight or stay at a healthy weight
  • prevent or delay diabetes problems
  • feel good and have more energy

What foods can I eat if I have diabetes?

You may worry that having diabetes means going without foods you enjoy. The good news is that you can still eat your favorite foods, but you might need to eat smaller portions or enjoy them less often. Your health care team will help create a diabetes meal plan for you that meets your needs and likes.

The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan outlines.

The food groups are

  • vegetables
    • nonstarchy: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes
    • starchy: includes potatoes, corn, and green peas
  • fruits—includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes
  • grains—at least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains
    • includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa
    • examples: bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas
  • protein
    • lean meat
    • chicken or turkey without the skin
    • fish
    • eggs
    • nuts and peanuts
    • dried beans and certain peas, such as chickpeas and split peas
    • meat substitutes, such as tofu
  • dairy—nonfat or low fat
    • milk or lactose-free milk if you have lactose intolerance
    • yogurt
    • cheese

Learn more about the food groups at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Eat foods with heart-healthy fats, which mainly come from these foods:

  • oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola and olive oil
  • nuts and seeds
  • heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • avocado

Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine.

Choose healthy fats, such as from nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?

Foods and drinks to limit include

  • fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
  • foods high in salt, also called sodium
  • sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream
  • beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks

Drink water instead of sweetened beverages. Consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea.

If you drink alcohol, drink moderately—no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man. If you use insulin or diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body makes, alcohol can make your blood glucose level drop too low. This is especially true if you haven’t eaten in a while. It’s best to eat some food when you drink alcohol.

When should I eat if I have diabetes?

Some people with diabetes need to eat at about the same time each day. Others can be more flexible with the timing of their meals. Depending on your diabetes medicines or type of insulin, you may need to eat the same amount of carbohydrates at the same time each day. If you take “mealtime” insulin, your eating schedule can be more flexible.

If you use certain diabetes medicines or insulin and you skip or delay a meal, your blood glucose level can drop too low. Ask your health care team when you should eat and whether you should eat before and after physical activity.

How much can I eat if I have diabetes?

Eating the right amount of food will also help you manage your blood glucose level and your weight. Your health care team can help you figure out how much food and how many calories you should eat each day.

Weight-loss planning

If you are overweight or have obesity, work with your health care team to create a weight-loss plan.

The Body Weight Planner can help you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach and maintain your goal weight.

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories and replace less healthy foods with foods lower in calories, fat, and sugar.

If you have diabetes, are overweight or obese, and are planning to have a baby, you should try to lose any excess weight before you become pregnant. Learn more about planning for pregnancy if you have diabetes.

Meal plan methods

Two common ways to help you plan how much to eat if you have diabetes are the plate method and carbohydrate counting, also called carb counting. Check with your health care team about the method that’s best for you.

Plate method

The plate method helps you control your portion sizes. You don’t need to count calories. The plate method shows the amount of each food group you should eat. This method works best for lunch and dinner.

Use a 9-inch plate. Put nonstarchy vegetables on half of the plate; a meat or other protein on one-fourth of the plate; and a grain or other starch on the last one-fourth. Starches include starchy vegetables such as corn and peas. You also may eat a small bowl of fruit or a piece of fruit, and drink a small glass of milk as included in your meal plan.

The plate method shows the amount of each food group you should eat.

You can find many different combinations of food and more details about using the plate method from the American Diabetes Association’s Create Your Plate.

Your daily eating plan also may include small snacks between meals.

Portion sizes

  • You can use everyday objects or your hand to judge the size of a portion.
  • 1 serving of meat or poultry is the palm of your hand or a deck of cards
  • 1 3-ounce serving of fish is a checkbook
  • 1 serving of cheese is six dice
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta is a rounded handful or a tennis ball
  • 1 serving of a pancake or waffle is a DVD
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is a ping-pong ball

Carbohydrate counting

Carbohydrate counting involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat and drink each day. Because carbohydrates turn into glucose in your body, they affect your blood glucose level more than other foods do. Carb counting can help you manage your blood glucose level. If you take insulin, counting carbohydrates can help you know how much insulin to take.

