Eating Right with Diabetes

By Lynn Norton, MS RDN | Thursday, November 18, 2021

November is National Diabetes Month, a great time to explore the role that nutrition and lifestyle choices play in our lives. Although eating habits can be difficult to change, simple adjustments can be beneficial to manage diabetes and promote better health.

Following a healthy meal plan and being active can help keep your blood glucose level — also called blood sugar — in your target range, a key component to managing diabetes. To manage your blood glucose, you need to balance what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medicine, if you take any

What you choose to eat, how much you eat and when you eat are all important to keep your blood glucose level in the range your care team recommends. Some healthy habits include:

Make half your plate vegetables. Include non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, asparagus, carrots, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes and broccoli each day. These promote gut health and can reduce risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, while not raising your blood glucose levels significantly.

Choose high-fiber carbs. Increase the amount of fiber you consume by eating at least half of all grains as whole-grain foods each day. Brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole-wheat breads and cereals are good examples. Cooked dried beans and peas (legumes) can also lower cholesterol and provide extra protein. Whole fruits also contain fiber, vitamins and minerals and can satisfy your sweet tooth.

Mix it up. Choose foods from each food group. By adding variety, you increase your chances of getting a healthy balance of beneficial nutrients.

Cut the fat. Opt for fish, skinless poultry and extra-lean meats whenever possible. Go meatless routinely by swapping out meat for plant proteins like tofu, lentils and other legumes. Bake, broil, roast, grill, boil or steam foods instead of frying. Choose more fat-free dairy products. Top salads with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar instead of creamy or oily dressings.

Not so salty. Minimize salt and substitute more pepper, herbs and spices. Eating less salt helps control blood pressure, protect the kidneys and reduce fluid retention. 

Mind your portions. Try not to overeat at any one meal. Spread your carbs out through the day. Read food labels and pay attention to portion sizes and nutrition content.

Focus on your food. Avoid multitasking while eating. Eat slowly. Take time to savor the tastes, textures and aromas from the foods that are nourishing your body.

Don’t skip. Skipping meals can make you more hungry, moody and unable to focus. Learn what works best for you. Find an eating pattern that is healthy for your blood glucose levels and stick with it.

Screenings are available to determine your blood glucose levels. A registered dietitian can help you develop good habits to manage your diabetes, understand the different roles of foods and ensure you're getting the proper amount and variety of nutrients in your diet.

Virtual, one-on-one counseling can be scheduled by calling (530) 543-5824. Contact your primary care provider to schedule a blood glucose test.


About the Author Lynn Norton, MS RDN
Lynn Norton is a registered dietitian with Barton Health.