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Publication #FCS8612

Healthy Eating: Nutrition and Diabetes1

Linda B. Bobroff, Jennifer Hillan, and Emily Minton2

A healthy diet, along with exercise and medication, can help control diabetes and reduce the risk for complications. A healthy lifestyle also helps reduce the chances of getting the disease for those who are at high risk for diabetes. For a healthy diet, follow these tips:

Choose Low-Fat Foods

Limit the amount of fat you eat by choosing more low-fat foods such as:

  • beans (pinto, black, and kidney)

  • fruits and vegetables

  • low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt

  • lean meats (round, sirloin, and loin), fish, and skinless poultry (chicken and turkey)

Limit Salt and Sodium

Reduce your consumption of salt and high-sodium foods such as canned and other processed food. Here are a few easy steps you can take to limit your sodium intake from food.

  • Buy vegetables that are fresh, plain frozen, or canned with no salt added.

  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meats instead of the canned or packaged options.

  • Cut back on frozen dinners, canned soups, and salad dressings.

  • Rinse canned beans and vegetables to wash away some of the added salt.

Also, limit the amount of salt you add to your food. Instead, use lemon and herbs and spices such as garlic, dill, rosemary, basil, chives, and red pepper flakes to give your food zest!

Add Fiber

To keep "regular" and reduce your risk for some of the complications associated with diabetes, choose more high-fiber foods. The following are just a few examples of high-fiber foods. Be sure to choose healthy foods that you and your family enjoy!

  • fruits and vegetables (pears, apples, grapes, berries, peas, carrots, greens, and sweet potatoes)

  • whole grain foods (oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas)

  • beans (black, red, pinto, lima, and lentils)

Control the Carbohydrates

Limit your intake of foods high in sugar such as cakes, pies, cookies, donuts, honey, chocolate, and sugary beverages. These are all simple carbohydrates. Choose your carbohydrates from the fruits, vegetables, and grains groups, plus beans and nuts.

Spread your carbohydrate intake across the day. This will help you control your portion sizes and give you more flexibility when planning your meals. Consult a registered dietitian (RD) to learn more about foods that contain complex carbohydrates and how to include them in your meal plan.

Choose Healthy and Tasty Snacks

Choose snacks that contain only small amounts of added fats and sugars. Foods that are rich in protein, and those that have complex carbohydrates such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole grain foods, will leave you feeling satisfied and fuller longer. Here are some snack ideas:

low-fat cottage cheese and fruit

low-fat yogurt with granola and fruit

vegetables and hummus

unbuttered air-popped popcorn

one hard-boiled egg and whole grain crackers

Work with a registered dietitian (RD) to create a flexible meal plan just for you.

Alcohol in Moderation

If you drink alcohol, consume no more than one drink (for women) or two drinks (for men) per day. One drink is:

  • 5 ounces of wine, or

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, or

  • 1½ ounces of liquor

It's best to drink alcohol with food, not by itself. Check with your pharmacist about possible interactions alcohol may have with your medications.

Variety is the Spice of Life!

Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group every day. This allows you to consume a balanced diet full of the essential nutrients your body needs.

Work with a registered dietitian (RD) to create a flexible meal plan just for you.


For more information, see or contact your County Extension office:



La versión español de este documento es Alimentación Saludable: Nutrición Y Diabetes (FCS8612-Span).This document is FCS8612, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published: March 2004. Revised August 2006, December 2009. Reviewed with minor revisions August 2011. Visit the EDIS website at


Linda B. Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, professor, Jennifer Hillan, MSH, RD, LD/N, former ENAFS nutrition educator/trainer, and Emily Minton, BS, ENAFS Program Coordinator, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; University of Florida; Gainesville, FL 32611. Original version prepared by Jennifer Hillan, MSH, RD, LD/N, former ENAFS nutrition educator/trainer.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.