Overcoming Diabetes Diet Mistakes

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on July 31, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

It happens. You stepped off the diet that's helping you manage your diabetes. Now it's time to get back on track.

The sooner you do that, the better -- for your health and your peace of mind. These simple strategies can help you get right back on track with healthy eating.

"Everyone falls off. Persistence and getting back on track is crucial." -- Michael Dansinger, MD

1. Stop the slide.

So you had some chocolate cake or pizza. Move on. "Everyone falls off," says Michael Dansinger, MD, director of the Diabetes Reversal Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. "Persistence and getting back on track is crucial."

The fix: Take a minute to think about what happened right before you ate whatever it was that you regret. Did you go too long without eating and were too hungry to say no? To avoid hunger pangs, plan out your meals and always carry smart snacks like almonds and carrots. That way, the next time you're at a bakery or pizzeria, you can make good choices for your meal plan.

2. Pare down your portions.

It can be tricky to tell whether you're eating too much just by looking at your plate. Servings are notoriously big when you're eating out.

The fix: Shrink the size of your plate. Instead of using a dinner plate, use a salad plate. You'll put less on it. If you're at home, you can use a measuring cup to portion out exactly the right amount, says Marjorie Cypress, PhD, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association.

3. Beware "sugar-free" baked goodies.

When you're craving something sweet, sugar-free cookies or pie might sound like just the thing. Not so fast. "You have to be very careful, because they usually have refined starches in them," Dansinger says. The high carb content of these sugarless treats can have the same effect on your blood sugar as real sweets.

The fix: Read labels carefully, counting the total carbs, not just the sugar. When you want something sweet, eat foods that won't spike your blood sugar -- like berries (they're high in fiber, which helps prevent a blood sugar surge) or sugar-free gelatin.

4. Stop skipping meals.

You're going to a dinner party, so you skip breakfast and lunch to save up on calories. Bad idea, Cypress says. Your blood sugar will dip too low, and you could easily overeat at dinner.

The fix: Your doctor, a diabetes educator, or a registered dietitian can let you know the best plan for day-to-day eating and for special occasions. Eat three meals, and possibly snacks, according to your meal plan to keep your blood sugar steady.

5. Eat in during the week.

Eating out is fun, but you don't control portion sizes and ingredients when a chef cooks for you. Nearly everything you order at a restaurant has more fat and calories than you should eat. "It's not to say you can never eat in a restaurant, but you need to plan ahead," Cypress says.

The fix: Save restaurant meals for weekends and special occasions. When you do eat out, read the menu online ahead of time. Could you get broccoli instead of fries, or ask for your food to be cooked without salt, butter, and oil? You can also ask to take some of your food boxed up, so it's off your plate.

6. Give yourself some margin.

You need to watch what you eat, but you also need to be realistic. If you try to never have a cookie or bread, you're setting yourself up for failure.

"A lot of people will deprive, deprive, deprive, and they're OK with it for a short period of time because of the results," says Jill Weisenberger, RD, a nutrition and diabetes expert and author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week.

The fix: Give your diet a little breathing room. For instance, if you love dessert, eat a small bowl of frozen yogurt or a scoop of ice cream after dinner. Make that your one treat for the day. "It has to be moderation, not deprivation," Weisenberger says. If you're not sure how to set those limits, ask your doctor, diabetes educator, or registered dietitian.

Show Sources


Marjorie Cypress, PhD, CDE, C-ANP, health care and education president, American Diabetes Association.

Wu, H. Public Health Nutrition, January 2013.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, nutrition and diabetes expert, Newport News, VA.

Shah, M. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, March 2014.

American Diabetes Association: "Sugar and Desserts," "Snacks."

Michael L. Dansinger, MD, MS, director, Tufts Medical Center’s Lifestyle Coaching Program for Diabetes and Weight Loss; assistant professor, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.

MedlinePlus: "Diabetes and Meal Planning."

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