What Foods are Good for a Diabetic to Eat? Answering Your FAQs About Diabetic Foods

What Foods are Good for a Diabetic to Eat?  Answering Your FAQs About Diabetic Foods
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If you’ve just learned that you have diabetes, you may be asking the question “what foods are good for a diabetic?” Let’s examine some tasty ways to control weight and blood sugars, while eating a wide variety of healthy foods. Diet, exercise, and an overall healthy lifestyle, like drinking alcohol products in moderation, is the best way to control blood sugars and manage diabetes.

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Remember to eat approximately the same amounts of foods at the same time each day to help regulate blood sugar levels. Let’s talk about carbohydrates first, since this food group has the biggest impact on blood sugar levels. Eating too many carbohydrates can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate dramatically.

Carbohydrate Choices for Diabetics

One serving from the following list of starches, fruits, and dairy products equals approximately 15 grams carbohydrate. These foods may be interchanged to create a variety of healthy meals. However, these are general guidelines, and individuals should always read the product label for any particular food, as carbohydrate counts can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.


  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • ½ bagel or English muffin
  • 1 tortilla
  • 3 graham crackers
  • ½ to ¾ cup cold cereal
  • ½ cup dried beans
  • ½ cup potatoes
  • 1 small baked potato
  • ½ cup corn, peas, or lima beans
  • ½ cup cooked noodles
  • 3 ginger snaps
  • 3 cups lowfat popcorn


  • 1 small apple
  • ½ banana
  • 1 small orange
  • 1 cup melon (any kind)
  • 1 small pear
  • 1 cup berries (any kind)
  • ½ cup canned fruit (packed in its own juice)
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 15 grapes (any kind)
  • ½ grapefruit
  • 1 kiwi fruit

Milk or Dairy:

  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 cup low fat yogurt
  • ½ cup sugar free pudding or ice cream

Protein Choices for Diabetes

Protein – one serving (one ounce) equals 0 to 3 grams fat, and 45 calories

  • 1 ounce cooked lean beef
  • 1 ounce cooked lean pork
  • 1 ounce cooked turkey or chicken with the skin removed
  • 1 ounce lunch meats (low sodium, maximum of 3 grams fat per serving)
  • ¼ cup cooked ground meat
  • 1 ounce seafood such as: catfish, cod, flounder, salmon, tilipia, tuna, and so forth
  • 1 egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 1 ounce low fat cheese (maximum 5 grams of fat per ounce)

Fats Choices for Diabetics

Fat Choices – one exchange equals 5 grams fat, and 45 calories. For best health, include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and avoid trans fats.

  • 1 teaspoon canola, olive, or peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon margarine or butter, lowfat recommended
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (low fat)
  • 1 tablespoon salad dressing (low fat)
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese (light)
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed, sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds
  • 10 peanuts
  • 6 whole almonds
  • 1/8 avocado

Vegetable Choices for Diabetics

Vegetables – one serving equals ½ cup cooked, one cup raw, and one carbohydrate exchange

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Leafy greens
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Turnips

Free Foods for Diabetics

Free foods: free foods have less than 20 calories per serving, and no more than 5 grams carbohydrate. Read labels and choose your favorites. Here are some examples of some nutritious free foods:

  • Salad greens
  • Mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Cooking wines
  • Herbs

General Nutrition Tips for Diabetics

Let’s talk about some general tips for planning meals for diabetics. Baking, broiling, roasting, grilling, and steaming are healthier choices and help lower fat and calorie counts. Cool foods slightly and skim or trim any visible fat. Opt for low fat products whenever possible, and read product labels carefully to check for hidden fat or sodium. Add more seafood choices into meal plans, and incorporate some meatless meals. By answering the question “what foods are good for a diabetic,” we’ve shown how to focus on what you can eat on a diabetic diet, rather than stressing over what you can’t eat. For more information for what to eat with diabetes, read “Healthy Foods for Diabetics.”

Reference Sources

Carilion Medical Center, Diabetes Management Survival Skills Tool Kit, 2009

Mayo Clinic, “Your Diabetic Diet: Exchange Lists,” accessed 08/11/2010