The right amount of carbohydrates varies by how you manage your diabetes, including how physically active you are and what medicines you take, if any. Your health care team can help you create a personal eating plan based on carbohydrate counting.

The amount of carbohydrates in foods is measured in grams. To count carbohydrate grams in what you eat, you’ll need to

  • learn which foods have carbohydrates
  • read the Nutrition Facts food label, or learn to estimate the number of grams of carbohydrate in the foods you eat
  • add the grams of carbohydrate from each food you eat to get your total for each meal and for the day

Most carbohydrates come from starches, fruits, milk, and sweets. Try to limit carbohydrates with added sugars or those with refined grains, such as white bread and white rice. Instead, eat carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat or nonfat milk.

Choose healthy carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat milk, as part of your diabetes meal plan.

In addition to using the plate method and carb counting, you may want to visit a registered dietitian (RD) for medical nutrition therapy.

What is medical nutrition therapy?

Medical nutrition therapy is a service provided by an RD to create personal eating plans based on your needs and likes. For people with diabetes, medical nutrition therapy has been shown to improve diabetes management. Medicare pays for medical nutrition therapy for people with diabetes If you have insurance other than Medicare, ask if it covers medical nutrition therapy for diabetes.

Will supplements and vitamins help my diabetes?

No clear proof exists that taking dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, or spices can help manage diabetes.1 You may need supplements if you cannot get enough vitamins and minerals from foods. Talk with your health care provider before you take any dietary supplement since some can cause side effects or affect how your medicines work.2

Why should I be physically active if I have diabetes?

Physical activity is an important part of managing your blood glucose level and staying healthy. Being active has many health benefits.

Physical activity

  • lowers blood glucose levels
  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves blood flow
  • burns extra calories so you can keep your weight down if needed
  • improves your mood
  • can prevent falls and improve memory in older adults
  • may help you sleep better

If you are overweight, combining physical activity with a reduced-calorie eating plan can lead to even more benefits. In the Look AHEAD: Action for Health in Diabetes study,1 overweight adults with type 2 diabetes who ate less and moved more had greater long-term health benefits compared to those who didn’t make these changes. These benefits included improved cholesterol levels, less sleep apnea, and being able to move around more easily.

Even small amounts of physical activity can help. Experts suggest that you aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity 5 days of the week.3 Moderate activity feels somewhat hard, and vigorous activity is intense and feels hard. If you want to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you may need to do 60 minutes or more of physical activity 5 days of the week.3

Be patient. It may take a few weeks of physical activity before you see changes in your health.

How can I be physically active safely if I have diabetes?

Be sure to drink water before, during, and after exercise to stay well hydrated. The following are some other tips for safe physical activity when you have diabetes.

Drink water when you exercise to stay well hydrated.

Plan ahead

Talk with your health care team before you start a new physical activity routine, especially if you have other health problems. Your health care team will tell you a target range for your blood glucose level and suggest how you can be active safely.

Your health care team also can help you decide the best time of day for you to do physical activity based on your daily schedule, meal plan, and diabetes medicines. If you take insulin, you need to balance the activity that you do with your insulin doses and meals so you don’t get low blood glucose.

Prevent low blood glucose

Because physical activity lowers your blood glucose, you should protect yourself against low blood glucose levels, also called hypoglycemia. You are most likely to have hypoglycemia if you take insulin or certain other diabetes medicines, such as a sulfonylurea. Hypoglycemia also can occur after a long intense workout or if you have skipped a meal before being active. Hypoglycemia can happen during or up to 24 hours after physical activity.

Planning is key to preventing hypoglycemia. For instance, if you take insulin, your health care provider might suggest you take less insulin or eat a small snack with carbohydrates before, during, or after physical activity, especially intense activity.4

You may need to check your blood glucose level before, during, and right after you are physically active.

Take care of your feet

People with diabetes may have problems with their feet because of poor blood flow and nerve damage that can result from high blood glucose levels. To help prevent foot problems, you should wear comfortable, supportive shoes and take care of your feet before, during, and after physical activity.

What physical activities should I do if I have diabetes?

