Healthy Eating

You need to account for the calories and carbohydrate content of the sugar you eat, and often note the effects on your overall blood glucose levels. But you still need to count sugar as a carbohydrate, and it has little nutritional value. If you include lots of sugary items in your diet, you won’t be able to eat as much of the nutrient-rich carbohydrates such as grains and cereals that your body needs to keep you healthy.

Your dietitian can help you learn how to count sugar in your meal plan. For example, if you plan on having a piece of cake for dessert, you might want to skip the roll you normally have at dinnertime. Your dietitian or provider can also help you decide whether you need to adjust your insulin dose to deal with extra carbohydrates in your meal plan.

The truth is, healthy eating for a person with diabetes is no different from healthy eating for a person without diabetes. It’s a matter of eating a wide variety of foods and a balanced amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. It doesn’t mean you have to give up all sugars or special treats. You just have to make sure you account for the carbohydrate, fat, and calories in your total meal plan for the day. Nancy may be able to have ice cream, Arthur can go on a cruise, and Sharon can attend birthday parties and even have cake like the other children. Ask your diabetes care provider, dietitian, or diabetes educator for guidance. They may suggest you make up for special treats by eating less of something else, exercising a little longer, or taking an added amount of insulin.

People without diabetes may not notice the immediate effects of choosing an extra doughnut for breakfast. Their bodies balance the extra carbohydrates by putting out more insulin.

But if you have diabetes, you have to do the balancing act your body used to do for you. You need to make sure that your calorie and carbohydrate intake is balanced with your insulin doses, oral medication, and physical activity to keep your blood glucose levels on target. And, by eating more nutritious meals, you may improve your overall health and lower your risk for heart disease, some cancers, and hypertension.

Martha M. Funnell, MS, RN, CDE
Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center
University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Robert M. Anderson, EdD
Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center
University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Shereen Arent, JD
National Director of Legal Advocacy
American Diabetes Association

American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes

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