Diabetes Mellitus and Nutrition, Adult

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    Diabetes Mellitus and Nutrition, Adult

    Diabetes Mellitus and Nutrition, Adult

    When you have diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, it is very important to have healthy eating habits because your blood sugar (glucose) levels are greatly affected by what you eat and drink. Eating healthy foods in the right amounts, at about the same times every day, can help you:
    • Manage your blood glucose.
    • Lower your risk of heart disease.
    • Improve your blood pressure.
    • Reach or maintain a healthy weight.

    What can affect my meal plan?

    Every person with diabetes is different, and each person has different needs for a meal plan. Your health care provider may recommend that you work with a dietitian to make a meal plan that is best for you. Your meal plan may vary depending on factors such as:
    • The calories you need.
    • The medicines you take.
    • Your weight.
    • Your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
    • Your activity level.
    • Other health conditions you have, such as heart or kidney disease.

    How do carbohydrates affect me?

    Carbohydrates, also called carbs, affect your blood glucose level more than any other type of food. Eating carbs raises the amount of glucose in your blood.

    It is important to know how many carbs you can safely have in each meal. This is different for every person. Your dietitian can help you calculate how many carbs you should have at each meal and for each snack.

    How does alcohol affect me?

    Alcohol can cause a decrease in blood glucose (hypoglycemia), especially if you use insulin or take certain diabetes medicines by mouth. Hypoglycemia can be a life-threatening condition. Symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as sleepiness, dizziness, and confusion, are similar to symptoms of having too much alcohol.
    • Do not drink alcohol if:
      • Your health care provider tells you not to drink.
      • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.
    • If you drink alcohol:
      • Limit how much you have to:
        • 0–1 drink a day for women.
        • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
      • Know how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).
      • Keep yourself hydrated with water, diet soda, or unsweetened iced tea. Keep in mind that regular soda, juice, and other mixers may contain a lot of sugar and must be counted as carbs.

    What are tips for following this plan?

    Reading food labels

    • Start by checking the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods and drinks. The number of calories and the amount of carbs, fats, and other nutrients listed on the label are based on one serving of the item. Many items contain more than one serving per package.
    • Check the total grams (g) of carbs in one serving.
    • Check the number of grams of saturated fats and trans fats in one serving. Choose foods that have a low amount or none of these fats.
    • Check the number of milligrams (mg) of salt (sodium) in one serving. Most people should limit total sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day.
    • Always check the nutrition information of foods labeled as "low-fat" or "nonfat." These foods may be higher in added sugar or refined carbs and should be avoided.
    • Talk to your dietitian to identify your daily goals for nutrients listed on the label.


    • Avoid buying canned, pre-made, or processed foods. These foods tend to be high in fat, sodium, and added sugar.
    • Shop around the outside edge of the grocery store. This is where you will most often find fresh fruits and vegetables, bulk grains, fresh meats, and fresh dairy products.


    • Use low-heat cooking methods, such as baking, instead of high-heat cooking methods, such as deep frying.
    • Cook using healthy oils, such as olive, canola, or sunflower oil.
    • Avoid cooking with butter, cream, or high-fat meats.

    Meal planning

    • Eat meals and snacks regularly, preferably at the same times every day. Avoid going long periods of time without eating.
    • Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
    • Eat 4–6 oz (112–168 g) of lean protein each day, such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, or tofu. One ounce (oz) (28 g) of lean protein is equal to:
      • 1 oz (28 g) of meat, chicken, or fish.
      • 1 egg.
      • ¼ cup (62 g) of tofu.
    • Eat some foods each day that contain healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, seeds, and fish.

    What foods should I eat?


    Berries. Apples. Oranges. Peaches. Apricots. Plums. Grapes. Mangoes. Papayas. Pomegranates. Kiwi. Cherries.


    Leafy greens, including lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, and cabbage. Beets. Cauliflower. Broccoli. Carrots. Green beans. Tomatoes. Peppers. Onions. Cucumbers. Brussels sprouts.


    Whole grains, such as whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, crackers, tortillas, cereal, and pasta. Unsweetened oatmeal. Quinoa. Brown or wild rice.

    Meats and other proteins

    Seafood. Poultry without skin. Lean cuts of poultry and beef. Tofu. Nuts. Seeds.


    Low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.

    The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods and beverages you can eat and drink. Contact a dietitian for more information.

    What foods should I avoid?


    Fruits canned with syrup.


    Canned vegetables. Frozen vegetables with butter or cream sauce.


    Refined white flour and flour products such as bread, pasta, snack foods, and cereals. Avoid all processed foods.

    Meats and other proteins

    Fatty cuts of meat. Poultry with skin. Breaded or fried meats. Processed meat. Avoid saturated fats.


    Full-fat yogurt, cheese, or milk.


    Sweetened drinks, such as soda or iced tea.

    The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods and beverages you should avoid. Contact a dietitian for more information.

    Questions to ask a health care provider

    • Do I need to meet with a certified diabetes care and education specialist?
    • Do I need to meet with a dietitian?
    • What number can I call if I have questions?
    • When are the best times to check my blood glucose?

    Where to find more information:


    • It is important to have healthy eating habits because your blood sugar (glucose) levels are greatly affected by what you eat and drink. It is important to use alcohol carefully.
    • A healthy meal plan will help you manage your blood glucose and lower your risk of heart disease.
    • Your health care provider may recommend that you work with a dietitian to make a meal plan that is best for you.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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