General Diet Guide

No matter what type of diabetes you have choose healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight. Losing just 7 percent of your body weight if you’re overweight can make a significant difference in your blood sugar control. A healthy diet is one with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, with a limited amount of saturated fat.

You can help control your blood sugar and diabetes when you eat healthy get enough exercise and stay at a healthy weight A healthy weight also helps you control your blood fats and lower your blood pressure Many people with diabetes also need to take medicine to help control their blood sugar.

Good food choices for diabetes are no different than what is recommended for all other people. It means you can help control your blood sugar (also called blood glucose) and diabetes when you eat healthy get enough exercise and stay at a healthy weight.

Selecting a variety of healthy foods as the base of one’s diet e.g. whole grains fruit, vegetables, dried beans, lean meats, fish, poultry and low fat dairy foods.

  • Limiting high calorie non-nutritious foods; e.g. sweets, fats and alcohol
  • Eating the right amount of all foods to maintain a healthy weight
    Distributing meals and snacks throughout the day is important for people with diabetes. At least 3 meals are recommended and for some snacks are a good way to achieve optimal results in carbohydrate exercise medication balancing.

Diet is a cornerstone of controlling diabetes. More than half of all adult diabetics manage their diabetes with diet rather than insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents.

Healthy Food

Using the food pyramid helps you eat a variety of healthy foods When you eat different foods you get the vitamins and minerals you need. Eat different foods from each group each day.

What are Starches?

Carbohydrates are an important part of a diabetic s diet. There are 3 types of carbohydrates – Starches, Sugar and Fibres.

Starches Complex carbohydrates include bread grains cereal pasta or starchy vegetables Eat some starches at each meal People might tell you not to eat many starches but that is no longer correct advice Eating starches is healthy for everyone including people with diabetes These raise blood sugar levels gradually over a longer period of time.

What are the healthier ways to buy, cook and eat starches?

  • Buy whole grain breads and cereals
  • Eat fewer fried and high fat starches such as regular tortilla chips and potato chips french fries pastries biscuits or muffins
  • Use low fat or fat free yogurt or fat free sour cream instead of regular sour cream on a baked potato
  • Use mustard instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich
  • Use the low fat or fat free substitutes such as low fat mayonnaise or light margarine on bread rolls or toast
  • Use vegetable oil spray instead of oil shortening butter or margarine
  • Cook or eat cereal with fat free (skim) or low fat (1%) milk
  • Use no sugar jelly low fat or fat free cottage cheese nonfat yogurt or salsa

Nutritional Tips

  • Many starch choices are a good source of B Vitamins
  • Foods made from whole grains provide a good amount of fiber
  • Legumes are a good source of protein and fiber

Selection Tips

  • Select starches that contain the least amount of fat
  • Rolls, Bagels and muffins can be 3 or 4 oz in weight and you should make sure to count it accordingly
    Always check nutrition facts on the food label

What are Sugary Foods?

They are simple carbohydrates include sugar candy pastries and cakes and these usually raise blood sugar levels very quickly

You find the sugary foods and sweets section at the tip of the pyramid This tells you to eat small amounts of sugary foods

Sugary foods have calories and do not have much nutrition Sugary foods have lots of calories Some sugary foods are also high in fat like cakes pies and cookies They also may contain saturated fats and cholesterol
Sugary foods and sweets are tempting But eating small amounts of sugary foods will help you lose weight keep your blood sugar under control control your blood fats and lower your blood pressure 


Whole bread wholegrain cereals fruit beans and peas

Complex carbohydrates usually contain more nutrients minerals and fiber than do simple carbohydrates but simple carbohydrates can give blood sugar a quick lift to help stave off an insulin reaction Both forms of carbohydrates have their place in a diabetic’s diet.

Many diabetics must limit their fat intake as well as their intake of cholesterol and salt Eating too much fat and cholesterol are linked to heart disease This may mean they have to cut out or limit eating eggs dairy foods and red meats

Special consideration must be given to planning medications mealtimes and exercise so that wide swings in blood sugar levels are avoided. An insulin dependent diabetic should plan to eat foods that are heavy in carbohydrates at a time when they coincide with the peak effectiveness of the insulin he or she uses This will vary with the type and amounts of insulin being used.

To help diabetics in planning their meals the American Diabetes Association has created lists of equivalent foods called exchange lists These are nutritional guidelines that can be used every day to help diabetics choose what to eat A serving of any food on a given exchange list can be substituted for a serving of any other food on that list. The lists can help diabetics with daily meal plans They’ll learn to include foods from the six exchange lists in their daily diet

What are Vegetables?

Vegetables are an important part of everyone’s die. In general Vegetables are healthy for everyone including people with diabetes Eat raw and cooked vegetables every day Vegetables give you vitamins minerals and fiber with very few calories.

What are healthier ways to buy, cook and eat vegetables?

  • Eat raw and cooked vegetables with little or no fat You can cook and eat vegetables without any fat
  • Try low fat or fat free salad dressing on raw vegetables or salads
  • Steam vegetables using a small amount of water or low fat broth
  • Mix in some chopped onion or garlic
  • Use a little vinegar or some lemon or lime juice
  • Add a small piece of lean ham or smoked turkey
  • Sprinkle with herbs and spices These flavorings add almost no fat or calories
  • If you do use a small amount of fat use canola oil olive oil or tub margarine instead of fat from meat butter or shortening

Nutritional Tips

  • Canned vegetables contain more salt than fresh or frozen
  • Good sources of vitamin C include broccoli cauliflower spinach and tomatoes
  • Vegetables generally contain up to 4 grams of fiber per serving

Selection Tips

  • If you eat more than 4 cups of raw vegetables or 2 cups of cooked vegetables at one meal count them as 1 carbohydrate choice
  • Starchier vegetables are on the starch list such as potatoes and corn

What are Fruits?

