National Diabetes Awareness Month: Why Nutrition Matters


November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and I’ve teamed up with Jewel-Osco to share more nutrition information about how nutrition choices can impact diabetes during in store events all month long. 

Through education and sampling events we hope to give those with diabetes more knowledge on food options available that can be found right at their local Jewel-Osco. 

Diabetes affects over 100 million Americans and nutrition plays a huge role in the management of both Type I and Type II diabetes. As a dietitian I want people who have diabetes or prediabetes to know that there are delicious recipes that you can still enjoy while managing your diabetes — diabetes does not have to mean giving up the foods you love in most cases! 

Read on for some general nutrition suggestions that people with diabetes should follow. 

Recommended Foods on a Diabetes Diet 

Make your calories count with these nutritious foods. Choose healthy carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, fish and “good” fats.

Healthy carbohydrates

During digestion, sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood glucose. Focus on healthy carbohydrates, such as:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes, such as beans and peas
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as milk and cheese

Avoid less healthy carbohydrates, such as foods or drinks with added fats, sugars and sodium. Sparkling water like Bubly is a great alternative. 

Fiber-rich foods

Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber moderates how your body digests and helps control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include:

Heart-healthy fish

Eat heart-healthy fish at least twice a week. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may prevent heart disease.

Avoid fried fish and fish with high levels of mercury, such as king mackerel.

Good fats

Foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol levels. These include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Canola, olive and peanut oils

Foods to avoid

Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke by accelerating the development of clogged and hardened arteries. Foods containing the following can work against your goal of a heart-healthy diet.

  • Saturated fats. Avoid high-fat dairy products and animal proteins such as butter, beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon. Also limit coconut and palm kernel oils.
  • Trans fats. Avoid trans fats found in processed snacks, and packaged baked goods. 
  • Sodium. Aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Your doctor may suggest you aim for even less if you have high blood pressure.

Counting carbohydrates

Because carbohydrates break down into glucose, they have the greatest impact on your blood glucose level. To help control your blood sugar, you may need to learn to calculate the amount of carbohydrates you are eating so that you can adjust the dose of insulin accordingly. It’s important to keep track of the amount of carbohydrates in each meal or snack.

A dietitian can teach you how to measure food portions and become an educated reader of food labels. They can also teach you how to pay special attention to serving size and carbohydrate content.

If you’re taking insulin, a dietitian can teach you how to count the amount of carbohydrates in each meal or snack and adjust your insulin dose accordingly.

Diabetes and Oral Health

Gum disease affects 22 percent of diabetics. According to MouthHealthy, patient website for the American Dental Association, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for gum problems because of poor blood sugar control. Have you ever noticed a cold sore or a cut in your mouth that doesn’t quite seem to go away? Poor control of blood sugar can keep injuries from healing quickly and properly.

Learn more here and incorporate Colgate products into your daily oral hygiene routine.

If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes or are having trouble managing, I strongly urge you to find a registered dietitian in your area to help guide and inform your nutrition journey.

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