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What to Eat if You Have Diabetes
You have probably heard a lot about the limits of a diabetic diet. You may think that you cannot eat sweet foods or that you have to eat meals that are not the same as the rest of your family. It can seem like having diabetes means the end of good eating. That is not the case. Everyone should eat a healthful diet. There is no need for you eat differently than the rest of your family.
There are foods that will leave you feeling full without causing your blood glucose to rise. These 10 superfoods have a low glycemic index (have less of an impact on your blood glucose) and provide important nutrients:
- Beans provide about one-third of the fiber you need each day in just a ½ cup. They are also a good source of magnesium and potassium. Dried beans are also an thrifty way to stock your pantry.
- Dark green leafy vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates.
- Citrus fruits contain fiber and vitamin C.
- Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes. They are packed with vitamin A.
- Berries are a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. A parfait made with berries and low-fat yogurt is great for times when you want something sweet.
- Tomatoes can be eaten raw, added to soups and stews, or made into a sauce. They add iron, vitamin C, and vitamin E in your diet.
- Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for 6 to 9 ounces of broiled or baked fish each week.
- Whole grains are better than white bread or rice. They have nutrients like magnesium, chromium, and folate. Whole grain versions of more popular foods are very popular and easy to find.
- Nuts are a healthy fat that keeps you feeling full longer. They also have fiber. Be careful, though. There can be a lot of calories in a small amount.
- Fat-free milk and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Fortified dairy products are a good source of vitamin D as well.
These healthy options fit into a diabetic diet. For an even healthier diet, think about these tips:
- Choose lean meats and take the skin off of chicken and turkey.
- Choose fat-free dairy, such as skim milk and fat-free yogurt.
- Choose water or calorie-free drinks instead of soda, sweet tea, or other drinks with sugar.
Caving into Cravings
Everyone has food cravings from time to time. The best way to deal with them is to make room in your meal plan to eat these foods from time to time. People diagnosed with diabetes in the past may have been told to not to eat sugar. Now you can substitute small amounts of sugar for other carbohydrates and still meet your glucose goals.
So if it is a sweet treat you crave, you may be in luck. If you want a cookie with your lunch, swapping the bread on your sandwich for low-carb bread can help you stay within your carb limits for the meal. The total amount of carbohydrate you eat has more of an effect on your blood glucose than the type. Just make sure to adjust your total carbohydrate intake to make room for the treat you crave.
Sweet as Sugar: The Real Story on Sugar Substitutes
You may want to try eating foods sweetened with sugar substitutes. Artificial sweeteners are 200 to 600 times as sweet as sugar and often do not contain carbs, so they will not affect your blood glucose.
Sugar alcohols are natural sugar substitutes. Food manufacturers do not need to list these in the nutrition facts label, but you can find them in the ingredients list. Sugar alcohols end in “ol,” like maltitol and sorbitol. Carbs from sugar alcohols are included in the total carbohydrate amount on the nutrition facts label. The body doesn't absorb half the carbohydrate in sugar alcohols, so you can subtract half the sugar alcohol grams from the total carb grams.
A Balanced Diabetic Diet
Many healthy foods can be a part of a diabetic diet. You can even curb cravings with a sweet treat now and then. As always, a healthy diet means healthy serving sizes—even if you are eating a sugar-free food. Do not forget to talk to your doctor or dietitian about what foods are right for you.
American Diabetes Association
Joslin Diabetes Center
Canadian Diabetes Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
Diabetes superfoods. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/diabetes-superfoods.html?loc=ff-slabnav. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Dietary considerations for patients with type 2 diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/dietary-considerations-for-patients-with-type-2-diabetes. Updated March 11, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Five common food myths for people with diabetes debunked. Joslin Diabetes Center website. Available at: http://www.joslin.org/info/5-common-food-myths-for-people-with-diabetes.html. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Making healthy food choices. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices. Accessed February 13, 2020.
What are net carbs? Diabetes Forecast—American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2010/aug/what-are-net-carbs.html. Published August 2010. Accessed February 13, 2020.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
- Review Date: 11/2019
- Update Date: 02/13/2020