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What to eat if you have diabetes

Diabetes care specialists, nurses and nutritionists can help you manage diabetes, so you can live your life to the fullest.

By: Samantha Cortese, RDN 

It is estimated that about 463 million people were living with diabetes in 2019, and that number is expected to grow to 578 million people by the year 2030. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, working with a diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) can help you lower your risk of diabetes-related complications. 

“The plate method” and diabetes

To help lower your risk of diabetes-related complications that increase your health expenses, a DCES may recommend several strategies, including:

  • Being physically active
  • Taking medications
  • Monitoring levels at home and through regular laboratory testing
  • Getting immunizations and eye and foot examinations
  • Meal planning to support a balanced, healthy diet

If you have diabetes, one of the first questions you might ask a DCES is “What should I eat?” Remember that most foods can fit into a balanced eating plan, but a great method for eating a balanced diet is following a general visual concept called “the plate method.” 

The plate method recommends filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as: 

  • Broccoli
  • Leafy greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Carrots 
  • Zucchini

Then fill one quarter of your plate with heart-healthy proteins such as skinless poultry and fish. In the final quarter of your plate, you can include starchy foods and other carbohydrates such as whole grains (like brown rice, quinoa or barley), white or sweet potatoes, fruits and dairy. 

Setting up your plate to achieve this healthy balance is one of the best first steps you can take toward improving your health while continuing to fit in the foods you are accustomed to and enjoy.

While registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) often tailor meal-planning strategies to individual needs, there are some general “choose this versus that” ideas that tend to be good for anyone with diabetes.

Get diabetes support

If you’re living with diabetes, consider visiting with an accredited DCES at Geisinger by calling 800-275-6401. Our team of RDNs and registered nurses are ready to help you understand and incorporate diabetes-friendly meal planning strategies. 

You can also get additional diabetes support by registering for the diabetes text messaging program* which sends you motivational messages three times a week for 13 weeks to help you manage your medications, provide diet and exercise challenges and show you ways to keep your blood glucose “in the zone.”

The program consists of one general track and three elective tracks: 

  • Diabetes and you: General information 
  • Diet hints that are nutritious and delicious 
  • Exercise tips to get you moving 
  • Help with managing your medications 

To get automatic text notifications, just text “Enroll” to 570-284-3603

*If you have an unlimited texting plan, there is no charge. Otherwise, standard text and data rates apply, according to your wireless carrier contract.

Next steps: 

Looking for more? Explore our dietitian-approved recipes
Want to meet with a nutritional specialist? Find a nutritionist near you
Learn more about diabetes care at Geisinger

Fresh vegetables


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