Food & Nutrition

How to Eat Healthy with Diabetes

Your health care team is an important partner to your diabetes self-management and care. They can help provide you with evidence-based strategies that can inform and guide your health goals. But at the end of the day, you will make and live with the changes towards a healthier lifestyle. 

It’s important to remember that health is a journey. Whether you want to lower your A1C, be more active, or make better food choices, these changes all take time. As you learn and apply new skills and monitor your progress, you can adapt your self-management based on your situation.  

Your dietitian or diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) can help you meet your health goals while taking your culture, food access, cooking skills, and personal preferences into consideration. 

 What Impacts Your Diabetes Management 

While healthy eating is a crucial aspect of managing your blood glucose (blood sugar), there are many other factors to consider as well. It is important to understand how other elements of daily living impact you. These include:   

  • Diabetes management coping: The daily challenges of managing your diabetes can cause stress and influence how you feel about your overall wellbeing. When you lack coping skills, it can prevent you from making healthy eating choices. Understanding the impact of your mental health and diabetes can help you learn coping skills to deal with daily decision making, stressors, and barriers to healthy eating. 
  • Physical activity: Physical activity is important to your overall health, especially when living with diabetes. By making healthy food choices, you are fueling your body with the energy it needs to take advantage of your daily opportunities to move and be physically active. 
  • Medications: Understanding how your medications work in cooperation with your meal timing and food choices helps you better manage your diabetes and prevent complications. 
  • Monitoring: Keeping track of your daily activities, eating, and stress levels provides feedback on how your choices influence your blood glucose levels. By having this information written down or recorded, you will be able to start recognizing patterns and making informed decisions on changes you need to make.  
  • Health risks: Knowing how to prevent, detect, and treat both immediate and long-term risks is important to preventing diabetes complications. Healthy eating helps to prevent complications such as low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) or high blood glucose (hyperglycemia) on a day-to-day basis. Over time, this helps reduce your chance of developing other major health issues. 
  • Biology: Everybody is different. Understanding how your body responds to the changes of your diabetes journey over time will empower you to advocate for therapies and strategies that contribute to your health goals. Healthy eating, physical activity, medication, and other factors may need to be adapted to better support your diabetes management success. 

For more information to help you gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to thrive with diabetes, find a diabetes education program. These highly specialized DCESs are ready to work closely with you to find practical solutions that fit your needs. 

What to Do if You Have Prediabetes  

For people with prediabetes, early treatment focused on moderate lifestyle changes can return blood glucose levels to a normal range. Small changes such as losing 5% of your weight and increasing physical activity can have a huge impact on delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes altogether. The Diabetes Plate is a great place to start as you build healthy habits.  

Work with a health care professional to make a plan that works for your lifestyle, or look for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recognized lifestyle change program that is guided by a lifestyle coach trained to use an evidence-based curriculum to teach you to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.