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Quick Guide to the Healthy Diabetic Diet

Updated on April 10, 2010

Diabetes is a chronic disease of the endocrine system in which the body is unable to metabolize blood sugar effectively. Persons with this disease are at increased risk or weight gain, nerve damage, blurry vision, fatigue, and other health issues. This article was created to provide succinct, straightforward information about healthy eating for people with diabetes. Useful links for more detailed information are provided at the end.

The good news is that the healthy diet for diabetic persons is nearly the same diet recommended for healthy non-diabetic persons, with the exception of starchy carbohydrates (i.e., grains). Diabetics generally eat less starch (fewer servings of grains) than a non-diabetic person.

A healthy diet consists of a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats at each meal. In terms of calories consumed, a healthy diet consists of 50% carbohydrates, 30% proteins, and 20% fat. The requirements are not exact, so don’t obsess if at one meal or even one day you get slightly more or fewer calories than recommended for a particular type of food.

The links at the end of this article provide more information about serving size, the food pyramid, and healthy dieting.


Carbohydrates consist of fruits, vegetables, and grains (these are starches). The carbohydrates in your meal should consist of some starch, but not too much. Bread, potatoes, rice, quinoa, and other grains, are all a necessary part of a healthy diabetic diet, but should be limited. One slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice (either but not both) is sufficient starch for a diabetic person’s meal. Some diabetics eat practically no starch. Each person is different, so you should experiment to learn what works best for you.

Vegetables – eat 3 – 5 servings per day

Serving size: 1 cup of leafy vegetables

½ cup of other vegetables

Fruits – eat 2 – 4 servings of fruits

Serving size: 1 small apple or pear

½ orange or banana

1 cup of berries

Grains – eat limited servings per day (these are starches; start with 1 serving per meal)

Serving size: 1 slice whole grain bread

½ cup rice, cooked cereal, or pasta

1 cup cold cereal


Proteins are lean meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, eggs, and beans. Your meals should have 30% - 20% of its calories from protein.

Meat, fish, poultry – 1 to 2 oz. per meal (3 to 6 oz. per day).

Milk and cheese – 2 to 3 servings per day

Serving size: 1 cup of low fat milk

1 oz. of cheese


Fats are an important component of a healthy diet. They are necessary for brain and nerve health. You should get 20% – 30% of your calories from fat. Fat is in almost every food item. Rather than add fat to your plate to meet this target, you should be aware of how much total fat is in the meal. Meats, fish, cheese, and regular milk all have fat. Vegetables also have fat. And food is cooked, often some fat (cooking oil, butter) is added. If your meal has less than the targeted amount of fat, then go ahead and add a little blue cheese dressing to that salad or a pat of butter to that slice of toast.


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