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Managing Diabetes With Food

April 13, 2022
Low GI diet food for diabetics with a blood sugar testing device.

When you are diagnosed with diabetes, it's natural to have questions about what food to eat. Each person with diabetes is different and there is no single diet that suits everyone. Only you and your medical team can figure out what’s right for you.

Glucose meter with sugar level and fresh ripe vegetables in wooden box.

But here are some tips that you can use to help you make healthier food choices.  

Healthy eating can:

  • Help manage your blood glucose (sugar)
  • Work to manage your weight
  • Help regulate your blood pressure level
  • Focus on healthy cholesterol levels
  • Hep reduce the risk of diabetes complications like stroke or heart attack

As food is key to managing diabetes and reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications, choose 1 or 2 things below that you can do today. Once you feel comfortable with the new changes, choose another healthy eating tip to work on.

Raw vegetables with blood glucose meter, syringe, lancet and stethoscope on desk.

Portion control

Portion sizes are important to think about whether you have type 1 or type 2. It makes calculating nutritional facts when you’re carb counting or managing your weight a lot easier. Remember, portion sizes are different for everyone, so what’s right for someone else might not be right for you. Canada’s Food Guide suggests you fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits.  People with diabetes should choose more vegetables than fruit because most vegetables have less sugar. Divide the other half of your plate between protein food and whole grain foods.

Plate showing portion control. Includes green salad with fruit, salmon and couscous.

Eat healthy carbohydrates

It's true that all carbohydrates (carbs) affect your blood sugar, but it is a myth that people with diabetes are not “allowed” to eat any carbohydrate foods. The type and amount of carbohydrate you eat is what matters.

Here are some healthy sources of carbohydrates:

  • Whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, and whole oats
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Pulses such as chickpeas, beans, and lentils
  • Dairy like unsweetened yogurt and milk
Closeup of Indian meal. The bowl contains sweet potato orange curry, brown rice, green cilantro parsley garnish, chickpeas and sesame seeds.

It’s also important to cut down on foods low in fibre such as white bread, white rice, and highly processed cereals. Check food labels when you’re looking for foods high in fibre if you’re unsure.

Eat less red and processed meat

If you’re cutting down on carbs, you might start to have bigger portions of meat to fill you up. But it’s not a good idea to do this with red and processed meat, like ham, bacon, sausages, beef, and lamb. These all have links with heart problems and cancers.

Try swapping red and processed meat for these:

  • Pulses such as beans and lentils
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry like chicken and turkey
  • Unsalted nuts

Health food high in protein with meat, fish, dairy, legumes, bean curd, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts.

Limit sugars and sweets

Limit sugars and sweets such as regular pop, desserts, candies, jam, and honey. The more sugar you eat, the higher your blood sugar will be.

A woman pushes the donut plate away choosing to eat a healthier apple.

Plan for healthy meals

Planning healthier meals and snacks can go a long way to helping you reach your goals. Talk to your registered dietitian or health-care team about the amount of carbohydrates that are right for you and for help with meal planning.

Meal planning card, with dry pasta, vegetables and nuts surrounding it.

Drink water

Make water your beverage of choice. Water is a sugar-free and calorie-free way to quench your thirst and stay hydrated. Drinking regular pop and fruit juice will raise your blood sugar.

Water being poured into a glass sitting on a counter.

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