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You can help get your diabetes under control if you eat smart. The right foods can be an ally in your fight to keep your blood sugar levels in check.

Talk to your doctor, a registered dietitian, or a diabetes educator about how to keep track of how many carbs you eat, which can affect your blood sugar, also called glucose.

They may recommend that you use the glycemic index. It ranks how different foods raise glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index raise it more.

Also try these tips:

Make your plate colorful. That's an easy way to be sure you eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and lean protein.

Watch your calories. Your age, gender, and activity level affect how many you need to eat to gain, lose, or maintain your weight.

Go for fiber. You can get it from plant foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, and nuts. Studies suggest that people with type 2 diabetes who eat a high-fiber diet can improve their blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Although  it’s best to get fiber from food sources, fiber supplements can also help you get the daily fiber you need. Examples include psyllium and methylcellulose.

Increase your fiber intake slowly to help prevent gas and cramping. It’s also important to also increase the amount of liquids that you drink.

How Much Can You Eat?

Check the serving sizes on nutrition labels -- they may be smaller than you think. Eat only the amount of food in your diabetes meal plan. Extra calories lead to extra fat and pounds.

Don't skip meals, though. Eat them, as well as snacks, at regular times every day.

What Is the TLC Diet for Diabetes?

If you have high cholesterol along with diabetes, your doctor will probably recommend the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) plan.

The goal is to lower your cholesterol level, drop extra weight, and get more active. That helps prevent heart disease, which is more common when you have diabetes.

On the TLC diet, you will:

  • Limit fat to 25%-35% of your total daily calories.
  • Get no more than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fat, 10% or less from polyunsaturated fats, and up to 20% from monounsaturated fats (like plant oils or nuts).
  • Keep carbs to 50%-60% of your daily calories.
  • Aim for 20-30 grams of fiber each day.
  • Allow 15% to 20% of your daily calories for protein.
  • Cap cholesterol at less than 200 milligrams per day.

You'll also need to get more exercise and keep up with your medical treatment.

Can You Have Sugar?

You might have heard that people with diabetes shouldn't have any table sugar. While some doctors say that, others take a more forgiving view.

Most experts now say that small amounts of the sweet stuff are fine, as long as they're part of an overall healthy meal plan. Table sugar does not raise your blood sugar any more than starches, which are found in many foods.

Remember that sugar is a carb. So when you eat a sweet food like cookies, cake, or candy, swap it for another carb or starch (for example, potatoes) that you would have eaten that day. In other words substitute, don't add. Ultimately, the total grams of carbohydrates matter more than the source of the sugar.

Account for any food swaps in your carbohydrate budget for the day. Adjust your medications if you add sugars to your meals.

If you take insulin, tweak your dose for the added carbs so you can keep up your blood sugar control as much as possible. Check your glucose after eating sugary foods.

Read food labels so you know how much sugar or carbs are in the things you eat and drink. Also, check how many calories and how much fat are in a serving.

Other Sweeteners

You can add artificial sweeteners to your food and drinks. Many have carbs, though, so check the label carefully. If necessary, you can adjust the other foods in your meal or medication to keep your blood sugar under control.

Certain sweeteners known as "sugar alcohols," such as xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol, have some calories and slightly raise glucose levels. If you eat too much of these you can get gas and diarrhea.

Stevia is another option to make things sweet. It's a natural product that has no calories.

What About Alcohol?

It's a good idea to ask your doctor if it's OK for you to drink booze. If he says yes, only do it occasionally, and only when your blood sugar level is well-controlled. Most wine and mixed drinks have sugar, and alcohol also has a lot of calories.

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