Most kinds of physical activity can help you take care of your diabetes. Certain activities may be unsafe for some people, such as those with low vision or nerve damage to their feet. Ask your health care team what physical activities are safe for you. Many people choose walking with friends or family members for their activity.

Doing different types of physical activity each week will give you the most health benefits. Mixing it up also helps reduce boredom and lower your chance of getting hurt. Try these options for physical activity.

Add extra activity to your daily routine

If you have been inactive or you are trying a new activity, start slowly, with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Then add a little more time each week. Increase daily activity by spending less time in front of a TV or other screen. Try these simple ways to add physical activities in your life each day:

  • Walk around while you talk on the phone or during TV commercials.
  • Do chores, such as work in the garden, rake leaves, clean the house, or wash the car.
  • Park at the far end of the shopping center parking lot and walk to the store.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Make your family outings active, such as a family bike ride or a walk in a park.

If you are sitting for a long time, such as working at a desk or watching TV, do some light activity for 3 minutes or more every half hour.5 Light activities include

  • leg lifts or extensions
  • overhead arm stretches
  • desk chair swivels
  • torso twists
  • side lunges
  • walking in place

Do aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is activity that makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe harder. You should aim for doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day most days of the week. You do not have to do all the activity at one time. You can split up these minutes into a few times throughout the day.

To get the most out of your activity, exercise at a moderate to vigorous level. Try

  • walking briskly or hiking
  • climbing stairs
  • swimming or a water-aerobics class
  • dancing
  • riding a bicycle or a stationary bicycle
  • taking an exercise class
  • playing basketball, tennis, or other sports

Talk with your health care team about how to warm up and cool down before and after you exercise.

Do strength training to build muscle

Strength training is a light or moderate physical activity that builds muscle and helps keep your bones healthy. Strength training is important for both men and women. When you have more muscle and less body fat, you’ll burn more calories. Burning more calories can help you lose and keep off extra weight.

You can do strength training with hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines. Try to do strength training two to three times a week. Start with a light weight. Slowly increase the size of your weights as your muscles become stronger.

You can do strength training with hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines.

Do stretching exercises

Stretching exercises are light or moderate physical activity. When you stretch, you increase your flexibility, lower your stress, and help prevent sore muscles.

You can choose from many types of stretching exercises. Yoga is a type of stretching that focuses on your breathing and helps you relax. Even if you have problems moving or balancing, certain types of yoga can help. For instance, chair yoga has stretches you can do when sitting in a chair or holding onto a chair while standing. Your health care team can suggest whether yoga is right for you.

What is a healthy, balanced diet for diabetes?

The foods you eat not only make a difference to how you manage your diabetes, but also to how well you feel and how much energy you have.

This information will help you get to know the five main food groups that make up a healthy, balanced diet.

Eating from the main food groups

How much you need to eat and drink is based on your age, gender, how active you are and the goals you’re aiming for. But no single food contains all the essential nutrients your body needs.

That’s why a healthy diet is all about variety and choosing different foods from each of the main food groups every day.

And when we say balanced, we mean eating more of certain foods and less of others. But portion sizes have grown in recent years, as the plates and bowls we use have got bigger. And larger portions can make it more difficult for you to manage your weight. We’ve got more information for you about managing a healthy weight.

We’ve highlighted the benefits of each food group below – some help protect your heart and some affect your blood sugar levels more slowly – all really important for you to know. Get to know them and how healthy choices can help you reduce your risk of diabetes complications.

What are the main food groups?

  • Fruit and veg
  • Starchy foods, like bread, pasta and rice
  • Protein foods, like beans, pulses, nuts, eggs, meat and fish
  • Dairy and alternatives
  • Oils and spreads

Have Type 1 diabetes? Get the basics on what to eat.
Have Type 2 diabetes? Get the basics on what to eat.
Go straight to our recipes.

Fruit and vegetables

Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have fruit. Fruit and veg are naturally low in calories and packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They also add flavour and variety to every meal.

Fresh, frozen, dried and canned – they all count. Go for a rainbow of colours to get as wide a range of vitamins and minerals as possible. Try to avoid fruit juices and smoothies as they don’t have as much fibre.

