Better nutrition can help improve health and manage diabetes.

Eating a variety of healthy foods is a great way to improve your diet. Reading food labels can help you understand what you’re eating so you can make the right food decisions. Ohio State doctors, nurses and dietitians can help you plan appropriate meals to manage your diabetes and improve your health.

Ohio State's Weight Management offers several programs that can help you lose and manage weight while improving your health.

In general, it is suggested that people with diabetes:

  • Consume moderate amounts of fat and protein.
  • Control carbohydrate levels by choosing fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, cereal, pasta and rice.
  • Avoid sugary foods (soft drinks, fruit juices and pastries).
  • Eat three small to moderately sized meals and one or more snacks each day. Do not skip meals and snacks. Keep the amount and types of food (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) the same from day to day.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases makes these recommendations:

Carbohydrates

These foods should make up less than half of the calories you eat. Choose healthier, high-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates. Bread, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, peas, corn, fruit, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cookies, candy, soda and other sweets all have carbohydrates. Choose wisely.

Vegetables

Carrots, broccoli, spinach and other vegetables add much more to your health than to your blood sugar. Enjoy lots of them, especially the leafy green type. Eat three to five servings a day. One serving equals 1 cup of leafy, green vegetables; 3/4 cup vegetable juice; or 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces, fats or salt.

Grains, Beans and Starchy Vegetables

Bread, grains, beans, rice, pasta and starchy vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy carbohydrates. Choose the varieties that have plenty of fiber and are low in fat. Fiber keeps your blood sugar from rising too fast. Whole-grain bread, crackers, tortillas, bran cereal, brown rice and beans are good choices. Use whole-grain flours in cooking and baking. Eat six or more servings a day. One serving equals 1 slice bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta or 1 English muffin.

Fruits

Choose fresh fruits and juices, which retain more of their nutritional value than frozen or canned varieties. Choose whole fruits more often than juices – they have more fiber. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are best. Choose fruit juices without added sweeteners or syrups. Eat two to four servings a day. One serving equals 1 medium whole fruit; 1/2 cup chopped, frozen, cooked or canned fruit; or 3/4 cup fruit juice.

Milk and Dairy

Dairy products are a great source of protein, calcium and phosphorus. Choose low-fat dairy to keep calories and cholesterol in check. Avoid yogurt with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Eat two to three servings a day. One serving equals 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1-1/2 ounces natural cheese or 2 ounces processed cheese.

Protein (Meat, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts)

Foods from this group also are excellent sources of B vitamins, iron and zinc. Choose fish and poultry more often. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey. Select lean cuts of beef, veal, pork or wild game. Trim all visible fat from meat. Bake, roast, broil, grill or boil instead of frying. Eat two to three servings a day. One serving equals 2–3 ounces cooked meat, poultry or fish; 1/2 cup cooked beans; 1 egg; or 2 tablespoons peanut butter.

Oils and Fats

Go easy on butter, margarine, salad dressing and cooking oil, which tend to be high in calories and fat. But don’t cut fats and oils from your diet entirely because they have nutrients that help you stay healthy. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated foods are better for you than foods high in saturated fat like hamburger, cheese, bacon and butter, which you should limit.

Sweets

Sweets are high in fat and sugar, so keep portion sizes small and try to eat sweets that are sugar-free instead. Ask for extra spoons and forks and split your dessert with others.

Alcohol

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and have it with a meal. Figure out if you can safely drink alcohol and in what amount by consulting with your healthcare provider. 

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