Diabetes Diet

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Proper nutrition is essential for anyone living with diabetes. Control of blood glucose levels is only one goal of a healthy eating plan for people with diabetes. A diet for those with diabetes should also help achieve and maintain a normal body weight as well as prevent heart and vascular disease, which are frequent complications of diabetes.

There is no prescribed diet plan for those with diabetes. Rather, eating plans are tailored to fit an individual's needs, schedules, and eating habits. A diabetes diet plan must also be balanced with the intake of insulin and oral diabetes medications. In general, the principles of a healthy diabetes diet are the same for everyone. Consumption of a variety of foods including whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats or vegetarian substitutes, poultry and fish is recommended to achieve a healthy diet.

Many experts, including the American Diabetes Association, recommend that 50% to 60% of daily calories come from carbohydrates, 12% to 20% from protein, and no more than 30% from fat. People with diabetes may also benefit from eating small meals throughout the day instead of eating one or two heavy meals. No foods are absolutely forbidden for people with diabetes, and attention to portion control and advance meal planning can help people with diabetes enjoy the same meals as others in the family.

Some people with diabetes will benefit from using specific methods to help follow a diabetes meal plan. None of these diet plans is required for people with diabetes, but many people will find one them useful. Some of these ways include:

  • MyPlate is an icon that replaced the previous MyPyramid image as the tool to help Americans make healthier food choices. The goal is to get people to think about building a healthy plate at meal times. MyPlate is a meal planning system based upon portion size. The plate is built off of the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines and is divided into four sections: 1) fruits, 2) vegetables, 3) grains, and 4) protein. On the side, is an image for dairy.
  • Exchange lists help in the planning of balanced meals by grouping together foods that have similar carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calorie content. Meal planning exchange lists have been published by The American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association.
  • Carbohydrate counting is based upon the total carbohydrate intake (measured in grams) of foods.
  • Glycemic Index ranks carbohydrates according to the effects they have on blood sugar levels.

REFERENCE: USDA.gov. Choose my plate.


Last Editorial Review: 5/24/2012