Diet and Nutrition
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2021 | Last updated: June 2023
Proper nutrition is an important part of healthy living for every person. It is especially true for people with diabetes.
Human bodies need a balanced diet to get the nutrients and calories necessary to function well. In people with diabetes, something goes wrong with how the body processes sugars, which leads to a host of health problems. You can control diabetes better by learning what foods to eat and how much, what foods to eat less of, and how foods will affect your blood glucose. You may be surprised at how much there is to learn.
Learn about nutrition
Getting proper nutrition is an important part of healthy living for every person. This is especially true for people with diabetes. Our bodies require a balanced diet to get all the nutrients and calories we need to function at our best. Knowing the basics of carbohydrates, fiber, fats, protein, minerals, and vitamins will help you meet your goals for blood pressure, blood glucose, and weight.1
Healthy eating basics
While it may seem overwhelming at times, small and steady changes to your eating can make a big difference in how you feel. The basics of healthy eating include:2
- Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy foods, healthy fats, and lean meats or meat substitutes
- Try not to eat too much
- Try not to eat too much of any one type of food
- Space your meals evenly throughout the day
What food marketing terms mean
Food packages are designed to entice you to buy the food tucked inside. Part of that design includes words like “zero calories” or “less fat than the leading brand.” The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific definitions for what nutritional claims mean. Understanding these claims can help you make better choices when grocery shopping.3
How to read a food label
It is not always easy to understand what the terms on a food package mean. By comparing food labels, you will begin to learn which of your favorite brands need to be substituted for an ingredient lower in carbohydrates, fat, or salt. You will also find out which foods tend to drive up your blood sugar versus keep it steady.3
Weight loss goals for people with T2D
If you have diabetes, losing extra pounds and maintaining a healthier body weight are important goals. About 9 out of 10 people with diabetes carry extra weight or have obesity. This means that nearly everyone with diabetes needs to focus on losing weight to stay healthier, longer.4
Your weight loss does not have to be dramatic to improve your health. Many studies show that losing even a few pounds can help someone with prediabetes prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes.1
Comparing weight loss diets
There are almost as many weight-loss diets as there are people with diabetes. Each of these diets has pros and cons. Some meal plans are more expensive than others. Some require more meal planning and home cooking.4
Foods to avoid and enjoy
Many people with type 2 diabetes ask, “What foods can I still eat, and what foods do I have to avoid?” The good news is you rarely have to completely give up a certain food if you have diabetes.
While there are no hard-and-fast rules to what you can or cannot eat, there are some general guidelines of foods you will be told to avoid and some to eat more often.
Whether you are newly diagnosed or have been living with diabetes for years, you probably have questions about how to best care for yourself. Finding answers to these questions will help you manage your diabetes better long term.
Eating with diabetes Q&A
Since what you eat has a direct impact on your blood sugar levels, many people have questions about eating with type 2 diabetes. Learn more about everything from whether you can drink alcohol to how to survive your favorite holidays without ditching your diet.