If you’re trying to limit the amount of carbs you eat, you might be tempted to avoid fruit and veg. But it’s so important to include them in your diet every day. There are lower carb options you can try.

Fruit and vegetables can help protect against stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers – and when you have diabetes, you’re more at risk of developing these conditions.

Benefits

  • Help to keep your digestive system working well
  • Help protect the body from heart disease, stroke and some cancers

How often?

Everyone should aim to eat at least five portions a day. A portion is roughly what fits in the palm of your hand.

Examples of what to try

  • sliced melon or grapefruit topped with unsweetened yogurt, or a handful of berries, or fresh dates, apricots or prunes for breakfast
  • mix carrots, peas and green beans into your pasta bake
  • add an extra handful of peas to rice, spinach to lamb or onions to chicken
  • try mushrooms, cucumber, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery and lettuce for lower carb vegetable options
  • try avocados, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, plums, peaches and watermelon for lower carb fruit options

Check out our recipes – we’ve got lots of delicious main meals packed full of vegetables, and fruity breakfast options.

Starchy foods

Starchy foods are things like potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, chapattis, naan and plantain. They all contain carbohydrate, which is broken down into glucose and used by our cells as fuel. The problem with some starchy foods is that it can raise blood glucose levels quickly, which can make it harder for you to manage your diabetes. These foods have something called a high glycaemic index (GI) – we’ve got loads more information about this.

There are some better options for starchy foods – ones that affect blood glucose levels more slowly. These are foods with a low glycaemic index (GI), like wholegrain bread, whole-wheat pasta and basmati, brown or wild rice. They also have more fibre, which helps to keep your digestive system working well. So if you’re trying to cut down on carbs, cut down on things like white bread, pasta and rice first.

  • The fibre helps to keep your digestive system healthy
  • Some affect your blood sugar levels more slowly
  • Wholegrains help protect your heart

Try to have some starchy foods every day.

  • two slices of multigrain toast with a bit of spread and Marmite or peanut butter
  • brown rice, pasta or noodles in risottos, salads or stir-fries
  • baked sweet potato with the skin left on – add toppings like cottage cheese or beans
  • boiled cassava, flavoured with chilli and lemon
  • chapatti made with brown or wholemeal atta.

Try our chapatti recipe – just one option for a tasty lunch.

Protein foods like beans, nuts, pulses, eggs, meat and fish

Meat and fish are high in protein, which keeps your muscles healthy. But a healthy diet means less red and processed meat – they’ve been linked to cancer and heart disease. Oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines have a lot of omega-3 oil, which can help protect the heart.

  • Helps keep your muscles healthy
  • Oily fish protects your heart

Aim to have some food from this group every day. Specifically at least 1 or 2 portions of oily fish each week. But you don’t need to eat meat every day.

  • a small handful of raw nuts and seeds as a snack or chopped with a green salad
  • using beans and pulses in a casserole to replace some – or all – of the meat
  • eggs scrambled, poached, dry fried or boiled – the choice is yours
  • grilled fish with masala, fish pie, or make your own fishcakes
  • chicken grilled, roasted or stir-fried

We’ve got lots of healthy recipes to choose from – like our bean stew or try one of our fish dishes.

Dairy foods and alternatives

Milk, cheese and yogurt have lots of calcium and protein in – great for your bones, teeth and muscles. But some dairy foods are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, so choose lower-fat alternatives.

Check for added sugar in lower-fat versions of dairy foods, like yoghurt. It’s better to go for unsweetened yoghurt and add some berries if you want it sweeter. If you prefer a dairy alternative like soya milk, choose one that’s unsweetened and calcium-fortified.

  • Good for bones and teeth
  • Keeps your muscles healthy

We all need some calcium every day.

  • a glass of milk straight, flavoured with a little cinnamon or added to porridge
  • natural or unsweetened yogurt with fruit or on curry
  • cottage cheese scooped on carrot sticks
  • a bowl of breakfast cereal in the morning, with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
  • a cheese sandwich for lunch, packed with salad
  • a refreshing lassi or some plain yogurt with your evening meal

Oils and spreads

We need some fat in our diet but we need less saturated fat. This is because some saturated fats can increase cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke. These less healthy options are butter, palm nut oil and coconut oil.

