The first step: Learn what’s good for you, says diabetes educator Emmy Suhl, RD, CDE, of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
“There’s no such thing as a diabetes diet,” Suhl says. “The best diet for someone with diabetes is your basic, healthy diet.”
Every diet should include some carbs, which provide energy to help power your body. But look for healthy carbs that won’t cause your blood sugar to spike.
“A lot of carbohydrates are very healthy, such as fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, and legumes,” Suhl says. “Try to avoid as much as possible refined and/or heavily processed carbohydrates.”
Suhl’s quick tips:
- Eat whole grains like barley and brown rice rather than white rice and white-flour pasta.
- Look for packages that say 100% whole grain.
- Eat fruits rather than drink fruit juice, even if it’s 100% juice.
Your body needs protein to build and maintain bone, muscles, and skin, and to perform a host of other functions. As with carbs, make a point to choose healthy sources of protein.
“Your best choices are lean meats like chicken, low-fat dairy, and fish and shellfish,” Suhl says. “All are much healthier than proteins from four-legged animals.”
- Skip steaks and other meats you can eat rare -- they have more fat than other meat.
- Salmon’s a great choice, but all fish pack protein.
Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products provide protein, calcium, and other nutrients, but they can also have a lot of fat.
“I would recommend 1%,” Suhl says. “You want some fat in your diet, but you don’t want dairy fat. You want fat from healthier sources.”
- Greek yogurt has more protein and fewer carbs than regular yogurt. Look for a nonfat kind.
- Eat plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, such as berries.
While your diet must include some fat, focus on healthy sources such as plant-based fats, Suhl says. Animal fats contribute to heart disease, a particular danger for people with diabetes.
- Eat avocados and nuts for healthy fats.
- Even healthy fats have lots of calories, so eat them in moderation.
Ask Your Doctor
- What foods should I start eating?
- Can I eat the foods I normally eat, or do I need to cut back on some?
- Should I cut back on my portion sizes? If so, by how much?
- Will weight loss help? How much should I lose?
- How do I deal with low blood sugar?