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Tip 2. Spread Your Meals Throughout the Day

Why? Skipping meals and overeating can send your blood sugar plunging - and then through the roof. Since diabetic nerve damage and pain can decrease appetite and make it harder to digest food, several smaller meals may work better for you. Plus, some diabetes medications work their best when you're taking them in concert with regularly scheduled meals.

The goal. Find a workable schedule for meals and snacks that fits your real lifestyle - not one you wish you had. Be realistic about planning your diabetes diet around your work, driving time, feeding kids, and other commitments.

How? Aim for 3 small meals and 3 healthy snacks each day to balance out your blood sugar:

  • Breakfast
  • A mid-morning snack
  • Lunch
  • A mid-afternoon snack
  • Dinner
  • An evening snack

Tip 3. Go for Complex "Carbs"

Why? Carbohydrates digest more slowly and don't "spike" your blood sugar the way simple sugars do. They also fill you up faster, so you're less likely to overeat, and they give you more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

  • The goal. Most of what you eat should be healthy carbohydrates. Include whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat milk. Whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, beans, lentils, potatoes, and corn tortillas are good choices.

How?

  • Shop the perimeter of grocery stores, where you'll find the freshest foods. Avoid temptation in the middle aisles, where canned, boxed, and frozen goods are shelved.
  • Reach for the least-processed version of any food. Try to cut out prepared, pre-mixed foods like stove-top dinners: they're not "helpers" when it comes to diabetes and nerve pain.
  • Have fun trying a new kind of starchy vegetable, like baked yams, oven-roasted carrots, or cooked lentils, instead of white rice or dinner rolls.

Tip 4. Forget "Supersizing"

Why? Most people are shocked to realize how small "official" serving sizes are. A serving of carbs? Only 1 slice of whole-grain bread or 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal. A serving of dry cereal? Only 3/4 of a cup - that's smaller than your average cup of coffee. Meat, fish, or poultry? A mere 3 ounces is a serving - that's about the size of a cassette tape - once it's cooked. Go for that 16-ounce porterhouse and you've just eaten nearly 6 dinners' worth of protein.

The goal. Get in the habit of reading food labels to find out the real portion sizes for the foods you enjoy. And do the math. If you double up on a special treat one day, subtract that from your next day's diet planning.

How?

  • Split entrees or dinner-size salads when you eat out, or have a small salad and appetizer instead of an entree.
  • Keep a good diabetes diet book on hand to find portion sizes for fresh foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy a new set of measuring cups and spoons and keep them out on the counter, so you're more motivated to measure servings.

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