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Eating for Diabetes Management

Updated on 27. Dec. 2018
Brussels sprouts are a healthy part of a diabetes friendly diet!
Brussels sprouts are a healthy part of a diabetes friendly diet!

How can your eating habits help manage your diabetes? By working to regulate what goes in, you can help control the processes that occur inside your body.

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First, count carbohydrates. Carbs have the biggest impact on your blood sugar levels. Eating foods high in sugar or carbohydrates can cause a spike in your blood sugar.

Second, work on portion control. Know what amounts are appropriate and write down the portion sizes of foods that you eat frequently.

Third, balance your meals. Make sure that your meals are a combination of starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fats. While you certainly should limit carbohydrates, make sure that the carbs you do eat are low glycemic index foods. These low GI carbs include foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and sweet potatoes.

Fourth, eat regular meals spread evenly throughout the day and coordinate your meals and medications to make sure that you are giving your body the optimal help it needs. Talk to your diabetes specialist to figure out what will work best for you.

Fifth, avoid those sugar-sweetened beverages as they can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Replace that soda or fruit juice in your hand with water or unsweetened tea or coffee. An exception to this rule is when you are experiencing low blood sugar levels and need to raise your blood sugar.

Sixth, be prepared. Carry small snacks with you wherever you go in case your blood sugar level drops.

What foods should you avoid or limit?

Limit your intake of saturated fats as these can raise you ‘bad’ cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are found in fatty meats, milk, butter, cheese, and palm oil. Look for dairy products that are reduced or low-fat. Choose lean cuts of meat and trim the fat off before cooking. Try to avoid cooking with the skin on your poultry.

Also, limit your intake of foods high in sugar as this can lead to unstable fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.

Most importantly, avoid fried and processed foods. Try to avoid store bought cakes, cookies, and crackers.

Now, what should you eat?

To ensure that your body gets the essential fatty acids it needs, add small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to your diet. These fats are found in foods like canola, olive and sunflower oil, avocados, seeds, nuts, and fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon

Make sure that you get enough protein and fiber in your diet. You can find protein in meat, chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, and cheese to name a few (make sure your cheese is low or reduced fat!). You can find fiber in many fruits and vegetables as well as in whole grains such as oatmeal, whole grain rice, and whole grain breads.

Most importantly, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day! Try to get as many colors as you can on your plate with green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and brussels sprouts or with orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.

At mealtimes, divide your plate into three portions. Half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. One-quarter of your plate should consist of a lean protein. The last quarter of your plate should be a whole grain or starch.

Contact a registered dietitian to help you make a meal plan and consult your doctor before implementing any new dietary plan.

Check out the American Diabetes Association’s page “What Can I Eat?” for more information.  



1.Mayo Clinic Staff. “Diabetes Management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 June 2014. Web.

2. “What should I eat?” Diabetes Australia. The National Diabetes Services Scheme. Web.

3. “Eat Right!” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 25 Sep. 2015. Web.

4. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Diabetes Diet: Create your healthy-eating plan.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Feb. 2015. Web.

5. “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”  The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 1 April 2014. Web.

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