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 reduce your risk of diabetes complications such as heart disease, you will need to eat healthy foods, be active and you may need to take pills and/or insulin to control your blood sugar levels. 

It’s natural to have questions about what food to eat. A registered dietitian can help you achieve your blood sugar and weight management goals with a personalized meal plan that considers your culture and food preferences.

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 sugar levels.
Limit sugars and sweets such as regular pop, desserts, candies, jam and honey. The more sugar you eat, the higher your blood sugar 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 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 sugar and cholesterol levels.
If you are thirsty, drink water. Drinking regular pop and fruit juice will raise your blood sugar.
Add physical activity to your life. Regular physical activity will improve your blood sugar control.
Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol can affect blood sugar levels and cause you to gain weight.

Plan for healthy eating

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

  • 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.
  • Select whole and less refined foods instead of processed foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, fast foods and refined grain products.
  • Include low-glycemic index foods such as legumes, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. These foods can help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
  • Eat more vegetables. These are very high in nutrients and low in calories.
  • Choose lean animal proteins. Select more vegetable protein, such as beans, lentils, or tofu.
  • Make lower fat choices (e.g. skim milk, lean ground beef, and use small amounts of oil and salad dressings). Select plant oils such as olive and canola, and nuts instead of animal fats.
  • Have portion sizes that will help you reach or maintain a healthy body weight. Your hands can be a very handy Portion Guide.

What else can I do? 

  • Diabetes Canada recommends that all people with diabetes should receive advice on nutrition from a registered dietitian. Consider learning about counting carbohydrates as the amount of carbohydrate eaten at one time is usually important in managing diabetes.
  • Ask a registered dietitian about diabetes-friendly eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet during your visit.
  • Try to prepare more of your meals at home and use whole, unprocessed ingredients.
  • Eat together as a family more often to model healthy eating behaviours to children and teenagers.
  • If you are planning on fasting, talk to your health-care team one to two months in advance.

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 (½ cup, 125 mL)
Low-fat plain yogurt (¾ cup, 175 mL)
Tea or coffee
Dinner Potato (1 medium) or rice (⅔ 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 (½ cup, 125 mL)
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)
For multicultural meal plans, see: Diabetes in the Aboriginal CommunityDiabetes in the Chinese Community, Diabetes in the Latin American Community, Diabetes in the South Asian Community.

Follow healthy living habits

Healthy eating habits should be built around other healthy living behaviours – keep active every day. Learn more about the benefits of physical activity and helpful tips. 

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