7 Keys to a Diabetic Diet

The following article has been written by Shelby Kinnaird from DiabeticFoodie.com. Shelby is helping us kick-off Diabetes Awareness Month by sharing her 7 keys to a diabetic diet.

What’s the best diet for a person with diabetes? It depends.

Some people go extremely low-carb, some use a Paleo-style diet, some follow a ketogenic path. Others use the plate method or count carbohydrates. A few even go totally plant-based.

Everyone’s diabetes is different. You’ll need to play around to see which eating plan works best for you. I’ve tried a lot of things since my Type 2 diagnosis 18 years ago. Here are a few things I’ve learned that work for me.


Your mom was right – you really should eat your vegetables. Non-starchy ones like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, zucchini, leafy greens, artichokes, green beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, spaghetti squash, and tomatoes give your body the nutrients it needs. Also, remember that your liver likes raw foods. Try to eat something raw at every meal. Eat at least five servings of vegetables per day (one serving is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw). Shop at farmers’ markets.


You don’t have to avoid carbs entirely, but you do have to be careful about how many you eat at one time. The best choices are carbs that contain a lot of fiber like beans, whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit. I try to eat less than 40g carb per meal and that’s more than many other people with diabetes eat. Experiment to see what your body can tolerate.


Don’t be afraid of fruit! Yes, fruits have sugar, but they also have fiber and beneficial nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. One serving is approximately 1 cup of berries or 1/2 a large apple or banana. I’ve found the fruits that work best for me are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, and oranges. Eating fruit with a meal works better for me than eating it on its own. I consider it dessert!


Fat isn’t the enemy, but you should be aware that some fats are more beneficial than others. I get most of my dietary fat from extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. I totally avoid trans fats. Be careful when selecting dairy foods; sometimes “low-fat” and “nonfat” foods contain more sugar that their full-fat counterparts. Read the labels.


You know that foods you find in the produce aisle are better for you than those that come in boxes, right? My rule is to stay away from any product that contains a lot of chemical-sounding ingredients on the label. Better yet, avoid foods that have labels! Whisk together your own salad dressing (it’s easy). Make your own pot of soup with fresh ingredients (and a lot less sodium). Stay away from the drive-through and cook your own meals.


Once I started eliminating some meat and wheat from my diet, my A1C, lipids, and liver enzymes all improved. I also felt less sluggish and bloated. I’m not 100% vegan or gluten-free, but I eat that way about 80% of the time and my body is much happier.


Make water and unsweetened tea your beverages of choice. Once a coffee drinker, I switched to green tea when I was diagnosed with diabetes. Why? I can drink hot tea without sweetener, but not coffee. Plus I reap the health benefits of green tea. Get soda (regular and diet) out of your life for good. Alcohol can be okay for some people, depending on what medications they take. However, I’ve found that it’s much harder to control my blood glucose when I drink. So, for the most part, I don’t.


Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes or you’ve been living with it for years, you know how important your diet is to managing it. Individuals with both Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 are better off and healthier when they watch what they eat and make wise diet decisions. As mentioned above, there is not a one-size-fits-all diet for everyone with diabetes. However, certain things are good for everyone, like eating more fruits and veggies and consuming more water. Your diabetic diet is key to a healthy life, but also be sure to check out these other lifestyle changes you can make to effectively manage your diabetes.


One of the first questions newly diagnosed diabetics ask is, “What is a good diabetic diet?” It can be incredibly challenging to figure out what a healthy diabetic diet looks like for you, but you will need to make changes soon after a diagnosis to feel your best and be healthy. Start by minimizing processed foods and anything high in sugar, and then make other changes you feel would help, starting with the recommendations in the list above. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. You need to figure out what eating plan works for you to keep your levels in check and to feel your best. That way, when someone else asks you, “What is a diabetic diet?” you’ll have answers for them and can help them begin their own journey towards a healthy diabetic diet.


Many people don’t know this, but chiropractic care can bring about significant improvements in those with diabetes. Diabetes occurs because of a miscommunication between the pancreas and the immune system. Both of these are controlled by the brain, and the messages sent from the brain travel through the spinal cord and nerves throughout the entire body. If there is any sort of disruption in the nerves or spinal cord, dysfunction occurs, such as in the instance of diabetes. Chiropractic care realigns the spine and removes that nerve interference, allowing the body to function more effectively. Chiropractic care has proven effective in helping those with diabetes manage their health, and it has even helped some individuals experience complete eradication of the disease!


No matter which type of diabetes you have, maintaining an active lifestyle is vital to your health. Particularly if you have type 2 diabetes, staying active and losing weight can greatly improve your health and quality of life. Pairing your healthy diabetic diet with increased activity levels can actually help some people get rid of type 2 diabetes altogether. Regularly exercising brings about a slew of amazing benefits, including increased insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, more energy, weight loss, a healthier heart, and so much more. A mere 30 minutes a day for 5 days each week can bring about all of these advantages and more!

Your diabetic diet is just the starting point. Managing your diabetes may be a lifelong thing, but it doesn’t have to be horrible or incredibly hard. Make these few simple changes and begin implementing a healthy diabetic diet, and you’ll be on your way to better health!

A single “diabetic diet” that works for everyone does not exist. Take charge and figure out what foods make YOUR body work the best it can. Hopefully, some of the things that work for me will help guide you.


Shelby Kinnaird, publisher of Diabetic Foodie (http://www.diabeticfoodie.com/), was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1999. Her last A1C was 6.4%. You can find her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/diabeticFoodie/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/diabeticFoodie), Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/diabeticfoodie/), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thediabeticfoodie/).