Eating Well with Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you know you need to pay special attention to what you eat. But that doesn't mean you have to give up all your favorite foods. Small changes can help you control or lower your blood sugar and keep your diabetes in check.

One good way to lose weight and keep your blood sugar steady is to think small. Experts recommend eating several smaller meals throughout the day, instead of eating big meals once or twice a day. And each of these meals should only have 300 to 500 calories -- depending on how active you are.

Your health care provider, dietician, or nutritionist can help you find out how many meals and how many calories you should have each day. Once you know that, it's easy to plan a healthy diet. A good place to start is at Choose My Plate dot gov.

The Choose My Plate Plan

The Choose My Plate or My Plate plan was designed by government experts. It divides food into 5 groups. The number of servings you can have from each food group depends on the treatment plan recommended by your health care provider. The first of the food groups is grains.


Grains give your body energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also filled with carbohydrates, or carbs, that can quickly raise your blood sugar levels. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, whole grains and refined grains. Choose whole grains whenever you can. They break down more slowly and are less likely to cause spikes in your blood sugar. Good examples of whole grains are:

  • Whole wheat bread

  • Oatmeal

  • Brown rice

  • Quinoa [KEEN-wah], and

  • Cornmeal


Vegetables are full of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Some vegetables are also full of fiber and low in calories. People with diabetes should eat lots of vegetables. But you will still need to count carbohydrates, because even low-starch vegetables contain some carbs.


Fruit gives your body the energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber it needs. But certain fruits can raise your blood sugar levels. You will need to check your blood sugar level often to find out how different fruits can affect your body.

Any fruit or 100-percent fruit juice is counted as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or pureed. Fruits are full of fiber, which makes them good for your heart. They're also naturally sweet, which makes them a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.


The dairy group contains milk and many foods made from milk, like cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese. Fat-free and low-fat milk or yogurt contain the same amount of carbohydrates as 1 serving of fruit or starch. This means they are good foods to treat low blood sugar levels.

Fat-free and low-fat dairy products also provide energy, calcium, vitamins, and minerals, and are a good source of protein.


Protein is important to every cell, tissue, and organ in your body. Protein helps your body repair itself and build muscle. You can get protein from animal products like milk, meat, cheese, and eggs. Or, you can get it from non-animal sources like nuts, beans, peas, and certain grains.

If you choose to eat meat, think lean. Lean is a measurement of saturated fat and cholesterol. Most turkey, chicken, seafood, and fish are considered lean protein. Pork and several cuts of beef are, too.

Non-meat sources of protein do not contain cholesterol and most don't have any saturated fats.

Fats and oils are not a food group. But many contain essential nutrients, so you should include small amounts of fat in your food plan. When cooking with fat, choose liquid fats like olive, canola, or safflower oils. Fats that are solid are considered saturated fats and should be avoided.

Some people think that because you have diabetes, you can't eat anything sweet. That's just not true. However, the amount of sugar you can have depends on your diabetes treatment plan and how well you control your blood sugar levels and blood fats.

The same goes for alcohol -- another source of sugar. In most cases, the recommendations are for no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.

Now it all sounds like a lot, so remember these 5 Tips for Eating Well with Diabetes [5 Tips for Eating Well with Diabetes]:

  • The Choose My Plate plan and the 5 food groups are a great place to start

  • Whole grains break down slowly and help keep your blood sugar steady

  • Vegetables and fruits are a great way to fill up and satisfy your sweet tooth

  • Work with your health care provider, dietician, or nutritionist to find the right calorie balance for you, and,

  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar balanced.

Healthy eating with diabetes gets easier with practice. And now you know how.