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When you have diabetes, what you choose to eat and drink can raise or lower your blood sugar levels after meals. So which foods are smart choices?

There are four things in food that can affect your blood sugar:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Protein
  3. Fat
  4. Fiber

Carbohydrates raise blood sugar faster than proteins or fats. They also have the biggest effect on your blood sugar. Fiber, protein, and fat can blunt the rise in blood sugar after a meal.

So aim for variety. Eat a mixture of carbohydrates, protein, and fat to manage your blood sugar better and stay full longer.  But make sure to choose quality carbohydrates and smart fats, such as:

  • Vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruit for carbs
  • Fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, olives, extra virgin olive oil, and canola oil for fat

You may not respond to a meal the same way as someone else with diabetes does. So be sure to check your blood sugar after meals. Look for patterns between what you eat and drink and your blood sugar levels after. You also may want to track how many grams or servings of carbohydrates you eat with each meal and try to keep it about the same from meal to meal. This can also help you take charge of your blood sugar.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet when you have diabetes doesn't mean you can't eat foods that taste good. In the sample menu and recipes below, the meals have a good balance of protein and fat and a great source of fiber. You can plug them into your diet -- in the right portion sizes -- along with the other fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, protein, or fats in your plan.

Don’t forget to watch salt, too. That's part of healthy eating with diabetes. Eating less salt has been shown to help prevent and treat high blood pressure. Read labels and choose foods that are low in sodium.

Sample Daily Menu Options

Breakfast

Here's how you might work in a high-fiber carbohydrate along with some lean protein and "good" fat.

High-fiber carbs:

  • Whole-grain cereal (hot or cold) with fruit
  • Whole-grain bread, English muffin, or bagel
  • Whole-grain waffles or pancakes with fruit

Lean protein (low in saturated fat):

  • A higher omega-3 egg blended with 2 egg whites for an egg dish. Add vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, or tomatoes.
  • Low-fat milk or soy milk for your cereal or as a beverage
  • Part skim-milk cheese added to your omelet
  • Low-fat or nonfat yogurt with fruit or cereal, or in a smoothie

Smart fats:

  • Avocado added to your omelet
  • Nuts for cereals or a yogurt parfait
  • Extra virgin olive oil used in omelet
  • Canola oil used in whole grain muffins, pancakes, or waffles

Lunch

A sandwich or wrap with whole-grain bread or tortilla and a lean protein such as:

  • Roasted turkey, skinless chicken, or lean beef or pork
  • Part skim-milk cheese or soy cheese
  • Water-packed tuna dressed in vinaigrette, yogurt, or light mayo