Diabetes is a condition in which your body cannot properly use and store food for energy. The fuel that your body needs is called glucose, a form of sugar.

Glucose comes from foods such as fruit, milk, some vegetables, starchy foods and sugar. To control your blood glucose (sugar), you will need to eat healthy foods, be active and you may need to take pills and/or insulin.

In the following table, you will find some tips to help you until you see a registered dietitian.

Tips for Healthy Eating, Diabetes Prevention and Management
Tips Reasons
Eat three meals per day at regular times and space meals no more than six hours apart. You may benefit from a healthy snack. Eating at regular times helps your body control blood glucose (sugar) levels.
Limit sugars and sweets such as sugar, regular pop, desserts, candies, jam and honey. The more sugar you eat, the higher your blood glucose will be. Artificial sweeteners can be useful.
Limit the amount of high-fat food you eat such as fried foods, chips and pastries. High-fat foods may cause you to gain weight. A healthy weight helps with blood glucose (sugar) control and is healthier for your heart.
Eat more high-fibre foods such as whole grain breads and cereals, lentils, dried beans and peas, brown rice, vegetables and fruits. Foods high in fibre may help you feel full and may lower blood glucose (sugar) and cholesterol levels.
If you are thirsty, drink water. Drinking regular pop and fruit juice will raise your blood glucose (sugar).
Add physical activity to your life. Regular physical activity will improve your blood glucose (sugar) control.

Plan for healthy eating

Using a standard dinner plate, follow the Plate Method in the image below to control your portion sizes.

  • Have a glass of milk and a piece of fruit to complete your meal.
  • Alcohol can affect blood glucose (sugar) levels and cause you to gain weight. Talk to your health-care professional about whether you can include alcohol in your meal plan and how much is safe.
  • Eat more vegetables. These are very high in nutrients and low in calories.
  • Choose starchy foods such as whole grain breads and cereals, rice, noodles, or potatoes at every meal. Starchy foods are broken down into glucose, which your body needs for energy.
  • Include fish, lean meats, low-fat cheeses, eggs, or vegetarian protein choices as part of your meal.
  • Your hands can be very useful in estimating appropriate portions. When planning a meal, use the handy Portion Guide.
  • The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that all people with diabetes should receive advice on nutrition from a registered dietitian.
  • Good management of diabetes includes healthy eating, staying active and taking required medication.
  • Be sure to eat breakfast. It provides a good start to the day.

It’s natural to have questions about what food to eat. A registered dietitian can help you include your favourite foods in a personalized meal plan.

Sample meal plans

Sample meal plan for smaller appetites
Breakfast Cold cereal (½ cup, 125 mL)
Whole grain toast (1 slice)
1 orange
Low-fat milk (1 cup, 250 mL)
Peanut butter (2 tbsp, 30 mL)
Tea or coffee
Lunch 1 sandwich
- 2 slices of whole grain bread or 6" pita
- meat, chicken or fish (2 oz, 60 g)
- non-hydrogenated margarine (1 tsp, 5 mL)
Carrot sticks
Grapes
Low-fat plain yogurt (¾ cup, 175 mL)
Tea or coffee
Dinner Potato (1 medium) or rice (2⁄3 cup, 150 mL)
Vegetables
Non-hydrogenated margarine (1 tsp, 5 mL)
Lean meat, chicken, or fish (2 oz, 60 g)
Cantaloupe (1 cup, 250 mL)
Low-fat milk (1 cup, 250 mL)
Tea or coffee
Evening snack Low-fat cheese (1 oz, 30 g)
Whole grain crackers (4)

Sample meal plan for bigger appetites
Breakfast Cold cereal (½ cup, 125 mL)
Whole grain toast (2 slices)
1 orange
Low-fat milk (1 cup, 250 mL)
Low-fat cheese (2 oz, 60 g)
Tea or coffee
Lunch Soup (1 cup, 250 mL)
Sandwich
- 2 slices whole grain bread or 6" pita
- lean meat, chicken or fish (3 oz, 90 g)
- tomato slices
- non-hydrogenated margarine (1 tsp, 5 mL)
Carrot sticks
Grapes
Low-fat plain yogurt (¾ cup, 175 mL)
Tea or coffee
Afternoon snack 1 medium apple or small banana
Dinner 1 large potato or cooked noodles (1 ½ cup, 375 mL)
Vegetables
Green salad with low-fat salad dressing
Lean meat, chicken or fish (4 oz, 120 g)
1 medium pear
Low-fat milk (1 cup, 250 mL)
Tea or coffee
Evening snack Peanut butter (4 tbsp, 60 mL)
Whole grain crackers (4)
Low-fat milk (1 cup, 250 mL)

Increase your physical activity

  • Build time for physical activity into your daily routine.
  • Try to be active most days of the week.
  • Walk whenever you can, instead of taking the car.
  • Start slowly and gradually increase the amount of effort; for instance, progress from strolling to brisk walking.
  • Make family activities active; try swimming or skating instead of watching TV or a movie.
  • Try new activities; learn to dance, play basketball, or ride a bike.
  • Enjoy your improved sense of health and well-being.

Follow a healthy lifestyle

  • Have at least three out of the four key food groups at each meal from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide:
    • Vegetables and fruit
    • Grain products
    • Milk and alternatives
    • Meat and alternatives
  • Have portion sizes that will help you reach or maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Include high-fibre foods such as whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas, fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes.
  • Make lower fat choices (e.g. use skim milk and lean ground beef, trim fat on meat, chicken etc., and use small amounts of added fat such as oil and salad dressings).
  • Healthy eating habits should be built around a healthy lifestyle – keep active every day.