top of page

Diet & Nutrition

diet .jpeg

When you have diabetes, nutrition and physical activity are especially important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Following a healthy meal plan and remaining active helps keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy and sustainable target range, and minimises the risk factors. What you choose to eat, how much you eat, and when you eat are all important in keeping your blood glucose level in the range that your health care team recommends.

Becoming more active and making changes in what you eat and drink can seem challenging at first. You may find it easier to start with small changes and get help from your family, friends, and health care team.

Eating well and being physically active most days of the week can help you. But keep the following in mind: 

  • keep your blood glucose level, blood pressure, and cholesterol in your target ranges

  • lose weight or stay at a healthy weight

  • prevent or delay diabetes problems

  • feel good and have more energy

What foods can I eat if I have diabetes?

Having diabetes doesn’t mean that you must go without the food you enjoy. You can still enjoy all of them - but you may just need smaller portions of them, or enjoy them less often. Normally, your health care team will help create a diabetes meal plan for you that meets all your wants and needs - but do visit our recipes page for some extra inspiration if you’d like! 

The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in controlled amounts according to your meal plan. 

These can include:

  • Vegetables & Fruits 

    • non starchy: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes

    • starchy: includes potatoes, corn, and green peas

    • includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes

  • Grains

    • at least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains

    • includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa

    • examples: bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas

  • Protein

    • lean meat

    • chicken or turkey without the skin

    • fish and eggs

    • nuts and peanuts

    • dried beans and certain peas, such as chickpeas and split peas

    • meat substitutes, such as tofu

  • Dairy 

    • milk suited to your preferences

    • yogurt

    • cheese

Heart-healthy fats are important - like oils such as canola or olive oil, nuts and seeds, heart-healthy fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and avocado. When cooking, instead of butter, cream, lard, or margarine, use oil. 

Other information

What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?

You should aim to limit food and drinks like:

  • fried foods 

  • foods high in saturated and trans fat 

  • sweets (baked goods, candy, ice cream, chocolate products) 

  • beverages with added sugars (juice, soda, energy drinks, sports drinks) 

Water and sugar substitutes are great alternatives to sweetened beverages or sugars in coffee and tea. If you drink alcohol, drink moderately - no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day if you are a man. If you use diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body produces, alcohol can make your blood glucose level drop too low. Therefore it’s important to stay especially wary, as well as eat some food when you drink alcohol as this helps keep yourself in balance. 

When should I eat if I have diabetes?

Some people with diabetes need to eat at about the same time each day. Others can be more flexible with the timing of their meals. Depending on your diabetes medicines or type of insulin, you may need to eat the same amount of carbohydrates at the same time each day. If you take “mealtime” insulin, your eating schedule can be more flexible.

If you use certain diabetes medicines or insulin and you skip or delay a meal, your blood glucose level can drop too low. Ask your health care team when you should eat and whether you should eat before and after physical activity.

How much can I eat if I have diabetes?

If you have diabetes, it is crucial to eat the right amount of food as this will help you manage your blood glucose level and your weight. With the help of your healthcare team, you can figure out how much food and how many calories you should be eating per day.

Weight Loss planning

If you are overweight or have obesity, work with your health care team to create a weight-loss plan.

The Body Weight Planner can help you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach and maintain your goal weight. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories and replace less healthy foods with foods lower in calories, fat, and sugar.

If you have diabetes, are overweight or obese, and are planning to have a baby, you should try to lose any excess weight before you become pregnant.


Learn more about planning for pregnancy if you have diabetes.



The plate method helps you control your portion sizes. It shows the amount of each food group you should eat. This method works best for lunch and dinner.

Instructions: Use a 9-inch plate. Put non-starchy vegetables on half of the plate; meat or other protein on one-fourth of the plate; and a grain or other starch on the last one-fourth. Starches include starchy vegetables such as corn and peas. You also may eat a small bowl of fruit or a piece of fruit, and drink a small glass of milk as included in your meal plan.

The plate method shows the amount of each food group you should eat. Try a quick sample here using this link, but make sure to create one properly with your healthcare team before enforcing any habits (Create Your Plate). 

Your daily eating plan also may include small snacks between meals.

Portion sizes

  • You can use everyday objects or your hand to judge the size of a portion.

  • 1 serving of meat or poultry is the palm of your hand or a deck of cards

  • 1 3-ounce serving of fish is a checkbook

  • 1 serving of cheese is six dice

  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta is a rounded handful or a tennis ball

  • 1 serving of a pancake or waffle is a DVD

  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is a ping-pong ball

Carb counting

Carbohydrate counting involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat and drink each day. Because carbohydrates turn into glucose in your body, they affect your blood glucose level more than other foods do. This method helps you manage your blood glucose level. If you take insulin, counting carbohydrates can help you know how much insulin to take.

The amount of carbohydrates in foods is measured in grams. To count carbohydrate grams in what you eat, you’ll need to:

  • learn which foods have carbohydrates

  • read the Nutrition Facts food label, or learn to estimate the number of grams of carbohydrate in the foods you eat

  • add the grams of carbohydrate from each food you eat to get your total for each meal and for the day

Most carbohydrates come from starches, fruits, milk, and sweets. Try to limit carbohydrates with added sugars or those with refined grains, such as white bread and white rice. Instead, eat carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat or nonfat milk.

Choose healthy carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat milk, as part of your diabetes meal plan.

In addition to using the plate method and carb counting, you may want to visit a registered dietitian (RD) for medical nutrition therapy.

bottom of page