According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 10.5 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, and this number is only expected to grow.1 Diabetes mellitus is an illness related to an inability to properly utilize sugar from food. This results in chronically elevated blood sugar, which can cause long-term damage to the body’s organs.

There are different types and underlying causes of diabetes, but the symptoms and complications can all be improved with diet and lifestyle changes.

What is a Diabetic Diet?

A diet for diabetes management is not all that different from an overall healthy diet. The goal of this diet is to help normalize blood sugar. A true diabetic diet must be personalized and tailored to the individual. It is always best to work with a professional who can create a plan that takes into account your health history and lifestyle.2 

Overall, a diabetic diet is a low fat, moderate carbohydrate diet. It should include a wide variety of whole foods, with a particular focus on lean protein and vegetables. Heart healthy fats, low fat dairy products, fruit, and high fiber whole grains can be eaten as well, but in moderation. 

Diabetes is strongly correlated with high levels of inflammation. Therefore, an emphasis should be placed on anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 fats, inflammation-reducing seasonings, and high antioxidant vegetables. Foods that trigger inflammation, particularly those high in saturated fat or sugar, should be limited.3

People with diabetes should also limit processed foods as well as those high in sugar. Instead, the diet should be focused on unprocessed, whole foods

Meal timing also matters for people with diabetes and may be dependent upon medication or insulin schedule. A general rule of thumb is to try to eat a balanced meal that includes protein, a healthy fat, a vegetable, and a carbohydrate source.


Unprocessed foods are one of the essential aspects of creating a diabetic-friendly diet.

Tips for Success

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, the best thing you can do is start learning as much as you can. Turn to credible sources like the American Diabetes Association to get started.

Second, begin monitoring your blood sugar. Foods impact people differently, therefore you will need to develop an understanding of how foods affect you personally. Working with a registered dietitian is the best way to learn to evaluate your blood sugars and determine how to change your diet appropriately. 

For meal planning, the American Diabetes Association recommends following the “plate” method to get started with the diabetic diet. It involves filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ with lean protein, and ¼ with a high fiber carbohydrate. Using the plate method is a simple way to balance your meals for better blood sugar control.

The “plate method” is a simple way to battle blood sugar control.

Finally, diet isn’t the only thing that can help control blood sugar. Exercise, weight management, sleep, and stress can all play a role as well. With a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can keep your blood sugar well-controlled.

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About the Author
Melissa Mitri
Melissa is a health writer with over 12 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She specializes in helping women move away from restrictive habits that lead to vicious yo-yo weight cycles. Melissa enjoys writing about health, nutrition, and fitness with the goal of simplifying complex health topics for the reader. You can find out more about Melissa at www.melissamitri.com

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