New Health Guide

Diet for Diabetic Patients

Nov 27, 2014

Medical nutritional therapy (MNT) is a healthy eating plan that encourages the intake of nutritious foods and keeping to regular mealtimes in order to better manage diabetes. It is not a restrictive diet. Rather, a healthy diet for diabetic patients includes foods that are low in fat and calories but high in nutrition. It stresses lots of fruits and vegetables and healthy whole grains. In many ways, this medical nutritional therapy is good for everyone.

Diet for Diabetic Patients

Diabetes has been on the rise for decades largely due to obesity and poor lifestyles, yet most cases can be prevented with healthy changes. Prevention and control of diabetes doesn’t mean restriction and deprivation. While it is important to keep a healthy diet, you don’t have to avoid sweets completely or confine yourself to a lifetime of eating bland, flavorless food.

There are a few specific recommendations for the MNT diet that you can discuss with your doctor or a registered dietician. These recommendations can help you form an eating plan to get you healthy and limit the impact of diabetes on your body, and may even help you reverse the disease.

What You Should Eat

High fiber foodsDietary fiber found in plant-based foods can help lower the instance of heart disease and control your blood sugar levels. High fiber foods include fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, wheat bran, and whole-wheat flour.

Healthy carbohydrates: Sugars and starches are broken down by the body into blood glucose during digestion. Simple sugars are broken down more quickly and can have an adverse effect on the body. You should focus on slower-burning carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

Healthy fats: Some fats are bad for you, but foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy and can help lower cholesterol levels. Healthy fats include olives, avocadoes, nuts and their oils as well as canola oil. However, you should limit these foods as they can be high in calories.

Heart-healthy fish: You should include heart-healthy fish at least twice a week in your diet as they are a good alternative to meat that can be high in fat. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that lower bad cholesterol in the blood, promoting a healthy heart. Good fish choices include salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.

Recommended Foods

How They Help

Non-starchy vegetables

These non-starchy vegetables don’t cause a spike in blood sugar. They are high in fiber to keep you feeling satisfied, and are high in nutrition yet low in calories. Non-starchy vegetables include asparagus, broccoli, celery, peppers, and artichokes.

Non-fat milk and yogurt

Non-fat milk and yogurt are low in fat and sugar, thus would not cause a spike in blood sugar. They are also rich in Vitamin D and calcium which are both essential to a healthy body and bones.


Tomatoes keep blood sugar low and are packed with lycopene. Lycopene can reduce the risk of cancer, macular degeneration (eye disease), and heart disease.


Blueberries, raspberries, and other berries are loaded with powerful antioxidants that can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Berries are also low in sugar and high in fiber.

Citrus fruits

Oranges and other citrus fruits are loaded with Vitamin C and healthy fiber. Be sure to eat the fruit and not choose just the juice. Fruit juices can contain added sugars.

Barley, lentils, and whole grains

Lentils provide iron, protein, Vitamin B complex, and complex carbohydrates that slow the rise in blood sugar. Barley can lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels stable. Whole grains contain fiber and antioxidants.

What You Should Avoid

Having diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke by leading to the development of clogged and hardening of the arteries. A healthy diet for diabetic patients can reduce that risk. Foods to avoid or limit include:

SodiumToo much sodium can increase blood pressure, putting stress on the arteries and heart. You should aim for no more than 2,300 mg daily.

Cholesterol: Small amounts of cholesterol are necessary for healthy body functions, but you should get no more than 300 mg daily. Limit your consumption of high-fat dairy, shellfish, liver, egg yolks, and other organ meats.

Saturated fats: No more than 7% of your daily calorie intake should come from foods high in saturated fats. This includes processed animal products such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs as well as high-fat dairy.

Trans-fatTrans-fats have no nutritional value and should be completely avoided. This includes all processed snacks and baked goods as well as shortening and margarine.

Foods to Avoid

The Harm They Can Bring


High sugar foods can cause a large spike in blood glucose levels and have no nutritional value. This can lead to weight gain and a worsening of diabetes.

Fruit juice

While whole fruits are packed with nutrition and fiber, the juice can be loaded with calories and added sugars that may cause blood glucose to soar, which worsens diabetes.


While raisins and other dried fruit may offer a healthier alternative to candy and other bad snacks, they are still loaded with sugar which may increase glucose levels. Drying fruit concentrates their sugar content.

Pancakes and syrup

Pancakes are very high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. This along with the high sugar content of syrup causes high and dangerous spikes in blood glucose. If you add butter, you are adding saturated fat, which is not good for heart health.

Whole milk

Whole milk is high in saturated fat which is bad for heart health. It can also worsen insulin resistance, which is detrimental to health with diabetes.


Bacon, like most fatty cuts of meat, is high in saturated fat that can lead to inflammation in the body and have adverse effects on heart health. Diabetes already puts you at greater risk for heart disease and adding saturated fat makes things much worse.

A Sample Menu

A healthy diet for diabetic patients should take your body size and level of daily activity into consideration. Your daily calorie intake should total no more than 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day. The goal is to eat nutritious foods either for losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight. A sample daily menu should look somewhat like this:

  • Breakfast: Whole wheat pancakes, six ounces of non-fat vanilla yogurt, and a piece of fruit or ¾ cup of berries.
  • Lunch: Try a vegetable and low-fat cheese pita (whole wheat) and apple slices with two tablespoons of almond butter.
  • Dinner: Beef stroganoff made with whole wheat noodles and lean beef, ½ cup of carrots, and a side salad with 1 ½ cups spinach, half a tomato, ¼ cup chopped bell pepper, and a dressing of 1 ½ teaspoons of red wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
  • Snacks: Two rice cakes (unsalted) topped with one ounce of low-fat spreadable cheese or one orange with half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese.