In the Spotlight
Healthy Eating for Diabetics
Contributed by Gloria Brien, RD, CDE and Jacqueline Roos, RD, CDE
Eating healthy is the first step in controlling diabetes. The following are some helpful tips for healthy eating.
Eat three meals a day
Eat your meals at the same time each day and do not skip meals
Eat about the same amount of food each day
The plate method is a good way to control your portions
One-half of your plate should be covered with low starch vegetables
One quarter of your plate should be covered with starchy foods
One quarter of your plate should be covered with protein. Include baked, broiled, or grilled lean meats, low fat cheeses, eggs, or vegetarian protein choices like beans and lentils, as part of your meal
Add a small glass of low fat milk and a piece of fruit, and your meal is complete!
Add low starch vegetables to your meals
Eat more fiber
Fiber can help slow down the rise in blood sugar following a meal. To get more fiber in your diet, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, choose whole grain bread/cereal and eat more beans or legumes.
Control your eating of carbohydrates
Carbohydrate is the main nutrient that affects blood sugar levels. When you eat a carbohydrate, it is turned into sugar by your body. Therefore, it is important to control the amount of carbohydrate that you eat each day.
Carbohydrates consist of sugars, starches, and fiber. Common sources of carbohydrates include:
Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas)
Beans and lentils
Bread, cereal, pasta, rice
Milk, yogurt, pudding
Fruit and fruit juice
Desserts, candy, ice cream, doughnuts, sugar sweetened beverages
You should eat about 60 grams of carbohydrate at each meal. If you eat snacks, eat about 30 grams of carbohydrate at each snack. Read the Nutrition Facts label on the food package to find the Total Carbohydrate.
Limit your sweets
Eat less candy, desserts, pastries and jelly
Limit intake of fruit juice and drink sugar free beverages such as diet soda, water and unsweetened tea instead
Use sugar substitutes in place of sugar
Limit your use of alcohol
Eat less fat and lose weight if you are overweight
Most adults who have diabetes are overweight. Even a small amount of weight loss may help improve your blood sugar control.
Know what is on your plate (USDA PDF). Food choices and portions can make a big difference in your success with healthy diabetic eating and weight reduction.
To help lose weight, reduce your portion sizes and learn to build a healthy plate.
Reduce intake of fried food, bacon, sausage, luncheon meat, gravy, sour cream, cheese, egg yolks and margarine/butter.
A registered dietitian can help you create a diabetic meal plan that meets your lifestyle and health needs. For more information about eating healthy with diabetes, ask your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment for you to meet with a Registered Dietitian.
Track Health (My HealtheVet)
Eat Right (American Dietetic Association)
Healthy Eating (My HealtheVet)
Physical Activity (My HealtheVet)