Diabetes and Your Diet

Senior Couple Cooking

If you have diabetes, you may juggle a lot of concerns. Eating a healthy diet is a big part of the balancing act.

Unmanaged diabetes can increase your risk of developing heart disease. People living with diabetes are also at risk for blindness, amputation and kidney failure. Find out more about why treating diabetes matters

Shop smart

When grocery shopping, plan ahead for the week and always bring a list — and a full stomach.

Stock up on seasonal produce that’s on sale. When fresh isn’t available, choose canned or frozen vegetables and fruits without added sugars and sodium.

Look for whole-grain, high-fiber foods, and limit your time on the aisles where there are boxed foods that may not be healthy. Take a close look at serving size and sodium and sugar content. Learning how to read and use the Nutrition Facts label on foods can help you make healthier food choices.

Limit packaged, processed, take-out foods that tend to be high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. And avoid products with too much sugar. Look for its other names in the ingredient list such as sucrose, honey and high fructose corn syrup.

Be wary of buy-one, get-one free deals. If they’re not healthy foods, you’re getting more than you bargained for. Learn how to prepare healthy meals for the whole family.

Balance your plate

Ready for dinner? Your best bet is to start with a small plate. Fill half of it with vegetables such as roasted squash, grilled asparagus or a salad.

For the next quarter, consider a complex carb, such as a small, plain sweet potato, brown rice, whole-wheat couscous or whole-grain pasta.

Finish off your plate with a lean protein, such as a piece of non-fried fish or poultry without the skin.

Dining out

When dining out, call ahead or look online to find out what’s on the menu. Avoid buffets because the value to your pocketbook won’t be felt in your waistline. Portion control is important for everyone, but especially for people living with diabetes. 

Consider ordering a salad and an appetizer for your meal. If you get an entrée, split it with a companion or have half of it boxed up to go.

Keep a polite distance from the bread, but make friends with your water glass. Watch out for the calories in other beverages — both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Start off with a small portion and wait 20 minutes. Give your stomach enough time to tell your brain that you’ve eaten and are getting full.

More tips

Whether you’re at home or on the go, it’s not always easy to make the right food choices.

That’s why it is important for people with diabetes to see a registered dietitian. It’s best to have someone who can guide you through your own eating plan and give you advice on how to make better food choices.

The American Heart Association has delicious recipes for people living with diabetes.

Searching for healthy snack ideas?

Try these:

  • Small apple with tablespoon of peanut butter
  • ½ cup baby carrots with two tablespoons of low-fat cottage cheese or hummus
  • Small handful (about an ounce) of unsalted nuts
  • Two whole-grain crackers with low-fat, low-sodium string cheese
  • ½ whole-wheat English muffin topped with low-fat shredded cheese and fresh tomato and broiled.
  • ½ cup plain low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt, topped with ½ cup blueberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Woman posing in red dress

Living with Type 2 diabetes?

Get monthly science-based diabetes and heart-healthy tips in your inbox. Know Diabetes by Heart raises awareness that living with Type 2 diabetes increases risk for heart disease and stroke – and that people should talk with their doctor at their next appointment about ways to reduce risk.