For people with diabetes, adhering to the appropriate dietary guidelines can be just as important as proper insulin management. Even if you’re using basal insulin before your evening meal, eating right will play a crucial role in keeping your blood sugar in check while you sleep.

Read on to learn how certain carbohydrates, processed foods, healthy fats, and beverages can impact you and your diabetes.


According to the Mayo Clinic, carbohydrate content has the biggest impact on your blood sugar levels. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid carbs, but you should make a concerted effort to choose high-fiber carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI) score. These foods take longer to digest and supply you with a steady flow of energy. 

Pairing these carbohydrates with healthy fats and lean proteins can help to blunt their impact on your blood sugar, as the carbohydrates will be more slowly absorbed from your gut. Foods with a low GI score include: 

  • brown rice
  • sweet potatoes
  • whole-wheat pasta
  • whole-wheat bread
  • peas
  • green beans
  • leafy greens (like kale, chard, and spinach)
  • steel-cut oats
  • high-fiber breakfast cereal

Refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, are digested more quickly and create a spike in blood sugar soon after eating. To keep this from happening, avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white rice, white bread, pasta, and white potatoes.

Processed Foods and Hidden Sugars

Processed foods, such as sugary desserts, boxed cereals, baked goods, and packaged meals, should be eliminated as much as possible when trying to stick to a healthy eating plan. These foods are filled with hidden sugars and can be detrimental to a person with diabetes.

If you have diabetes, reading food labels is key. Manufacturers are legally required to list ingredients on food labels in descending order by their weight. So if you find a label with sugar as one of the top three ingredients, put it back and look for a healthier alternative.

Remember, sugar can be disguised in a wide variety of clever names. These are all forms of sugar:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • maltose
  • agave nectar
  • malt syrup

Make a list of hidden sugars and keep it in your wallet or purse to make your grocery shopping trips less confusing.

Healthy Fats

According to the American Heart Association, people with diabetes, particularly type 2, have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Including healthy fats in every meal is another step in maintaining normal blood sugar levels and decreasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.

Avoiding saturated and trans fats, found in red meat and whole milk dairy items, is another way to prevent a stroke. It’s also important to pay special attention to the amount of cholesterol and sodium content in your foods. A good rule of thumb is to aim for no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol and less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day.

Some healthy proteins include:

  • salmon
  • tuna
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • skinless chicken

Instead of frying your meat, try grilling, baking, broiling, or stir-frying. Also, cook with healthier oils, like canola and olive oil, rather than fat-laden vegetable oil or butter.

If you’re craving an after-dinner snack, eat a handful of nuts. Walnuts, almonds, and pecans are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts also make a wonderful addition to breakfast foods, including oatmeal and high-fiber cereal.


While food normally takes center stage when dealing with diabetes, beverages can also have a major effect on blood sugar. According to the American Diabetes Association, one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 40 grams of carbohydrates, which is equal to 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Try to completely omit soda, fruit punch, energy drinks, sweet tea, and other sugary drinks from your diet. To keep your blood sugar level within the desired range, choose from these healthier options instead:

  • water
  • unsweetened tea
  • diet soda
  • coffee
  • sugar-free drink mixes

Maintaining a proper diet to help manage your diabetes doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of boring, bland food. With a little ingenuity, you can create a food plan that is both healthy and satisfying.