Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is important for everyone. But it’s even more important if you have diabetes. That’s because making the right food choices can go a long way toward helping you manage your blood sugar.


Food is made up of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates (carbs) have the most effect on your blood sugar. That’s why, with a type 1 or type 2 diabetes diet, it’s important to keep track of how many carbs you’re eating.

The types of carbohydrates found in food are:

  • Starches found in bread, cereal, pasta, grains, and starchy vegetables
  • Sugars found in fruits, vegetables, milk, yougurt, and sweets
  • Fiber found in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, beans, peas, and nuts

One serving of a carbohydrate food contains 15 grams of carbohydrate. This is sometimes called 1 “carb choice.” Some examples of 1 carbohydrate choice are:

– 1 slice of bread

– 1 small apple

– 8 ounces of skim milk

– 1/4 of a large baked potato (3 oz)

Your meal plan should include the following.

  • Eat different healthy foods at every meal so that you get needed nutrients (the healthy things in food)
  • Keep track of the carbohydrates you eat. People often count carbohydrates as a way to help them manage their blood sugar
  • Match how much you eat with your activity level and your medications
  • Limit the amount of saturated fats you eat. (Examples of saturated fat include butter and lard)

Using food labels

Food labels can be very useful to people with diabetes. Pay careful attention to the serving size and amount of carbohydrates.

Reading a nutrition facts label

Serving sizes

There is often more than 1 serving contained in a food package. Read the serving size compared with the total servings in the package. For instance, a whole bag of chips may be 4 to 5 total servings, which would be 4 to 5 times the calories, fat, carbohydrates, and other nutrients in a serving size. Also, compare serving sizes listed on the food label with the ones in your diabetes meal plan. They may not be the same.

Carbohydrate counting and diabetes

Your diabetes meal plan may be based on carbohydrate counting, or carb counting. If so, be sure to look at the total carbohydrates on the food label, not just sugar. Some nutritious foods may be high in sugar, such as fruit and milk.

Also look closely at food labels for sugar-free products. Sugar-free foods may not be carbohydrate-free. There may be little difference in total carbohydrate grams between a sugar-free product and its standard version. For instance, certain cereals and grains may not have added or natural sugar, but a high level of carbohydrates. Learn more about carbohydrates and blood sugar on


When looking at fats on the food label, check to see the types of fats listed. Good fats can help protect your heart and lower cholesterol, while bad fats raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.

Good fats:

  • Monounsaturated
  • Polyunsaturated

Bad fats:

  • Saturated
  • Trans

The same rule applies with fat-free foods as with sugar-free foods. When looking at fat-free foods, carefully compare the carbohydrate and calorie content of the fat-free version against the standard version.

Free foods

Free foods are those with fewer than 20 calories and fewer than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving. These foods may include diet soda, sugar-free gelatin, and sugar-free chewing gum. You can generally include some of them in your diet whenever you like. You can get more information about free foods and hundreds of easy-to-follow, diabetes-friendly recipes on Registration is free, quick, and easy!

Keeping track of mealtimes and snack times

Depending on the type of diabetes medicine you use, you may need to follow a careful schedule for meals and snacking. An insulin analog such as NovoLog® Mix 70/30 offers a dosing schedule that can be adjusted around mealtimes and physical activity. Follow your doctor's instructions about adjusting your dose.

Healthy meal planning may help you reach some important goals such as:

  • Keeping your blood sugar within your target range
  • Managing your weight
  • Controlling your blood cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) 
  • Controlling your blood pressure

Control portion sizes with the Plate Method

The Plate Method

The Plate Method is a meal planning tool that helps in a type 1 or type 2 diabetes diet. It helps you to include all the important food groups in each of your meals and manage your portion sizes.

Draw imaginary lines on your plate (just like the image below). Put servings in each section as shown. You’ll get just the right portions of the foods you need.

One example is the "My Plate" design from the US Department of Agriculture, which replaces the old Food Pyramid. You may find it useful in understanding portion control.

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Get ideas and tips for working more physical activity into your day – that doesn’t involve joining a gym.

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Reading a Nutrition Facts Label

Almost all foods that come in packages have a Nutrition Facts label. Learn to read them with this helpful fact sheet from Cornerstones4Care® and you, too, can make healthy food choices.

Download it Now!