Healthier saturated fats are foods like olive oil, vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, spreads made from these oils, and nut butters.

  • Unsaturated fats help protect your heart
  • A drizzle of olive oil on your salad
  • Peanut butter on your wholemeal toast

Foods high in fat, salt and sugar

You don’t need any of these as part of a healthy diet. The less often, the better. But we know you’re bound to eat these foods from time to time, so it’s really important to know how they might affect your body.

These foods include biscuits, crisps, chocolates, cakes, ice cream, butter and sugary drinks. These sugary foods and drinks are high in calories and raise blood sugar levels, so go for diet, light or low-calorie alternatives. And the best drink to choose is water – it’s calorie free.

They’re also high in unhealthy saturated fats, they aren’t good for cholesterol levels and your heart.

And they can also be full of salt – processed foods especially. Too much salt can make you more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke. You should have no more than 1 tsp (6g) of salt a day.

We don’t recommend ‘diabetic’ ice cream or sweets. It’s now against the law to label any food as diabetic and there’s no evidence to suggest that diabetic foods offer any benefits over eating a healthy balanced diet.

Tips for cutting these out

  • Cook more meals from scratch at home, where you can control the amount of salt you use.
  • Check food labels – look for green and orange colours. We’ve got more information to help you read labels and we’re campaigning for things to get more consistent and less confusing.
  • Try unsweetened teas and coffees – they’re better than fruit juices and smoothies as they don’t add any extra calories and carbs.
  • Banish the salt shaker from the table – black pepper, herbs and spices are great ways of adding extra flavour to your food.
  • Making your own sauces, like tomato ketchup and tandoori marinades.

Back to the top

Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition For Dummies

Food awareness, nutrition, and meal planning advice for people with diabetes

Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition For Dummies takes the mystery and the frustration out of healthy eating and managing diabetes. Both the newly diagnosed and the experienced alike will learn what defines healthy eating for diabetes and it’s crucial role to long term health, why healthy eating can be so difficult, and how meal planning is a key to successful diabetes management

Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition For Dummies takes the guesswork out of eating and preparing diabetes friendly foods. You’ll learn whether popular diets fit (or don’t fit) into a healthy eating plan, what to shop for, how to eat healthy away from home, which supplements you should consider, and how to build perfect meals yourself. To get you started, this book includes a week’s worth of diabetes-friendly meals, and fabulous recipes that demonstrate how delicious food and effective diabetes management can go hand in hand.

  • Includes helpful information for people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes as well as exchange lists for diabetes
  • Explains how your surroundings and your biology conspire to encourage unhealthy eating, and how you can gain control by planning in advance
  • Helps you to understand that fabulous, nutritionally-balanced food and diabetes management can go hand in hand

    If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition For Dummies is packed with expert advice, surprising insights, and practical examples of meal plans coupled with sound nutritional advice.

  • How to Tips to Start a Diabetes Meal Plan

    Healthy eating is the cornerstone of diabetes management and can make all the difference in balancing your blood sugar and preventing the long-term effects of diabetes. And while it sometimes feels overwhelming, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Eating with diabetes can still be delicious, exciting and simple (browse our healthy diabetes-friendly recipes to see for yourself!). And while you don’t need to totally give up the foods you love, you may need to make some changes to your diet, like adding in more vegetables, switching to whole grains and opting for leaner cuts of meal more often. To make it easier to shift your eating habits, we have plenty of diabetes meal plans to follow along with (or simply use as healthy eating inspiration) and helpful articles to answer your questions about diabetes. But the most effective thing you can do to make sure healthy habits stick is to create an eating and exercise plan that works for you.

    Here you’ll learn how to create a diabetes meal plan that meets your individual needs for calories and carbohydrates, plus learn helpful tips (like easy portion control shortcuts and easy ways to incorporate exercise) to make it all as simple as can be. And remember, you don’t have to do it alone. A diabetes educator or registered dietitian can help you figure it all out.