Fruit is healthy for everyone including people with diabetes Fruit gives you energy vitamins and minerals and fiber Includes fresh frozen canned and dried as well as fruit juices

How should I eat fruits?

  • Eat fruits raw as juice with no sugar added canned in their own juice or dried
  • Buy smaller pieces of fruit
  • Eat pieces of fruit rather than drinking fruit juice Pieces of fruit are more filling
  • Buy fruit juice that is 100 percent juice with no added sugar
  • Drink fruit juice in small amounts
  • Save high sugar and high fat fruit desserts such as peach cobbler or cherry pie for special occasions

Nutritional Tips

  • Fruit juice contains very little fiber
  • Sugar content of fruit juices vary greatly
  • Fruits are good soure of vitamin C

Selection Tips

  • Make sure to check the serving size on the food label If one serving has more than 15grams of carbohydrate then adjust the serving size to fit your needs.
  • When the food label says no sugar or unsweetened it means that there is no added sucrose (table sugar).

What are Milk and Yogurt Foods?

Fat free and low fat milk and yogurt are healthy for everyone including people with diabetes Milk and yogurt give you energy protein calcium vitamin A and other vitamins and minerals Milk does not include cheese or cream One milk exchange equals 12grams carbohydrate and 8grams protein

Drink fat free (skim or nonfat) or low fat (1%) milk each day Eat low fat or fat free yogurt They have less total fat saturated fat and cholesterol.

Selection Tips

  • One cup is equal to 8oz or 1/2 pint
  • Non dairy creamers are considered free foods
  • Rice milk is considered a starch

What are Protein Foods?

Protein foods are meat poultry eggs cheese fish and tofu Eat small amounts of some of these foods each day

Protein foods help your body build tissue and muscles They also give your body vitamins and minerals

What are healthier ways to buy, cook and eat protein food?

  • Buy cuts of beef pork ham and lamb that have only a little fat on them Trim off extra fat
  • Eat chicken or turkey without the skin
  • Cook protein foods in low fat ways – Broil, Grill, Stir fry, Roast, Steam, Stew
    To add more flavor use vinegars lemon juice soy or teriyaki sauce, salsa, ketchup, barbecue sauce, herbs, and spices
  • Cook eggs with a small amount of fat
  • Eat small amounts of nuts peanut butter fried chicken fish or shellfish They are high in fat

Nutritional Tips

  • Choose the leanest meat whenever possible. High fat meats are high in saturated fat cholesterol and calories
    Meats do not contain fiber
  • Legumes are good sources of fiber
  • Instead of frying poach bake broil grill and steam foods
  • Place meat on a rack so the fat can drip off
  • Trim off any visible fat on your meat

Selection Tips

  • Approximately 4oz of raw meat is equal to 3oz of cooked meat
  • Read labels to find products low in fat and cholesterol
  • Bacon is also found on the fats list

What are Fats and Oils?

You find the fats and oils section at the tip of the pyramid. This tells you to eat small amounts of fats and oils because they have lots of calories Some fats and oils also contain saturated fats and cholesterol that are not good for you.

You also get fat from other foods such as meats and some dairy foods

High fat food is tempting; but eating small amounts of high fat food will help you lose weight keep your blood sugar and blood fats under control and lower your blood pressure

Nutritional Tips

  • All fats are high in calories so limit serving sizes
  • Nuts and seeds contain small amounts of fiber

Selection Tips

  • Check food labels for serving sizes
  • Soft margarine are not as saturated as stick margarine
  • When used in small amounts bacon and peanut butter can be counted as fat choices In larger amounts count them as high fat meat choices


Alcohol can cause problems. Alcoholic beverages are empty calories and can contribute to weight problems. Alcohol can lower blood sugar levels which can bring on hypoglycemia. This is especially likely to happen if alcohol is taken on an empty stomach. Excessive drinking causes additional problems for diabetics because it raises blood fat levels and can damage the liver


Some people are confused about diabetic foods and think they are low in calories.

Diabetic foods usually contains sweeteners called fructose or sorbitol These do not raise the blood sugar as much as ordinary sugar does but contain as many as ordinary foods They are rather expensive. Sorbitol may give you diarrhoea. Other available sweeteners are saccharin and aspartame.

Low calorie sweeteners do not raise your blood sugar and contain no calories Saccharine is the oldest of the artificial sweeteners Aspartam is the basis for a large number of more recently marketed sweeteners Sorbitol is derived from sweet corn or potatoes Fructose is present in fruits and honey or produced from sucrose

How Can I Satisfy My Sweet Tooth?

  • Eat a serving of sugar free popsicles diet soda fat free ice cream or yogurt or sugar free hot cocoa mix once in a while.
  • Remember fat free and low sugar foods still have some calories Eat them as part of your meal plan

Points to Remember

  • To follow a healthy eating plan:
  • Choose foods from all six food groups each day
  • Eat a wide variety of foods from each group to get all your vitamins and minerals
  • Eat enough starches vegetables fruits and low fat milk and yogurt
  • Eat smaller amounts of lower fat protein foods
  • Eat fewer fats oils and sugary foods 

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