If you are living with diabetes, you can still enjoy the dishes you like and be healthy. Food affects blood sugar levels differently in people with diabetes, and so you need to pay attention to the foods you choose. Having a plan helps you manage your diabetes since it keeps your blood glucose level in the target range, and can prevent, delay, or treat diabetes-related problems such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycemia(high blood sugar), kidney disease, heart and blood vessel problems and eye and nerve problems.
Make a meal plan that works best for you. We recommend keeping a food diary to help you become more aware of when you eat, and checking your blood sugar before or after meals to help you understand how certain foods affect your glucose level. Be sure to share your food diary and blood sugar records with your healthcare team to better understand how well you control your diabetes.
When you plan your meals, choose healthier food options from each of these groups for a well-balanced diet. Be sure to check food labels to know what you eat, so you can make better food choices.
Grains, beans, and starchy vegetables
- Eat whole grain or whole wheat products like whole grain bread or crackers, bran cereal, oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat spaghetti, buckwheat noodles.
- Count starchy vegetables and beans in the same group of grains as they are high in carbohydrates, which will increase your blood sugar level. Substitute the grains with yams, potatoes, corn, taro, dried beans, and chestnuts to add the varieties in your meal. Learn more about counting carbs here.
- Limit the amount of packaged instant noodles you eat since they are high in fat and salt.
- Choose more dark green and deep yellow vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, bok choy, choy sum, and bitter melon.
- Eat fresh or frozen vegetables plain or lightly salted.
- Avoid preserved vegetables since they are high in salt.
- Eat fresh fruit! Eat whole fruits like apples, peaches, and pears with the skin on. Whole fruits have more fiber than fruit juices, which helps keep you full.
- Eat more fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and pomelo.
- If you eat canned fruit, choose fruits packed in juice or water, not syrup.
- Limit fruits that have highly concentrated sugar, such as lychee, lungan, or canned fruit packed in syrup.
Meat and protein
- Eat fish and chicken without the skin. Choose lean cuts of beef, lamb, or pork for red meat.
- Cut away all visible fat from meat.
- Eat more tofu, a good source of low-fat protein.
- Try beans, which provide protein and fiber. If you eat lots of beans, cut down the grain portion of your meal plan.
Dairy and foods rich in calcium
- Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products like fat-free or low-fat milk, plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese.
- If you can’t drink milk, try fortified, plain soy milk. Limit the flavored kinds like vanilla or chocolate that have more sugar and calories.
- Try other calcium-rich foods, such as tofu fortified with calcium, bok choy, Chinese broccoli, and kale.
Read our Diabetes Healthy Meal Planning pamphlet for many more tips on managing your diet with foods that you love. If you or someone you know is managing life with diabetes, we have more bilingual resources here.