Questions and Answers: What Can I Eat?

UW Health Diabetes Management: Woman reading a recipeMost people have a number of conflicting thoughts and feelings after being diagnosed with diabetes. Many are particularly concerned with future food choices. Having diabetes no longer requires you to follow a special or prescribed diet. Following a healthy, balanced style of eating is one of the most important things you can do to manage your diabetes. Below are some commonly asked questions related to eating with diabetes.
Do I need to avoid all sweet foods and foods made with sugar?
No – this is not necessary. It is now known that the total amount of carbohydrate you eat is the main factor in raising blood glucose levels, not whether the carbohydrates comes from bread, milk, fruit or sweets. Foods may affect blood glucose levels differently, so knowing which foods affect you the most, is very helpful information. Occasionally eating sweets is fine, as long as they are substituted for other carbohydrate containing foods. However, sweets may not be as nourishing as the other carbohydrate containing foods and can easily cause you to over indulge.  How Does Food Affect Your Blood Sugar? (pdf)

Do I need to buy sugar-free, fat free, no added sugar and diabetic foods?
No – foods that are labeled sugar-free, no added sugar and diabetic may still contain carbohydrates and thus, will affect your blood glucose level. It is always important to check the total amount of carbohydrate listed on food labels. Many foods labeled sugar-free, no added sugar and diabetic contain as many carbohydrates as the regular versions.
Do I need to look at the amount of sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts label?
No - the amount of sugar in a product is included in the total amount of carbohydrate in that product. Sugars may mean added sugar (like corn syrup) or natural sugar (like sugar found in milk and fruit). Look at the Total Carbohydrates listed on the food label.
Do I need to pay attention to what I’m eating, even if I take diabetes medication?
Yes – it is still important to eat healthfully and be active. Good diabetes management is not just about controlling your blood glucose levels, but controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight. Paying attention to your diet and being active can help control all the health factors associated with diabetes. You will find that your diabetes medications work much better when you choose to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Do I need to eat the same foods everyday?
No – eating a variety of foods can be very helpful in managing your diabetes. Eating a variety of foods provides a better balance of nutrients and helps to assure you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. It may be helpful to control your blood glucose levels by trying to eat similar amounts of carbohydrate at each meal throughout the day.
Do I need to eat at the same time everyday?
Yes, it is a good idea to try and eat at consistent times each day, especially if you take medications to help lower your blood sugar. If you are late with a meal, your blood sugar could drop too low. Even without medications, eating at consistent times can help you to better regulate your hunger and fullness levels and prevent overeating.