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Healthy Eating for Diabetics

Family eating a healthy meal outside

If you have diabetes, eating healthy can help control your blood sugar. A diabetes-friendly diet means choosing healthy foods and sticking to regular mealtimes. In fact, a diabetes diet is the best eating plan for almost everyone. Some simple ways to build your own healthy eating plan include:

Eat three meals a day

If you have diabetes, try to eat your meals at the same time each day. This helps your body better use the insulin it produces. In food, carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood sugar levels. It is helpful to be aware of portion sizes.

A great way to control your food portions is with the plate method:

  • Fill one half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables

  • Fill a quarter of your plate with grains and starchy foods

  • Fill a quarter of your plate with protein, such as baked, broiled, or grilled lean meats

  • Choose a small glass of low-fat milk or yogurt and a piece of fruit

Try non-starchy vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables are a great addition to any healthy meal. They are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. The fiber can help to regulate blood sugars by slowing down digestion. Some non-starchy vegetables include:

Asparagus Zucchini
Beets Green Beans 
Broccoli Lettuce
Brussel Sprouts Onions
Cabbage Spinach
Carrots Tomato Juice
Cauliflower Tomatoes
Celery Yellow Squash
Cucumbers  

Eat more fiber and less carbohydrates

Eating fewer carbohydrates and adding fiber to your diet can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. To get more fiber in your diet, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. You can also eat whole grains, beans, or legumes to increase your fiber intake. Cut down on carbohydrates by managing portion sizes with these foods:

  • 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

Talk with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to learn how many carbohydrates you should eat every day. Be sure to check the nutrition facts label on the food packaging to find the nutrition content in foods.

Limit your sweets and alcohol

A diabetes-friendly diet requires you to eat less candy, desserts, and fruit juice. Drinking alcohol can also affect your blood sugar levels, so only use alcohol with the permission of your doctor. To lower your intake of sugar, consider using sugar substitutes, and choose beverages such as diet soda, water, or unsweetened tea.

Strive for a healthy weight

A small amount of weight loss can improve blood sugar control. Food choices and portions can make a big difference in your success with eating healthy for diabetes and weight loss. Try reducing your portions and learn to build a healthy plate.

Track your meals

For more information about eating healthy with diabetes, ask your health care provider to schedule an appointment for you to meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. You can also register for a My HealtheVet account to keep track of your daily meals. With this information, you and a dietitian can create a diabetes meal plan that meets your lifestyle and health needs.

Read More

Diabetes: Meal Planning (Veterans Health Library)

Healthy Meals for Diabetes (Veterans Health Library)

Recipes for a Diabetes-Friendly Meal

Choose MyPlate


Updated March 11, 2019