What foods can I eat if I have diabetes?
You may worry that having diabetes means going without foods you enjoy. The good news is that you can still eat your favorite foods, but you might need to eat smaller portions or enjoy them less often. Your health care team will help create a diabetes meal plan for you that meets your needs and likes.
The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan outlines.
The food groups are
- • VEGETABLES
- nonstarchy: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes
- starchy: includes potatoes, corn, and green peas
- • FRUITS—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
- nuts and peanuts
- dried beans and certain peas, such as chickpeas and split peas
- meat substitutes, such as tofu
- • DAIRY—nonfat or low fat
- milk or lactose-free milk if you have lactose intolerance
Learn more about the food groups at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Eat foods with heart-healthy fats, which mainly come from these foods:
- oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola and olive oil
- nuts and seeds
- heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine.
What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?
Foods and drinks to limit include
- fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
- foods high in salt, also called sodium
- sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream
- beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks
Drink water instead of sweetened beverages. Consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea.
If you drink alcohol, drink moderately—no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man. If you use insulin or diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body makes, alcohol can make your blood glucose level drop too low. This is especially true if you haven’t eaten in a while. It’s best to eat some food when you drink alcohol.
Will supplements and vitamins help my diabetes?
No clear proof exists that taking dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, or spices can help manage diabetes . You may need supplements if you cannot get enough vitamins and minerals from foods. Talk with your health care provider before you take any dietary supplement since some can cause side effects or affect how your medicines work .
 American Diabetes Association. Foundations of care and comprehensive medical evaluation. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(suppl 1):S26 (Table 3.3).
 National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary supplements: what you need to know. ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/DS_WhatYouNeedToKnow.aspx . Reviewed June 17, 2011. Accessed June 21, 2016.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2016). Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity. Retrieved September 13, 2018 from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity