Common Questions About Eating with Diabetes

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2021

Since what you eat has a direct impact on your blood sugar levels, many people have questions about eating with type 2 diabetes. Here are a few of the most common questions we see on,2

How can I stick to my eating plan during the holidays?

Holidays can be eating-intensive occasions that may wreck your eating plan. There are several strategies you can use to keep your calorie and carbohydrate consumption on track, even during the holidays.

Can I have alcohol?

If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy drinking alcohol. The key is to drink in moderation. Alcohol contains calories but no nutrients, so you will need to include what you drink into your daily calorie total. Generally, doctors recommend no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men.1

What if I miss a meal?

One thing you should do if you have diabetes is to get into the habit of taking small, healthy snacks along with you wherever you go. If you miss a meal or your meal is later than usual, you can always eat a snack to avoid having dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

If I am pregnant and have diabetes, should I change my eating plan?

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about how to change your diabetes eating plan. You will want to make sure you get the extra calories and nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth.

Should I change my eating plan when sick?

When you are sick it can be hard to stick to your diabetes eating plan. You may not be able to keep food down, or a stuffy head and scratchy throat may lessen your appetite.

Try to eat something so you keep your blood sugar balanced. Crackers, popsicles, soup, bananas, plain rice, ginger ale, and unsweetened apple sauce are easy-to-eat foods. Make sure to drink at least 1 cup of water or another calorie-free liquid per hour while awake. You should also check your blood sugar and take your insulin as often as your doctor suggests.

What are “free foods”?

“Free food” is any food with less than 20 calories and less than 5 grams of carbohydrates. You can eat these foods without concern for weight gain or the need for additional insulin. Examples include sugar-free gelatin, diet soda, and sugar-free gum.

Are sugar substitutes safe, and do they have calories?

The sugar substitutes aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-K, neotame, stevia, and sucralose are safe for most people. Another group of sweeteners includes sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, and maltitol. These will increase blood glucose after eating, but less than sugar will. This second group of sweeteners may cause gas and diarrhea.

Keep in mind, labels that say “sugar-free,” “reduced sugar,” or “no sugar added” are not necessarily carbohydrate-free.

How can I stick to my eating plan when I eat out?

Restaurants can be a wonderful time to join family and friends. However, you will enjoy it more by sticking with your diabetes eating plan. Here are some healthy eating tips for eating out:

  • At a sit-down restaurant, ask your server about ingredients and serving sizes.
  • Chain restaurants are required by law to post health information about their menu. Go online before going to a chain to find nutritional information about their food.
  • Ask for sauces, sour cream, butter, salad dressings, and gravy be served on the side.
  • Watch portion sizes. Get used to taking home some of your meal.
  • Ask for extra vegetables to replace fries.

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