Eating Well with Diabetes

Eating Well with Diabetes

Individuals with Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes, can improve the state of their health with a change in diet and lifestyle. A significant number of people, 29.1 million American children and adults, have developed some type of diabetes and could benefit from learning how to improve their eating habits.

Patients with diabetes not only have to deal with managing diabetes symptoms but may also develop co-occurring conditions and complications, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Dietary changes are one way that families may reduce costs associated with diabetes treatment and improve general health and well-being.

For those newly diagnosed and others on a regimen of prescription drugs, food may be an overlooked tool to help with symptoms of diabetes. Learn more about diabetes superfoods, easy recipes and important considerations as part of a treatment program.


People diagnosed with diabetes do not have to feel deprived. There are many foods and recipes that can support health and even help reduce symptoms of diabetes. Whole or unprocessed foods with a low glycemic index are generally recommended. Such foods are typically high in fiber and release sugars slowly, reducing the likelihood of an insulin spike after a meal. Beans, such as black beans and kidney beans, offer patients a high-fiber product, high in protein but without saturated fat. Patients can choose from dry or canned beans to stock their kitchen. It is important to rinse canned beans before use to reduce sodium levels, as salt is often added to the solution. Other recommended superfoods for those with diabetes include:

  • Fat-free milk and yogurt.
  • An ounce of nuts, such as walnuts or almonds.
  • Whole grains that contain both the germ and the bran such as pearled barley and oatmeal are suggested.
  • Salmon and fish high in Omega-3. Aim for 6 to 9 ounces per week. Avoid deep fat fried and breaded fish.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Berries, including strawberries or blueberries.
  • Sweet potatoes are a low glycemic swap for regular potatoes.
  • Citrus fruits, including oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as collards, spinach and kale.

When planning a meal or snack, consider the following suggestions for improved nutritional benefits. It is preferable to eat the whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice. Patients will get the fiber and added nutrition from the fruit while natural sugars are slowly absorbed when eating an orange compared to consuming a glass of juice. Frozen berries are a good alternative to fresh and may be used in parfaits, superfood smoothies and to top oatmeal. When feeling hungry, add more dark green leafy vegetables to a plate. Fresh spinach leaves are excellent to add to salads, toss in frittatas and more. Avoid deep fried and breaded foods in general as they add unnecessary saturated fats to a meal, increase calories and the breading is often a white processed carbohydrate that breaks down to unneeded sugar. Be aware of the high-sugar content in many yogurts and try Greek yogurt or make yogurt easily and cheaply at home. Budget friendly foods, such as beans, oatmeal and sweet potatoes, are long-lasting staples that can help satiate feelings of hunger and potentially result in a reduction of weight.

Substances to Avoid or Limit

Patients with diabetes would do well to limit their alcohol intake. There appears to be some evidence linking red wine to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. It is important that those with diabetes drink alcohol moderately. Men should consume no more than two drinks daily. Women should limit themselves to one drink. Do not drink when blood glucose levels are low. Stay hydrated with water when drinking alcohol. In addition, wearing an I.D. to inform others of a diagnosis allows patients to get the assistance they need if they show signs of hypoglycemia, which can look like drunkenness. Symptoms include dizziness, disorientation and sleepiness. Test blood glucose regularly to know the times best suited for a drink.

Common diabetes complications include an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. People with diabetes should reduce their sodium intake to lower their blood pressure. It is recommended that diabetics consume 2300 mg of sodium or less daily. Whole foods and those cooked without salt are a good choice for those with diabetes or high blood pressure. Look for low-salt frozen meals, “no salt added” canned vegetables or beans and avoid processed or cured meats, including salami, bacon and sausage products. There are a surprising number of foods high in sodium. Cooking homemade, healthy meals and reading labels can help patients with diabetes reduce their sodium intake.

More Recipe Ideas

Those with diabetes can eat well at home and on the go. Busy people can start the day off right with whole grain toast, fresh fruit and an egg in a cup recipe that can be topped with salsa. Other healthy breakfast ideas include quick smoothies that can be prepped in advance, yogurt parfaits or cottage cheese and canned fruit with a side of nuts. Restaurants now offer healthy options such as oatmeal, fresh fruit salads or an egg and cheese wrap or breakfast sandwich. Eat well starting with the first meal of the day.

There are a number of complications that have been associated with diabetes. Patients with diabetes may also run the risk of hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, neuropathy, kidney disease and more. An effective treatment plan should include diet as an important and fundamental component to manage symptoms of diabetes and help patients live fuller and healthier lives.

Patients with diabetes, their families and caregivers, healthcare professionals, educators, nutritionists and community members can gather resources to make it easier to change eating and lifestyle choices to benefit those diagnosed. Healthier eating habits may lower the rate at which children and adults develop diabetes and may help in diabetes management.


Lisa DiFalco is a leading writer for wellness and education. She has helped manage cases directly at halfway houses before extensive careers in education and wellness. She is passionate about vital issues and supports community improvement efforts.

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