Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan

A diabetes diet is a healthy-eating plan that helps control blood sugar. Use this guide to get started, from meal planning to counting carbohydrates.

Related information

A diabetes diet simply means eating the healthiest foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes. It’s a healthy-eating plan that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. Key elements are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In fact, this type of diet is the best eating plan for most everyone.

Why do you need to develop a healthy-eating plan?

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, your health care provider will likely recommend that you see a dietitian to help you develop a healthy-eating plan. The plan helps you control your blood sugar, also called blood glucose, manage your weight and control heart disease risk factors. These factors include high blood pressure and high blood fats.

When you eat extra calories and carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels rise. If blood sugar isn’t controlled, it can lead to serious problems. These problems include a high blood sugar level, called hyperglycemia. If this high level lasts for a long time, it may lead to long-term complications, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage.

You can help keep your blood sugar level in a safe range. Make healthy food choices and track your eating habits.

For most people with type 2 diabetes, weight loss also can make it easier to control blood sugar. Weight loss offers a host of other health benefits. If you need to lose weight, a healthy-eating plan provides a well-organized, nutritious way to reach your goal safely.

What does a diet for people with diabetes involve?

A diet for people living with diabetes is based on eating healthy meals at regular times. Eating meals at regular times helps to better use insulin that the body makes or gets through medicine.

A registered dietitian can help you put together a diet based on your health goals, tastes and lifestyle. The dietitian also can talk with you about how to improve your eating habits. Options include choosing portion sizes that suit the needs for your size and activity level.

Recommended foods

Make your calories count with nutritious foods. Choose healthy carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, fish and “good” fats.

Healthy carbohydrates

During digestion, sugars and starches break down into blood glucose. Sugars also are known as simple carbohydrates, and starches also are known as complex carbohydrates. Focus on healthy carbohydrates, such as:

  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
  • Whole grains.
  • Legumes, such as beans and peas.
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as milk and cheese.

Avoid less healthy carbohydrates, such as foods or drinks with added fats, sugars and sodium.

Fiber-rich foods

Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber moderates how your body digests food and helps control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include:

  • Vegetables.
  • Fruits.
  • Nuts.
  • Legumes, such as beans and peas.
  • Whole grains.