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Healthy Eating for Diabetes

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
March 10, 2022
March 6, 2023

Eating healthy seems quite intuitive. But when you start reading and asking questions, it's not so simple. What raises glucose? What are ‘Diabetic’ foods? What should I avoid? Let’s answer these questions, and give you solutions!

Food Groups Effects on Glucose Healthy Food Sources Not Healthy Food Choices
Carbohydrates ⇧Glucose Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas
Grains: Farro, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, barley, rye, whole grain pasta
Starchy Vegetables & fruits: Potatoes, corn, beets, all sweet fruits, honminy, winter squash
Some dairy: cow’s milk, oat milk, rice milk, soy milk, yogurt.
Many processed foods: Chips, cookies, donuts, cakes, fried foods
Proteins* ⇩ Slows glucose absorption
Seafood: Salmon, tuna, halibut, oysters
See Nuts and Seeds below
Low-fat proteins: chicken breast, 90% lean beef, turkey, bison, eggs, low-fat cheese
High fat meats, marbled meats
Bacon (Canadian bacon is lower fat)
Fats** ⇩ Slows glucose absorption Nuts and seeds: sunflower, corn, soybean oils, flax seeds, walnuts, hemp, and chia seeds, almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin and sesame seeds
Other Fats: olives, olive oil, avocados, avocado oil,
Animal fats: Butter, lard, cheese, cow’s milk, cream
Plant fats: Coconut oil, chocolate, palm oil, most processed foods
Low-calorie foods No change, or slight glucose rise Vegetables: Kale, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes, carrots, all leafy greens Fried versions

There are no foods specifically for people with Diabetes. The big picture is that we should be eating mostly low-fat, natural, high fiber, plant-based foods (both for people with Diabetes, and those seeking to prevent it).

A meal high in saturated fat, together with carbohydrates will make glucose take longer to rise, but more stubborn to fall back down to normal. This will result in glucose staying high for even 4-8 hours after a high fat meal.**

Proteins in a meal may also slow glucose absorption slightly depending on their fat content, so make healthy choices! Individuals using insulin may notice that protein also raises glucose. This is typically only noticeable and crucial for those taking insulin.*

If putting all this together seems confusing, don’t worry, we understand. Your UnifiedCare Dietitians put together a sample menu just for that reason.

Sample Diabetes Friendly Meal Plan

Breakfast (35g carbohydrate (6g fiber), 14g protein, 9g total fat)

  • 1/4 cup dry oats
  • 2 tablespoons natural almond butter (no salt, sugar, or oils added)
  • 1/2 cup fresh sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 tsp orange zest (optional)
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • Decaffeinated coffee

Morning Snack (15g carbohydrate (5g fiber), 3g protein, 6g total fat)

  • 10 grapes
  • 8 walnut halves

Lunch (37g total Carbohydrate (13g fiber), 32g protein, 15g total fat)

Spinach salad containing:

  • 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup berries
  • 1/3 cup chia, hemp seeds, and slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup cooked farro, quinoa, black beans, or other whole grain
  • 4oz roasted chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinaigrette

Dinner (45g total Carbohydrate (9g fiber), 28g protein, 12g total fat)

  • Herb-crusted baked cod, 3 ounces cooked (about 4 ounces raw)
  • 2/3 cup brown rice pilaf with vegetables
  • 1/2 cup fresh green beans, steamed
  • 1/2 corn cob
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil for cooking
  • Herbal iced tea

Evening Snack (15g Carbohydrate (3g fiber), 3g protein, 6g total fat)

  • 1/8 avocado on
  • 1 whole wheat toast

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