    Don’t Miss: 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan

    Understanding Calories

    Everyone needs to eat a certain number of calories to survive. Eat more than you need and you gain weight; eat less (or burn more) than you need and you lose weight. It sounds simple, but how many calories do you really need? Calorie needs depend on gender, age, height, activity level, current weight, and the number of calories your body burns at rest.

    First, start by figuring out how many calories you currently eat per day. For a few days, keep track of everything you eat and drink. Look at food labels, ask for the calorie and nutrient counts of restaurant foods, and record the number of calories, carbs and other nutrients of concern, such as saturated fat and sodium. Helpful websites and apps, like MyFitnessPal, make tracking easy. If this feels overwhelming, a registered dietitian or diabetes educator can help you tally it all up. This exercise will help you establish whether or not you’re eating more calories than you need, which will then help to determine your calorie and carb goals for meal planning.

    If you need to lose weight, the goal will be to follow a lower-calorie diet. If you are currently eating 2,300 calories, it’s not realistic to drop down to a 1,200 calorie diet right away but better to start closer to where you are and slowly cut calories over time.

    How Are You Spending Your Calories?

    One way to think about your caloric intake is to imagine it like a “budget” where you “spend” your calories on food. The important thing is to spend your calories on food choices that will invest in your well being, not on items that will bankrupt your long-term health. In other words, fill your calorie requirements with nutrient-rich foods rather than nutrient-poor foods.

    Invest in your health by:

    • Substituting whole grains for foods made from refined grains; eating less refined sugar and flour
    • Eating more vegetables and fruit; eating fewer french fries and sweetened drinks
    • Drinking low-fat milk and eating yogurt; sticking to one serving of cheese
    • Eating more lean chicken, fish, and beans; eating less high-fat fried chicken and fast food
    • Choosing to use small amounts of fats like canola oil and olive oil rather than butter, stick margarine, shortening, or lard
    • Making sweets, alcohol, and salty items occasional foods instead of an everyday occurrence

    Creating a Balanced Diet

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    Try to eat a variety of foods from each food group-whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, fruits and calcium rich dairy (or dairy alternative)-as no single food group can meet all of your vitamin and mineral requirements. Also, there are no special “diabetic” foods you need to buy or a “diabetic diet” you need to follow, although you can include diet foods made with sugar substitutes to help keep blood sugar levels stable. A healthful eating plan that includes all of the major food groups is what’s important, so strive for a mix in your day.

    Read More: The Best Foods For Diabetes

    Tracking and Counting Carbs

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    Pictured Recipe: Tomato & Smoked Mozzarella Sandwich

    While you don’t need to follow a “diabetic diet,” it will be easier to manage your blood glucose if you eat similar amounts of carbohydrate at your meals from day to day. Carbohydrates, one of the three nutrients that provide calories from food (the other two are protein and fat), have the greatest impact on your blood glucose, particularly after eating. But that doesn’t mean you should restrict foods that contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body’s main and preferred source of glucose. Your cells need glucose for energy and your body needs the ample energy, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that these healthy carbs contain.

    See More: What Does a Healthy Serving of Carbs Look Like?

    Carbs can be found in many foods, including:

    • Grains: such as bread, pasta, rice, popcorn, oatmeal, cornmeal, and cereal
    • Starchy vegetables: such as potatoes, yams, acorn squash, carrots, and corn
    • Non-starchy vegetables: such as spinach, salad greens, and green beans (a small amount)
    • Beans and legumes: such as navy beans, kidney beans, black beans, and black-eyed peas
    • Fruit: such as apples, grapes, strawberries, bananas, and oranges
    • Dairy products: such as milk and yogurt and including dairy alternatives, like soy milk and sweetened coconut, rice and almond milks.
    • Sweets: such as cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, candy, and chocolate
    • Sugary foods: such as regular soda, fruit drinks, hard candy, and syrups

    There are no (or very few) carbs in these foods:

    • Animal protein: such as fish, chicken, beef, pork, cheese, and cottage cheese
    • Fats: such as oils, margarine, and bacon

    How Many Carbs to Eat a Day

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    Pictured Recipe: Chicken Pesto Pasta with Asparagus

    The second-most-asked question after “What do I eat with diabetes?” is “How many grams of carbohydrate should I eat a day?” As with the number of calories you need, the amount of carbohydrate you need depends on gender, weight, age, activity level, weight goals, and lipid levels. However, the American Diabetes Association offers a rough estimate you can use as a starting point. Talk to a registered dietitian for a personalized carb amount.

