Diet and Diabetes

If you are overweight, you have a much higher chance of getting type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of diabetes. Over 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. A healthy diet, combined with a regular exercise program, will help you lose weight and reduce your chances of getting the disease.

If you already have diabetes, losing weight will lower your blood sugar levels, while also lowering your risk for other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease.

Healthy diet choices

A healthy diet for a person with diabetes is similar to a healthy diet for anyone else. Experts recommend eating a wide variety of foods including:

  • Beans
  • Fruits
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish
  • Non-or low-fat dairy products
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains

Other basic suggestions for losing weight include:

  • Avoid fried foods. Bake, grill, broil, or roast vegetables and meat instead.
  • Choose nonfat or low-fat selections, such as 1% milk and low-fat cheeses.
  • Use a cooking spray instead of oil or butter when you cook.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Have at least five servings per day.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber, as they will help you feel full.
  • Be realistic about your goals. Slow, steady weight loss is much better for you than a "crash" diet.

Controlling blood sugar

Eating well-balanced meals helps a person with diabetes keep his or her blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. By checking blood sugar levels regularly, a person with diabetes will soon be able to predict which foods raise or lower those levels.

A person with diabetes can eat sweets, as long as he or she works them into a meal plan. Like other carbohydrates—such as bread or potatoes—sugar raises blood sugar levels. Eating only moderate amounts of sugar keeps your blood sugar levels at a good place and keeps you from gaining weight.

To control your blood sugar levels, it is important to:

  • Test your blood sugar regularly.
  • Aim for a diet that is 50% to 60% carbohydrates, 10% to 20% protein, and no more than 30% fat.
  • Match the amount of insulin you take to the amount of food you eat every day, if insulin is part of your daily care.
  • Take your diabetes medication faithfully.
  • Learn as much as you can about nutrition and diabetes.

A person with diabetes does have to pay more attention to what he or she eats than other people. But with a proper diet, you may not have to give up the foods you like entirely.

A registered dietitian can help you create a meal plan to maintain your blood sugar levels and help you lose weight. Check with your doctor or a dietitian before radically changing your diet.