Managing your diabetes by making the right food choices


Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you still can’t be a foodie.

Enjoying your meals while making healthy choices is all about balance. In general, lean toward non-starchy veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Foods high in fiber are often a good choice.

However, there are some “tricky” foods that may seem like a good idea, but are really much better off as a treat. Take eggs, for example. A 2009 study showed that diabetes risk went up with an increased egg consumption. But, many dietitians believe that a hard-boiled egg is a safe, high-protein snack.

Tackling a sweet tooth with diabetes can be a challenge and some artificial sweetners can scratch the itch. But be careful not to overdo it. A recent study showed that the body’s ability to control glucose levels was inhibited by artificial sweetners. A small sprinkle here and there should be fine, though.

The good news is there are several “super foods” that people living with diabetes should work into their meal plans:

  • beans
  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • citrus fruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • berries
  • tomatoes
  • fish high in omega-3s
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • milk/yogurt

Each of these foods brings a little something extra to the table, whether it’s fiber, protein, vitamins or minerals.

Going out to eat is also one of the great food experiences. But it doesn’t have to be a hassle. With a little planning, you can enjoy a nice meal out without worrying about your blood sugar.

The first step is timing. You probably know by now what time your body needs food, so plan to be at the restaurant and ordering by then. Also, watch out for those code words on the menu that can really throw your diet for a loop. “Au gratin,” “battered,” “alfredo” and “sticky” are all pen names for “covered in breading or cheese and high in carbohydrates, fat and even sugar.” 

Instead, look for menu items described as, “rubbed,” “seared,” “spiced,” “seasoned,” or “roasted.” These dishes will typically have fewer calories and fats because they are prepared more simply.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet for diabetes. Some people need to watch calories, while others count saturated fats. Carbs affect everyone a little differently, too. Working with your physician and a dietitian can help you get a better idea of your exact needs and how certain foods could affect your health.

The only blanket that covers everyone with diabetes, and isn’t a bad idea even if you don’t have the condition, is to watch your sugar intake - especially drinks with high-fructose corn syrup. Limit your salt to 2,300mg per day and eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids.

How you manage your diabetes depends a lot on the choices you make. Vegetable soup or loaded potato? Fruit or a bottle of soda? Grilled or fried? You have the knowledge you need to make the right choices. Now, it’s all up to you.