Nutrition for Adults with Diabetes

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Making healthy food choices and exercising regularly can help control and may even help prevent diabetes. Recommendations for healthy eating are similar for type 1 (formerly called juvenile diabetes) and type 2 diabetes.

Without proper health care, diabetes can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels, and can increase the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Controlling diabetes is very important.

Before type 2 diabetes develops, a stage called pre-diabetes (i.e., when blood sugar levels are higher than normal) usually occurs. Research has shown that, in many cases, people with pre-diabetes symptoms can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes with healthy food choices and exercise.

One of the first things to do after receiving a diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes is to talk with a qualified health care provider and establish a diabetes care plan. In many cases, patients are referred to a nurse educator or registered dietician to create a healthy eating plan, including information about what, when, and how much is to be eaten, and when to take diabetes medication, if necessary.

General guidelines for managing diabetes include the following:

  • Eat three balanced meals each day at regular intervals. Do not skip meals.
  • If necessary, have a healthy snack between meals.
  • Drink water rather than soft drinks or sweetened juice.
  • Choose whole-grain foods with higher fiber contents.
  • Limit sweets, regular soft drinks, desserts, candy, jam, and honey.
  • Limit saturated fats and dietary cholesterol.
  • Avoid trans fats (found in foods with hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils).
  • Engage in daily physical activity.
  • Establish and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
  • Regulate blood glucose levels with diet, exercise, and medication if necessary.

Publication Review By: John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M.

Published: 28 Feb 2007

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015