Making Healthy Food Choices When You Have Diabetes

By American Diabetes Association

Part of Quick Diabetic Recipes For Dummies Cheat Sheet

People with diabetes need to be conscious of what they eat to keep their blood glucose levels in check and reduce their risk of diabetes complications. Consult a registered dietitian/registered dietitian nutritionist or another diabetes care expert soon after being diagnosed to set up a personalized meal plan and learn which foods are best for you.

The following foods are good options for people with diabetes:

  • Nonstarchy vegetables: Fill up on fresh, canned, or frozen nonstarchy vegetables (such as tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, asparagus, onions, peppers, salad greens, and many more). Eat these foods often.
  • Fruits: Enjoy fresh, canned, or frozen fruits, but watch your portion sizes. Look for canned fruit in juice or light syrup, not heavy syrup.
  • Starchy vegetables: Enjoy starchy vegetables (such as white and sweet potatoes, corn, green peas, pumpkin, and acorn squash) but keep an eye on portion size. These foods are nutritious, but higher in carbohydrate.
  • Whole grains: Choose whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, sorghum, farro, barley, and more) and whole-grain products instead of refined, processed grains, pastas, and breads.
  • Lean proteins: Choose lean sources of protein like poultry (without the skin), fish, and plant-based proteins (such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and nut products, tofu and tempeh, and meat replacement products).
  • Unsaturated fats: Choose plant-based fats (such as olive oil, canola oil, other vegetable oils, avocados, and nuts) instead of butter, margarine, lard, solid fats, cream, or high-fat meats.
  • Low-fat or nonfat dairy: Low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, and cheese may be good options.
  • Zero-calorie beverages: When you’re thirsty, your best drink options are water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, and diet soda.

Avoid these foods or enjoy them occasionally:

  • Red meat: Eat red meats (such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, and bison) in moderation and choose the leanest cuts of high-quality meat available. Red meats can be high in saturated fat.
  • High-fat, highly processed meats: Fatty meats (such as sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and ground beef) should be limited in your diet.
  • Saturated and trans fats: Replace the sources of saturated and trans fat (such as butter, cream, full-fat dairy products, high-fat meats, lard, gravies, chocolate, and poultry skins) with unsaturated fats.
  • Processed starches: Limit white grains, breads, pastas, and crackers as well as chips, cookies, cakes, and other highly processed starches.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: People with diabetes should avoid regular sodas, fruit drinks and juices, energy drinks, and sweet teas.