A nutritionist answers questions about diabetes diets

Starting a Diabetes Diet: 5 Questions to Ask Your Nutritionist

It can be terrifying to hear you have diabetes, especially when you find out you have to completely change the way you eat. But you don’t have to do it alone. Your nutritionist is there to help you, and you shouldn’t be scared to ask them questions. Here are a few to help you get started.

What can I eat?

The goal of a diabetic diet is to eat foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and poly- or monounsaturated fats. Stick to vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Fruits are okay too, as long as it’s in moderation. Maintain careful portion sizes and keep track of your carbohydrates. Choosing a variety of these foods also means you get a better variety of vitamins and minerals, which is much more beneficial for your body than just living off broccoli and chicken.

What can’t I eat?

Cut out things that are high in calories, saturated fats, and sugar. Anything processed is not going to be as good for you as fresh, unprocessed foods. Even though diet sodas don’t have any sugar, they are also void of any nutrients. Lots of sugar-free foods are that way because they use artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and saccharin. However, in the long term, these can be just as bad for your body as a sugar overload.

How do I eat like that?

The plate method, carb counting, and the glycemic index (GI) are all great tools for creating an ideal diet. No single diet is going to work for everyone, so it’s important to figure out which one works best for you. Individualize it to your tastes—even though spinach is stuffed with good vitamins and minerals, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. If you’ve lived on junk food your entire life, you may not have tried a whole lot of healthy foods. So, take some time to figure out what you like and what makes your body feel best.

Do I still have to take medication?

For people with type 1 diabetes, you'll almost certainly have to continue taking medication. The body simply won’t produce insulin the way it should, and so insulin has to be provided externally. However, type 2 diabetes generally develops later on, from a combination of risk factors. Depending on the severity, it’s entirely possible you can control your diabetes just by eating the right kinds of food, staying away from the wrong kinds, and keeping a careful eye on your blood sugar. However, be sure your doctor is still closely monitoring your progress.

How strict do I have to be?

When you start a diet, the first thing you think about is your first cheat day and if it’s going to ruin your hard work. If you’re just going to have to take insulin regardless, can’t you just eat what you want? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Gorging yourself on a bowl of candy can lead to a diabetic coma. Even if you take your insulin or medication religiously, your body isn’t going to appreciate unhealthy eating, and the side effects are simply not worth five minutes of indulging.

Last Updated: April 18, 2018