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Eating Well with Diabetes

What to Eat When You Have Type 1 Diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes

Eating well with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes means that you can eat the same healthy diet that's good for everyone—a diet that incorporates a variety of nutritious and delicious foods. Healthy foods can help you maintain normal blood glucose levels and manage your diabetes.

There's actually no such thing as a diabetic diet, so you're not stuck eating boring or bland foods. When you have diabetes, you can eat a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, non-fat dairy foods, lean meats, beans, and healthy fats (eg, olive oil).

To help you create a healthy eating plan that works best for you, work with a registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator (CDE). An RD or CDE can also teach you how to read food labels and count the amount of carbohydrates in your food—crucial information for people with diabetes.

There are 2 sections in this article: Find out about eating well with type 1 diabetes or eating well with type 2 diabetes.

Eating Well with Type 1 Diabetes
When you have type 1 diabetes, it's a balancing act of healthy eating and the insulin you take to achieve blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. Having type 1 diabetes means that your body can't fully use the food you're eating unless you balance it with the right amount of insulin.

Insulin—a hormone produced by your pancreas—binds with glucose and transports it throughout the body. The insulin helps your body, especially your muscles, use glucose efficiently.

Because what you eat and how much insulin you take needs to be in sync to maintain normal blood glucose levels, eating well with type 1 diabetes means you need to plan your meals.

An RD or CDE can help you kick-start your meal planning.

Counting carbs also plays a significant role in eating well with type 1 diabetes. The carbohydrates we eat, such as bread and pasta, eventually become glucose in our blood. These foods can cause blood glucose levels to soar. You need to watch the carbs you eat to avoid spikes in your blood glucose levels. Balancing the carbs you eat with the correct amount of insulin helps you achieve this.

Counting carbs and testing your blood glucose levels just after your meals will help you determine if you had the right dose of insulin. They also help you learn how to make adjustments for future meals.

Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin but doesn't use it properly. To manage your condition, you need to be extra vigilant about incorporating a variety of nutritious foods into your diet and watching how much you eat.

You won't need to take insulin (unless your body isn't producing enough of it), but you may need to take medications to help your body process insulin sufficiently so that it binds with glucose to give your cells energy.

While a healthy eating plan for people with type 2 diabetes includes meal planning and counting carbs, portion control is key to eating well when you have type 2 diabetes.

You can work with an RD or CDE to help you downsize your portions, if you need to do that. He or she can teach you what to eat at each meal. For example, at dinner, you should fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (eg, spinach or broccoli), ¼ of your plate with a lean meat or protein (eg, chicken or fish), and the other ¼ of your plate with a starch food (eg, whole grain pasta, brown rice).

To help you plan delicious and diabetes-friendly meals, we have an entire section of diabetic recipes. Check it out today for ideas on how to cook fresh, flavorful meals.

Healthy Eating for Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes
The bottom line when it comes to eating well with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes is that there are plenty of healthy food choices that can help you handle diabetes and manage your blood glucose levels.

Updated on: March 9, 2015