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8 Diabetes Diet Tips

Keep your blood sugar in check and your appetite satisfied.


forks lined up with a vegetable on each tongs

Eating smart with diabetes doesn’t mean you have to feel deprived. Managing what you eat can help keep you on the right path.

A balancing act

A good eating plan, along with any prescribed medications and exercise, helps with blood-sugar control. Attention to these items means you can help decrease your chances of developing the complications of diabetes including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure or blindness.

And you can eat well and feel satisfied at the same time. Here are a few tips:

  1. Get help. Seek out nutrition guidance, preferably from a registered dietitian who is familiar with diabetes. She or he can provide you with vital information and support for creating an eating plan that fits you.
  2. Emphasize the good stuff. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole-grain carbohydrates, lean protein and fat-free and low-fat dairy. You may want to consider the Mediterranean-style, vegan, vegetarian, low-fat and lower-carb eating patterns, which may help you manage your diabetes.
  3. Know what to limit. Try to cut down on foods with saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and added sugars. Remember that using alcohol can be risky for adults with diabetes. Talk with your doctor about whether it is safe for you to drink at all, and if it’s OK, if there any precautions you should take. Remember, alcohol can cause delayed hypoglycemia, so be sure to take that into consideration. Also, if your doctor gives the OK and you choose to drink, do so only in moderation (one drink or less per day for women, two drinks or less per day for men).
  4. Learn how to indulge. If you enjoy eating treats and your blood sugar is under control, work with your doctor or registered dietitian. Ask what you can eat, how much and how often. The key is to decrease carbohydrates somewhere else in your meal. Your dietitian can help you learn to count carbs. In the past, sugar was forbidden for people with diabetes. After years of research, health experts now know that small amounts of sugar can be fine, provided you watch portion sizes and make appropriate substitutions.
  5. Go light. Many foods come in fat-free, low-fat, lower-sugar and lower-sodium varieties. Check with your doctor or registered dietitian if you can incorporate these foods in your eating plan.
  6. Stick to a routine. Schedule your meals evenly and do not skip meals. Stock healthy snacks at home, at work and when you’re on the go, so you don’t resort to junk food.
  7. Watch your portions. When making the right food choices, you can control both calories and blood sugar levels when you pay attention to how much you’re eating. Using smaller plates and eating more slowly may help with portion control.
  8. Divide your plate. Imagine drawing a line through your plate. Fill one half with colorful, non-starchy vegetables. Draw another line through the remaining half. Fill one of the smaller sections with whole grains and starches. Put your protein in the last small section. Add fruit and dairy as your eating plan allows.

By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2015. Accessed: September 30, 2015.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. Accessed: September 30, 2015.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. What I need to know about eating and diabetes. Accessed: September 30, 2015.

Last Updated: September 30, 2015