Navigating Nutrition Recommendations When You Have Diabetes

One of the main themes and questions I often see come up in social media is “How can I follow the Food Guide Pyramid when I have diabetes?” In this article I would like to break down the current United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommendations and how you can implement them into your life, even with a diagnosis of diabetes.

The food guide pyramid is out-Choose My Plate is in

In 2011, Michelle Obama presented the nation’s newest guide to healthy eating. ChooseMyPlate.gov was created to make it easier for Americans to understand how to eat healthy and to reach healthy lifestyle goals. “The first part of the campaign will encourage people to make half their plate fruit and vegetables. Later phases will urge consumers to avoid oversize portions, enjoy their food but eat less of it and drink water instead of sugary drinks.” 1

Choosemyplate.gov focuses on making changes for yourself and your family that will lead to less empty calorie consumption, and more nutritious food choices. The plate is broken into four different sections with a small additional circle for dairy.2

Navigating nutrition recommendations when you have diabetes

This new diagram gives visual support to encourage portion control, variety and nutrient-dense food choices. The goals behind ChooseMyPlate.gov are:

  • “Focus on variety, amount, and nutrition.
  • Choose foods and beverages with less saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.
  • Start with small changes to build healthier eating styles.
  • Support healthy eating for everyone.” 2

How can I implement this when I have diabetes?

You may feel like you have even more of a challenge with healthy eating because of your diabetes diagnosis. ChooseMyPlate.gov wants you to take into account your own personal needs including sex, gender, weight, height, and activity level. You may choose to have a smaller portion size of grains and opt for more vegetables instead of fruit. You may choose to skip the dairy altogether. This is not something that has to be followed perfectly, but is encouraged to be used as more of a guide to make sure you are nourishing your body the best way you can. If you look at your plate and see that half of it is covered with colorful vegetables, a small portion contains some lean protein such as grilled chicken or fish, and another small portion contains some complex carbohydrates, I would say that you are doing everything ChooseMyPlate.gov is asking of you. Water is always the best beverage of choice due its supreme way of hydrating the body, as well as its no carbohydrate and no calorie values. Portion control is also a wonderful way to manage your diabetes, making it easier to know how the body reacts to certain food sources. Following the portion guidelines for ChooseMyPlate.gov may make it easier for you to recognize what food groups you are eating enough of, and which may be lacking or over-consuming.

Please keep in mind that your plate will still look different from others and that we are not meant to all eat the same foods, in the same portions, at the same time as everyone else. Being an individual is important and should be celebrated!

Tips to remember

  • ChooseMyPlate.gov is the USDA’s current nutrition guidelines for healthy eating in America
  • You are encouraged to vary your portions and foods by your own individual needs
  • Speak with your physician or a registered dietitian if you have further questions about how to make the best nutrition choices for your healthy lifestyle
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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