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Healthful Eating with Diabetes

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Published: November 11, 2021

Reviewed: February 11, 2019

Eating Right with Diabetes
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Millions of Americans live with diabetes, both diagnosed and undiagnosed. Changing eating habits can be the most challenging aspect of diabetes self-management, but diabetes is manageable.

Managing diabetes means maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Along with proper medication and physical activity, this also requires balancing the foods you eat.

  • Eat a variety of foods. Choose foods from each food group every day, and don't be afraid to try new foods.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Fruit contains fiber, vitamins and minerals and can satisfy your sweet tooth. Include more non-starchy vegetables including leafy greens, asparagus, carrots and broccoli each day. Also, choose whole fruit more often and juice less often.
  • Choose healthy carbohydrates. Increase the amount of fiber you consume by eating at least half of all grains as whole-grain foods each day. Brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole-wheat breads and cereals are good sources of fiber. 
  • Eat less fat. Choose lean meats, poultry and fish whenever possible. Bake, broil, roast, grill, boil or steam foods instead of frying. Also, choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Enjoy meatless meals by swapping out meat for lentils or tofu.
  • Cut the salt. Use less salt and more pepper, herbs and seasoning. Eating less salt helps control high blood pressure. 
  • Avoid skipping meals. Skipping meals can make you more hungry, moody and unable to focus. Learn what works best for you. Some people like three meals a day, while others enjoy two meals and two snacks. Find an eating pattern that is healthy for you and stick with it.
  • Focus on your food. Pick one place to sit down and eat at home. Eating while doing other things may lead to eating more than you think.
  • Watch portions. You don't need to cut out carbohydrate-rich foods but it is important to eat a balance of them spread evenly throughout the day. Read food labels and pay attention to portion sizes and carbohydrate content.

A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you develop a personalized eating plan to manage your diabetes, ensuring you're getting the proper amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your diet.

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