Diabetic Diet: What to Eat & Avoid (with Meal Plan)

Clinical review: Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
April 2022

A diabetic diet aims to reduce the intake of simple carbohydrates (like refined sugar and honey), refined flour (found in white bread and white pastas) , fats (like fried foot and butter) and fatty protein (like meat, eggs and cheese). Excessive consumption of these foods can trigger blood sugar spike, causing imbalances in diabetics.

Diabetic diets should prioritize the intake of food that is rich in fiber like fruit with the peel, fresh vegetables and whole grains. These should be consumed in moderation, however. Even if they are healthy, excess intake can also cause elevated sugar levels. You should also give preference to food with healthy fats like olive oil, and lean protein, like white fish and chicken. 

You should also aim to have 4 to 6 meals per day, 2 to 4 hours apart, to avoid episodes of low blood sugar. You may be experiencing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, if you have symptoms like dizziness, fainting or even seizures. Diabetics should also exercise within 2 hours of eating to avoid hypoglycemia when working out. 

What to eat 

Diabetics should eat food that is rich in fiber, lean protein and good fats, like: 

  • Whole grains: especially whole wheat flour and rice, whole grain pastas, oatmeal and quinoa 
  • Legumes: like beans, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils and peas 
  • Vegetables: preferably fresh veggies, like lettuce, tomato, arugula, chard, pumpkin and onion 
  • Lean meats: like white fish, chicken, lean cuts of beef 
  • Fruit: especially fresh fruit which can be eaten whole or sliced, like orange, papaya, peach, pineapple, pear and tangerine
  • Healthy fats: like avocado, coconut, and vegetable oils (like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil) 
  • Nuts and seeds: like chestnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, nuts and peanuts 
  • Milk and dairy products: preferable skim products that are unsweetened, like skim milk, Greek yogurt, and white cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese 

Best fruits to eat

Although they should be a part of your diet, fruit should be consumed in small quantities because they contain natural sugars. You should have one portion of fruit per meal. These are some guidelines in terms of quantities: 

  • 1 medium piece of whole fruit, like an apple, banana, orange, tangerine or pear 
  • 2 thin slices of a large fruits, like watermelon, melon, papaya or pineapple 
  • 1 handful of small fruits, like 8 grapes or cherries 
  • 1 tablespoon of dried fruit, like raisins or dried plums 

In addition, you should avoid consuming fruit together with high-carb food, like white rice, bread and sweets. 

Food to avoid 

Food that is high in sugar or simple carbohydrates should be avoided by diabetics. Examples include: 

  • Sugar and sweets in general 
  • Honey, fruit jello, jellies, marmalade, pastries and cookies 
  • Chocolate and gummies
  • Sweet drinks, like soda, processed juices and chocolate milk 
  • Tubercles, like potato, sweet potato, and yams, as these are high in carbs and should be consumed in small portions 
  • Processed meat, like prosciutto, turkey slices, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, mortadella and salami 
  • Alcoholic drinks, like beer, wine and liquor

Yacon, a potato-like root vegetable, is very low in calories and rich in prebiotic fibers that help to manage sugar levels. This is a great option for diabetics. 

It is important to read label information carefully before purchasing food, as sugar can be hidden with names like glucose, corn syrup, fructose, maltose, and maltodextrin.

Meal plan example for diabetics

The following table demonstrates a 3-day meal plan for diabetics:

Meal

Day 1Day 2Day 3
Breakfast

1 cup of black coffee + 1 slice of whole wheat bread + 1-egg omelet 

1 cup of unsweetened coffee with skim milk +  ½ a papaya + 1 scrambled egg  

1 Greek yogurt + 1 slice of whole grain bread + 1 slice of ricotta cheese 

Morning snack

1 apple + 10 cashews 

1 cup of green juice +.2 Brazilian nuts 

1 smashed banana + 1 tablespoon of oats

Lunch or Dinner

2 tablespoons of whole grain rice + 3 tablespoons of beans + 1 grilled chicken breast + grated carrot and chards, stir-fried in olive oil + 1 whole orange 

Fish baked in olive oil + 2 tablespoons of potato, broccoli and cauliflowers + 1 pear with peel 

1 ladle of whole wheat pasta with ground meat and homemade tomato sauce + salad made with lettuce, tomato, raw and grated yacon potato + 2 thin slices of melon 

Afternoon snack 

1 skim Greek yogurt + 1 tangerine 

1 cup of smoothie made with avocado, skim milk and sweetener 

1 cup of black coffee + 1 slice of whole grain cake + 2 walnuts 

This meal plan is just an example of what you can include in your diet. For optimal management of your diabetes, you should consult a registered dietitian so that a thorough assessment can be done. An RD can create a more personalized, custom meal plan fr you. 

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em April de 2022. Clinical review por Tatiana Zanin - Registered Dietitian, em April de 2022.

References

  • AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION. Food exchange lists. Available on: <https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/fd_exch.htm>. Access in 30 Mar 2022
  • DEPARTAMENTO DE NUTRIÇÃO DA UNIVERSIDADE DE BRASÍLIA E A ÁREA TÉCNICA DE ALIMENTAÇÃO E NUTRIÇÃO - DAB - SPS - MINISTÉRIO DA SAÚDE.. Guia alimentar para pessoas com diabetes tipo 2. 2001. Available on: <http://189.28.128.100/nutricao/docs/geral/guia_diabetes.pdf>. Access in 02 Jun 2021
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  • MINISTÉRIO DA SAÚDE. Diabetes Mellitus. 2006. Available on: <http://bvsms.saude.gov.br/bvs/publicacoes/diabetes_mellitus.PDF>. Access in 02 Jun 2021
  • SOCIEDADE BRASILEIRA DE DIABETES. Manual de Nutrição: pessoa com Diabetes. 2009. Available on: <https://www.diabetes.org.br/publico/pdf/manual-nutricao-publico.pdf>. Access in 02 Jun 2021
  • SOCIEDADE BRASILEIRA DE DIABETES. A batata yacon e o diabetes. Available on: <https://www.diabetes.org.br/publico/colunas/21-dr-rodrigo-o-moreira/373-a-batata-yacon-e-o-diabetes>. Access in 03 Jun 2021
  • UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL DO RIO GRANDE DO SUL. Alimentos gordurosos aumentam a glicemia?. 2017. Available on: <https://www.ufrgs.br/lidia-diabetes/2017/09/18/alimentos-gordurosos-aumentam-glicemia/>. Access in 02 Jun 2021
Clinical review:
Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
Graduated in Clinical Nutrition in 2001 and has a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition. Licensed to practice under the CRN-3 in Brazil and the ON in Portugal