Learn about the Food Pyramid for Diabetics

Learn about the Food Pyramid for Diabetics
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Diabetes and the Food Pyramid for Menu Planning

Diabetics find it difficult at times to plan what they eat due to the limitations of their diet. A healthy diet does not need to feel restricting. A balanced diet that encompasses all of the major food groups is all a diabetic needs to maintain a healthy diet and stable, consistent blood glucose levels.

The food pyramid for diabetes is an excellent method to reach your goal. It is compartmentalized into six categories of food based on carbohydrate and protein content. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that you consume more foods at the bottom of the pyramid than those on the top. Click on image to enlarge.

Breads, Grains, and Other Starches

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our bodies, and are an important part of a healthy diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends that 45 to 60 percent of daily calories come from carbohydrates. Diabetics must take into account the type of carbohydrates, as simple carbohydrates (like sugar) can cause severe spikes in blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, take longer to absorb into the body thereby keeping blood sugar levels more stable. Substitute brown rice for white rice, whole wheat pasta for white flour pasta and sweet potatoes or yams for white potatoes.It is also important to know serving sizes of carbohydrate intake. Approximately, 1 serving of starch includes 1 slice of whole grain bread, or 1 small sweet potato, or 3/4 cup of dry cereal flake, or 1/2 cup of cooked cereal.


Most vegetables are beneficial to your health, low in carbohydrates and are rich in vitamins, fiber, and minerals. They include spinach, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, and chilies. Starchy vegetables contain more carbohydrates, so consult the glycemic index to determine which vegetables are the best to add into your diet.

One serving of vegetables includes 1 cup of salad, or 1/2 cup of cooked carrots, or 1/2 cup of cooked green beans. It is recommended that you consume 3 to 5 servings per day.


Fruits, like strawberries, papaya, guava, apples, mango, watermelon, oranges, grapefruit and bananas, are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates.Like vegetables, some fruits are considered simple carbohydrates and should be avoided or limited. Consult the glycemic index, and add fruits that have a GI rating of 55 or lower to your diet.

Roughly one serving of fruit is 1 small apple, 1/2 grapefruit or 1/2 cup of fruit juice. Your diet should include 2 to 4 servings per day.


Whole milk is rich in carbohydrates and fat that should be avoided. Drink low-fat milk or skim milk, and choose low-fat yogurt. Milk is an essential part of a healthy diabetic diet since it contains a lot of calcium, vitamins, protein, minerals and carbohydrates. One serving of milk is 1 cup of skim milk or 1 cup of low-fat yogurt. Include 2 to 3 servings of dairy in your diet every day.

Meat, Meat Substitutes, and Other Proteins

Foods like beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, fish, eggs, tofu, peanut butter and low-fat cheese are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Since diabetics are prone to heart disease, lean meats and skinless poultry are the best choices.

Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps diabetics to prevent heart disease. A diabetic should limit egg yolks because they contain high levels of cholesterol, but consume egg whites containing a lot of protein instead. A 2-ounce serving of meat contains 1 slice (1 ounce) of turkey and 1 slice (1 ounce) of low-fat cheese. Eat 2 to 3 servings of protein per day.

Fats, Alcohol, and Sweets

Many foods, such as margarine, butter, bacon, and mayonnaise, are high in cholesterol and saturated fats or trans-fats, and these should be avoided by a diabetic. Limit or avoid intake of alcohol and sweets, as both can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels. Candy or other sweets that use artificial sweeteners are fine for a diabetic diet. Approximately one serving of fat equals 1 teaspoon oil or 1 strip of bacon, and 1 serving of sweets contains 1 plain doughnut, or 1 tablespoon of maple syrup.


The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know about Eating and Diabetes - https://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/eating_ez/

MedlinePlus: Diabetes Diet-type 1 - https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002440.htm

Photo Credit

Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.