Eat Better

Managing Diabetes With Healthy Meals

What you eat has a big impact on type 2 diabetes. Making smart choices about carbohydrates helps control your blood sugar level. Limiting calories helps manage your weight. And choosing nutrient-rich foods boosts your overall health.

Knowing what foods to choose and how to work them into meals is not always easy. The American Diabetes Association recommends using a tool called “Create Your Plate” to make eating healthy simpler.

This approach can help you fill your plate with a variety of food groups that provide important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. It also keeps your serving sizes in check, which can help you manage your weight.

A plate of heathy food that includes rice and beans, grilled chicken breast and vegetables.

Here’s How to Create Your Plate

  • Imagine a line down the center of your plate that divides it in half. Then, divide one of the two sides in half again so that you have three sections in total.
  • Put a non-starchy vegetable like steamed broccoli or a salad in the largest section of the plate.
  • Fill a quarter of the plate with a lean protein like skinless chicken breast or fish. Beans, legumes, tofu, eggs or low-fat cheese are good vegetarian options.
  • Put a whole grain in the last quarter of the plate. You can choose options like barley, brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Avoid refined grains like white rice or pasta.
  • Superfoods
    • Beans are a diabetes superfood you want to include in meal planning. Kidney, black and pinto beans are considered a starchy veggie with a low glycemic index. They come packed with fiber and protein, and they’ll fill you up with fewer calories and no saturated fat.
      • Sources: American Diabetes Association, American Academy of Family Physicians
  • Weight Management
    • Losing weight may help you manage diabetes. You could drop 10 pounds a year if you cut 100 calories each day. Start with simple substitutions. Put mustard on your burger instead of mayo. Swap a soda for water with a slice of cucumber.
    • Sources: Cooperative Extension System, American Dietetic Association, America on the Move Foundation
  • Healthy Food Swaps
    • Eating too many processed foods can cause health problems like diabetes. When eating your breakfast, remember the fewer the ingredients, the better. Plain oatmeal with fruit is a healthier choice than boxed cereal. Use milk in your coffee instead of creamer.
      • Sources: BMJ, World Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Whenever you have questions about the foods you eat, discuss them with your health care team. Your team can provide extra support to help you eat well with diabetes.

Sources: Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Find More Tips to Live Better With Diabetes

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