Diet is one of the most crucial aspects of regulating diabetes and maintaining good health. For diabetics, three main aims of your nutrition program should be to achieve and maintain your ideal weight, to support healthy blood glucose levels, and to limit foods that may contribute to heart and vascular diseases (conditions that diabetics are more susceptible to). Here are a few tips to help you achieve those goals.

Healthy Meals

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that the majority of daily calories should come from healthy carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. For a typical meal, the ADA recommends filling one-fourth of your plate with grains or starches (rice, potatoes, corn), another fourth with protein (lean meat, fish, tofu), and the remaining half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables (salad, broccoli, tomatoes).[1] Along with a glass of milk and a piece of fruit, this meal plan should fulfill your nutritional needs and help regulate your blood sugar, too.

Think Small

Many doctors now recommend that diabetics eat smaller meals throughout the day, rather than the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For a 2,100 calorie diet, you might choose to eat three 500 calorie “main” meals and three 200 calorie snacks. Smaller meals supply steady energy to your body, and that helps keep your blood sugar levels even. In addition, smaller, more frequent meals can help prevent overeating and acid reflux.

Be Heart-Smart

Diabetics face a much higher rate of heart disease and problems with circulation and blood vessels than non-diabetics. Choose your food with an eye on heart-health. The American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat and cholesterol, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats.[2] Saturated fats include whole-milk dairy products, fatty meats, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Unsaturated fats (including both polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats) are found in olive oil, various nuts and seeds, and an assortment of vegetable oils such as safflower, canola, and sunflower. If you don’t already do so, start reading the labels on the foods you buy to help you make informed decisions.

As with any important health decision, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning a new nutritional regimen. Medications, your level of activity, and your health history should be taken into consideration before making major changes. Your doctor may also wish to refer you to a nutritionist to help you plan an optimal diet for your diabetic needs.