What foods you can eat if you have diabetes

What foods you can eat if you have diabetes
Credit: NIDDK.

You may worry that having diabetes means going without foods you enjoy.

The good news is that you can still eat your favorite foods, but you might need to eat smaller portions or enjoy them less often.

Your health care team will help create a diabetes meal plan for you that meets your needs and likes.

The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan outlines.

The food groups are

Vegetables

  • Nonstarchy: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes
  • Starchy: includes potatoes, corn, and green peas

Fruits

Includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes

Grains

At least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains

  • includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa
  • examples: bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas

Protein

Lean meat, chicken or turkey without the skin, fish, eggs, nuts and peanuts, dried beans and certain peas, such as chickpeas and split peas, meat substitutes, such as tofu.

Dairy—nonfat or low fat

Milk or lactose-free milk if you have lactose intolerance; yogurt and cheese.

Eat foods with heart-healthy fats, which mainly come from these foods:

  • oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola and olive oil
  • nuts and seeds
  • heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • avocado

Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine.

What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?

Foods and drinks to limit include:

  • fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
  • foods high in salt, also called sodium
  • sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream
  • beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks

Drink water instead of sweetened beverages. Consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea.

If you drink alcohol, drink moderately—no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man.

If you use insulin or diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body makes, alcohol can make your blood glucose level drop too low.

This is especially true if you haven’t eaten in a while. It’s best to eat some food when you drink alcohol.