Prevent & Control Diabetes with Nutrition

Christelle Awkar
Registered Dietitian, USJ
Awareness Program Coordinator/Dietitian at DiaLeb

MYTH: A diet for diabetes requires special foods and is different from a non-diabetes diet.

FACT: A healthy eating plan is the same whether you have diabetes or not. And expensive diabetic foods offer no special benefit.

Diabetes is on the rise, yet most cases are preventable with simple lifestyle improvements. Healthy lifestyle changes can help not only to prevent diabetes but also hypertension, hyperlipidemia, while improving control of these diseases if you already have them; and to lose weight. What follows is a set of simple guidelines to help improve your nutrition and manage or prevent diabetes.


  • Lose weight. You don’t have to lose all your extra kilos. Losing just 5 to 10% of your total weight can help you lower blood sugar considerably.
  • Set aside time for quality sleep (6-9 hours)
  • Eat slowly
  • Eat on schedule (3-5 small meals per day)
  • Keep a food diary. It helps you cut back on emotional eating
  • Choose high-fiber carbohydrates. Limit highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice and consume whole grain products such as chickpeas, beans, bulgur, brown rice, non-starchy vegetables and fruits instead. When considering how much to eat, carbohydrate counting is an essential tool to match insulin with the meal for type diabetes 1 and properly paced carbohydrate distribution throughout the day is especially important for type 2 diabetes. You can enjoy a small serving of your favorite dessert every now and then. The key is moderation.
  • Choose fats wisely. The best fats are unsaturated fats which come from plant and fish sources. The two most damaging fats are Saturated fats and Trans fats (partially hydrogenated fats). Saturated fats are found in dairy and animal products as well as in palm and coconut oils. Whereas trans fats are found in margarine and many snack foods (chips, doughnuts, biscuits etc)

Some recommendations for choosing healthy fats:

  • Get your protein from grilled or boiled fish, poultry, and lean meat. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
  • Include fish in your meals 2-3 times a week. 

  • Choose non-fat dairy products 

  • Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats 

  • Cut back on high calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies, cakes, and full-fat ice cream and replace it with a handful of raw nuts. 

  • Avoid fried foods

  • Reduce salt intake and processed foods rich in sodium (Na) to less than 2300 mg Na/day
  • Don’t drink alcohol on a empty stomach (1 drink per day for women; 2 for men) and always monitor your blood glucose to avoid hypoglycemia

To sum up, a diabetes diet is simply a healthy regular eating plan that is high in fibers and nutrients, low in fat, and moderate in calories. It is a healthy diet for anyone! The good news is that as your eating habits improve you will find yourself craving healthier options. Bear in mind, eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain. Watch your portion sizes! And of course, stop smoking (if you do) and don’t forget exercising! 

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