Your primary care doctor or endocrinologist will help determine your target blood glucose range. Then you will work with diabetes care and education specialists to learn more about adjusting your diet to stay within that range. Diabetes affects your body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose. When you have diabetes, eating well has a major impact on your health and blood glucose levels. High blood glucose can cause many different complications, such as ketoacidosis, nephropathy and retinopathy. Healthy eating is one of the best ways to manage diabetes.
Healthy eating basics
Healthy eating involves making careful food choices, which starts at the grocery store. When grocery shopping, make sure to check out the nutrition facts on food labels to make the best choices for your diabetes care.
Reducing how much carbohydrate you eat can help keep your blood glucose in target. Choose foods that are lower in total carbohydrate, sugar, fat, sodium and calories. Choose foods that are higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
A healthy eating plan to manage your blood glucose will include:
- More non-starchy (low carb) vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots and leafy greens. Aim to make at least half of your meal non-starchy vegetables. They will have very little impact on your blood glucose.
- Fewer refined grains, such as white bread, white rice and pasta. Instead, choose 100% whole grain varieties. Whole grains are higher in fiber and can help reduce blood glucose spikes.
- Lean meats and fish that are not fried. A portion about the size of the palm of your hand is usually about right.
- Fewer added sugars.
- Whole foods and close-to-nature foods (such as fresh fruit) instead of highly processed foods (such as chips and snack cakes or fruit juice).
- Calorie-free drinks. Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks (such as sweet tea, lemonade, juice, fruit punch, and sports drinks).
To help you remember how much of each kind of food you should eat, we recommend the Diabetes Plate Method developed by the American Diabetes Association. This method of meal planning simplifies healthy eating and helps you easily plan portions.
Fill half of a regular dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as salad, broccoli or zucchini. The other side of your plate should be divided in half again, so each new section is a quarter of the plate. The first quarter should be used for carbohydrate foods, such as whole grains, beans or legumes. The final quarter is for lean proteins, such as chicken, fish or plant-based sources.
Because carbohydrates raise your blood glucose, paying attention to how many carbohydrates you eat is an important step in eating healthy to manage your blood glucose. You may need to eat fewer foods and smaller portions of foods that are high in carbs. Avoid drinks with added sugar, such as soda, juice, sweet tea, fruit drinks, lemonade, energy drinks and sports drinks.
Your diabetes care and education specialist can help you decide how many carbs you should eat per meal and for a snack (if needed).
Diabetes nutrition help
Every person with diabetes is different. If you need help knowing how or what to eat to manage your blood glucose, we will work with you to develop a personalized plan based on your goals, tastes, lifestyle and any medicines you are taking.
More diabetes self-management
In addition to eating healthfully, there are other ways to manage your diabetes, including:
- Physical activity
- Stress management
- Weight loss
For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of additional educational tools and resources:
Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center offers a wealth of resources to help you navigate your healthcare needs.
- Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center Diabetes Education
- Communication needs
- Pharmacy Services
Connect with Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center on our Facebook page for recipes, upcoming events and tips to help you navigate your diabetes diagnosis.