JUST THE BASICS: Tips for Healthy Eating, Diabetes Prevention and Management

Healthy Eating to Manage or Prevent Diabetes


Plate Method


Plate Method
Photo: Michael Alberstat


Eat healthy with Canada’s Food Guide

Have at least 3 out of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide at each meal:

  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Grain products
  • Milk and alternatives
  • Meat and alternatives.

Choosing foods from all the food groups ensures that your body gets all the nutrients it needs to be healthy.

Eat more vegetables

Eat at least two different kinds of vegetables at each meal. They are high in nutrients and low in calories.

Include protein in your meals

Protein could include fish, chicken, lean meats, low-fat cheese, eggs, tofu or legumes such as beans and lentils.

Eat three regular meals a day

Be sure to eat breakfast for a good start to the day. Eat three meals at regular times, four to six hours apart. Eating the right amount at the right time helps keeps your blood glucose in balance.

If you will not be at home when it is time to eat, bring healthy foods with you. This provides you with healthy choices, wherever you go. Pack a sandwich. Carry some vegetables or fruit with you.

Be careful with alcohol

Alcohol can affect blood glucose levels and cause you to gain weight. Talk to your health care team about whether you can drink alcohol and how much is safe. Learn more about alcohol and diabetes.

Watch out for sugar

The more sugar you eat or drink, the higher your blood glucose will be. If you are thirsty, drink water. Pop, fruit juice, and sweetened coffee or tea will all raise your blood glucose. Limit sweets such as desserts, candies, jam, and honey. To complete your meal, have milk or yogurt and a piece of fruit. Artificial sweeteners can be safe in small amounts. Learn more about artificial sweeteners.

Limit starches

It is very important to control portion sizes when you eat starchy foods, such as breads, cereals, rice, noodles, pasta and potatoes. These foods break down into glucose.

Make lower-fat choices

High-fat foods cause weight gain. A healthy weight is easier on the heart and helps to control blood glucose. Limit fried foods, chips, and pastries.

Instead of frying foods in a lot of oil, it is healthier to bake, broil, braise, steam, poach, or roast them. Or, you can stir-fry or sauté in small amounts of oil.

  • Use skim milk instead of 2% or whole milk.
  • Choose lean ground beef.
  • Trim off the fat on meat and chicken.
  • Use small amounts of added fat such as canola oil, olive oil, safflower oil and salad dressings.
  • Eat cheese with 20% milk fat or less.
  • Choose low-fat yogurt (2% milk fat or less).

Get lots of fibre

High-fibre foods help you feel full. They also lower your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Foods that are high in fibre include whole grain breads and cereals, lentils, dried beans and peas, brown rice, vegetables, and fruits.

How much should you eat in one meal?

The right amount of food gives your body what it needs to be healthy. If you eat too much, your body will store the extra energy as fat and you will gain weight. Eat slowly. Stop when you feel full and satisfied.

Measuring CupCheck the sample meal plans for healthy eating to see the right portion size for you. At home, use measuring cups to keep the amount of food you eat at the right size.

When you are eating away from home and cannot measure your portions, use this Handy Portion Guide. Your hands can be very useful in estimating the right amount of food to eat in one meal.

Handy Portion Guide


Fruits/grains & starches*:

Choose an amount the size of you fist for each of Grains and Starches, and Fruit.

Examples: apple, potato, brown rice

Fruits/grains & starches*: Choose an amount the size of you fist for each of Grains and Starches, and Fruit.
Vegetables:

Choose as much as you can hold in both hands.

Examples: spinach, broccoli, peppers

Vegetables: Choose as much as you can hold in both hands.
Meat & Alternatives (protein)*:

Choose an amount up to the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger.

Examples: lean beef, poultry, fish, lentils, beans

Meat & Alternatives (protein)*: Choose an amount up to the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger.
Fats:

Limit fat to an amount the size of the tip of your thumb.

Examples: non-hydrogenated margarine, canola oil, olive oil

Fats: Limit fat to an amount the size of the tip of your thumb.
Milk & Alternatives

Have up to 250 ml(8 oz) of low-fat milk or 3/4 cup (175 ml) yogurt with a meal.

Examples: Low-fat yogurt, milk, and cheese

* Food group names taken from Beyond the Basics: Meal Planning for Healthy Eating, Diabetes Prevention and Management © Canadian Diabetes Association, 2005.
Please refer to this resource for more details on meal planning.