    Here are how many carbs you need…

    To lose weight:

    • Women: 2-3 carb servings per meal (30-45 grams of carbohydrates)
    • Men: 3-4 carb servings per meal (45-60 grams of carbohydrates)

    To maintain weight:

    • Women: 3-4 carb servings per meal (45-60 grams of carbohydrates)
    • Men: 4-5 carb servings per meal (60-75 grams of carbohydrates)

    For active people:

    • Women: 4-5 carb servings per meal (60-75 grams of carbohydrates)
    • Men: 4-6 carb servings per meal (60-90 grams of carbohydrates)

    Note: one carb serving is 15 g of carbohydrates. So, if you eat a bag of potato chips with 30 g of carbohydrates, that is two carb servings.

    Portion Control

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    It’s important to watch portion sizes when you eat to help you lose or control weight. Because portion sizes vary depending on where you’re eating and even the dishware you use, it can be tricky to know exactly how much you’re eating at any given time. One thing that can help is to have a visual reference.

    Some people use a food scale, measuring cups and spoons, and even their hands to gauge portion sizes. One method that helps with eyeballing portions as well as meal planning is the plate method. It’s relatively easy to use; all you need is a plate that’s 9 inches across. Then follow these simple guidelines. Don’t miss ourDiabetes-Friendly Easy Plate Method Dinners!

    Non-starchy vegetables take up 1/2 of the plate.

    Non-starchy vegetables include:

    • spinach
    • salad greens
    • tomatoes
    • onions
    • sweet peppers

    Lean protein takes up 1/4 of the plate.

    Items with protein include:

    • chicken breast
    • salmon fillet
    • steak
    • ground beef
    • eggs
    • tofu

    Grains or starchy vegetables take up 1/4 of the plate.

    Grains and starchy vegetables include:

    • pasta
    • rice
    • bread
    • potatoes
    • yams
    • corn

    A medium-size piece of fresh fruit (about the size of a baseball) or 1/2 cup of canned or packaged fruit in its own juice can also be included.

    Non-caloric beverages, such as water or unsweetened iced tea, and even ones made with sugar substitutes are good choices for low-carb drinks.

    When to Eat

    As a person with diabetes, you may find it easier to control your blood sugar levels if you eat on a regular schedule. To keep glucose and weight under control, it’s best to not skip meals. Try to eat every 4-5 hours. For breakfast, try to eat within 1-2 hours after getting up.

    The Emotional Side of Eating

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    Pictured Recipe: Slab Chicken Pot Pie

    It can be a challenge to eat healthfully at every meal, every day. Try your best to make healthy choices where and when you can. Take heart in knowing that no one is perfect-everyone has an off day now and again. It’s important to keep trying and not be too hard on yourself. Having a positive attitude can help keep you motivated and feeling well.

    One thing that can be extra helpful in keeping you on track is to make your own meals. Try not to dine out more than three times a week. Making your own meals increases your awareness of the foods you eat, is more practical to control portion sizes, and is easier to cook with healthful ingredients. Plus, it costs less!

    Last But Not Least: Eat What You Love!

    Food-sugar, carbs, fiber, protein-is not your enemy. With the help of a wide variety of tasty, carb-friendly recipes and quick tips to help you eat more healthfully, you can take control of your diabetes with every bite.

    WATCH: What a Healthy Diabetes Diet Looks Like

    Don’t Miss!

    • 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan:1,500 Calories&2,000 Calories
    • The Best Diabetes Snacks for Weight Loss
    • Meal Plans for Diabetes
    • The Best Foods for Diabetes
    • The Best 30-Day Diabetes Meal Plan

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