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Healthful Eating with Diabetes

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewers: Academy Nutrition Information Services Team

Published: November 11, 2021

Reviewed: August 29, 2023

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 it can be a huge help in managing blood sugar levels.

Along with proper medication and physical activity, balancing the foods you eat is important in keeping blood sugars at a healthy level.

  • 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 dietary 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 whole grains. Make at least half of your grains each day whole-grain foods which provide dietary fiber. Whole-grain cereals, bulgur, barley and oats are good sources of fiber.  
  • Focus on unsaturated fats. Limit sources of saturated fat and opt for sources of unsaturated fat when cooking. 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 meat for lentils or tofu.
  • Cut the salt. Reduce your salt and try pepper, herbs and other seasonings in its place. 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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