To stay healthy, our body needs over 40 nutrients every day. We need carbohydrates, protein, fat, several vitamins and minerals, water, and calories. The best source of these nutrients is the food we eat at meals and snacks–and so it is perfectly OK to eat and enjoy food! We have learned, however, that some food choices are better at promoting health than others.
Glucose, insulin, and energy
For people with diabetes, healthy food choices, along with physical activity and medications, can help manage blood sugar levels. When food is eaten and digested, it is broken down into glucose, also known as sugar. The glucose enters the blood stream, and with the help of insulin, it enters into the body’s cells to provide energy.
Foods with carbohydrate affect blood sugar the most. Specific recommendations about which foods and how much of them to eat will vary with the diabetes medications/insulin that your doctor has prescribed and that you are taking.
General suggestions for healthy eating
- Eat 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks throughout the day. Do not skip meals!
- Drink beverages that do not contain carbohydrate or calories.
- Eat as many colorful, non-starchy vegetables as desired (3 or more servings/day).
- Choose foods that are low in fat. Eat less fried foods, sausages, hot dogs, bacon, salad dressings, and mayonnaise.
- Choose foods that are low in sodium. Eat less processed meat, cheeses, bacon, sausages, salty snacks, soy sauce, pickles, and olives.
- Eat 2 servings of lean meat or meat substitutes every day. (A single portion is the size of the palm of your hand.)
- Eat more dried beans, lentils, and plant-based protein foods.
- Choose whole-grain breads and pastas more often.
- Limit fruits to 2 or 3 servings a day.
- Drink little or no alcohol.
- Eat foods that are prepared simply and that have not been over-processed.
- To achieve a healthy weight, eat enough, but not too much.
- Eat meals that contain foods from at least 3 of the major food groups. The food groups are starches, vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein, and fats.