Diseases & Conditions

Nutrition Basics for People with Diabetes

What should I eat?

People with diabetes should follow the same general guidelines as everyone else. Eating the right kinds of foods in the right amounts can help you to control your diabetes. One way to ensure a healthy meal is the plate method. You can use this method by:

  • Filling 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrots and green beans.
  • Filling 1/4 of your plate with protein foods 56-85 grams (3-4 ounces) of fish, poultry or lean meat.
  • Filling 1/4 of your plate with starchy carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or starchy vegetables.
  • Adding a small piece of fruit or 285 grams (8 ounces) of skim or low-fat milk, which are additional carbohydrate choices.
  • Using 1-2 teaspoons of heart-healthy vegetable oil or tub margarine.

For breakfast, fill two-quarters of the plate but not the other half. For lunch and dinner, fill the entire plate.

When should I eat?

Eat three well-balanced meals per day. Meal times should be four to six hours apart. Try to avoid eating between meals unless a snack is included in your meal plan. DO NOT SKIP MEALS. Eating the same amount of food at the same time every day will prevent your blood glucose from going too high or too low.

Nutrition facts: Reading a food label

Use the following guidelines to make the food label more meaningful:

  • Start with the serving size. This information is printed on the food label.
  • Look at the Total Fat line. If this amount is 3g or less, the food is considered low-fat. Please note that saturated fat is part of the total fat content and should be strictly limited. Talk to your registered dietitian to find out how much fat is right for you.
  • Look at the Cholesterol line. Your cholesterol intake for the day should be less than 200 mg.
  • Look at the Sodium line. If the number is less than 140 mg, the food is considered low in sodium. Limit your daily sodium intake to 2300 mg.
  • Look at the Total Carbohydrate. This amount includes sugar, sugar alcohol, fiber, and other carbohydrates. Divide the total carbohydrate amount by 15 to calculate the number of carbohydrate choices in the serving. (See the handout Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar Control.)
  • Look at the Protein line. This amount will be important to you if you have kidney problems. Your dietitian can help determine how much protein is right for you.

The goal of nutrition therapy

The goal of nutrition therapy in diabetes is to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight based on Body Mass Index (BMI), to get blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, and to attain optimal lipid (fat) levels in the blood. You should know your body mass index (BMI), which should be equal to or less than 25. Your doctor or dietitian can help you calculate your BMI.

Sizing up your portions

86 grams (3 ounces) of meat = Deck of cards
A medium apple or peach = Tennis ball
9 grams (1 ounce) of cheese = 4 stacked dice
118 g (½ cup ) of ice cream = Tennis ball
236 grams (1 cup) of broccoli = Your fist
1 teaspoon of butter or peanut butter = Your thumb
9 grams (1 ounce) of nuts or small candies = One handful

© Copyright 2017 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala Healthcare, and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

We’re here to make managing your healthcare easier.

800 8 2223 Request an Appointment

Our Doctors

Meet all the doctors from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

View Doctors

Patient Stories

Listen to the inspiring stories from our patients.

Learn More

Insurance Partners

We partner with many insurance companies offering coverage for your care.

Explore More