How to Eat Well with Diabetes

Have diabetes? Here's how to build a healthy plate, based on ADA guidelines.

Eat a healthy dinner with whole grains for a flat belly

Check out these eye-opening numbers: One in 12 Americans have type 2 diabetes, and one in four have prediabetes—a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal. During the past 30 years, the percentage of American women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has doubled. What's more, if the current trend continues, as many as one in three Americans will have the disease by 2050. Now take a deep breath and let this sink in: Although diabetes is as serious condition, it's one you can control. 

So, what can you eat? Many people think that having diabetes means living with a long list of forbidden foods. It is true that people with the condition should follow a healthful diet that's low in sodium and saturated fats, high in fiber and full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains—but that's true for practically everyone. The difference for people with diabetes is that they have to ensure they balance what they eat (especially carbohydrates), their activity level and their medication to keep their blood sugar at a safe level.

If you have diabetes, use this guide to build a healthy plate:

  • Fill one half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, spinach or lettuce and other leafy greens.
  • In one quarter of your plate, put whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, whole-grain bread or pasta) or starchy foods (beans, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash).
  • In the other quarter of your plate, put a protein such as lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs or tofu.
  • You can add a serving of dairy (such as 6 ounces of plain yogurt), a serving of fruit (about 1/2 cup of berries or sliced fruit) or both, depending on your carb total for the day. Include small amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds or avocado.