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How to Eat Well

What You Should Know About Your Food

Some of the best 'medicine' for controlling your diabetes comes right from your own kitchen. Food is the fuel that keeps your body working. The exercise you do, the medicine you take, your blood sugar level—all are affected by how and what you eat.

Don't give up your favorite foods. Just learn how much to eat, how often to eat, and how to prepare the foods you love to eat.

A meal plan should be something that works well for you. There are no forbidden foods for a person wtih diabetes. The old way of just cutting out foods with sugar has changed.

The foods that are healthy for you are the same foods that are healthy for people without diabetes.

A dietitian, who is an expert in nutrition, can help you make a plan that uses the foods you like. Ask your health care provider for a referral. Local diabetes education programs can help too. They are found in every area of Vermont.

What To Do

To get started:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods each day
  • Eat high fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans
  • Use less added fat, sugar, and salt
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Eat meals and snacks at the same time each day
  • Eat at least 3 small meals each day
  • Try not to skip meals
  • Eat about the same amount of food each day
  • Be at a healthy weight for you
  • If you want to lose weight, cut down on your portion size and be more physically active
  • Make an appointment with your dietitian

Use the Diabetes Food Pyramid to help you eat better every day. Each of the food groups provides some, but not all, of the nutrients you need. For good health you need to eat a variety of foods from all food groups. Go easy on fats, sweets and alcohol, the foods in the small tip of the Pyramid. They add more calories than nutrition.

The main difference between the standard Food Guide Pyramid and the diabetes Food Pyramid is the movement of beans and starchy vegetables to the Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group.

How many servings do you need each day from the Food Pyramid?

  Women & some
older adults
Children, teen girls, active
women, most men
Teen boys &
active men
Calorie level* About 1,600 About 2,200 About 2,800
Grains/Beans group 6 9 11
Vegetable group 3 4 5
Fruit group 2 3 4
Milk group **2-3 **2-3 **2-3
Meat group 2, for a total of 5 ounces 2, for a total of 6 ounces 3, for a total of 7 ounces
Fats, Sweets & Alcohol group Limit these Limit these Limit these

*These are the calorie levels if you choose low-fat, lean foods from the 5 major food groups and use food from the fats, oils, and sweets group sparingly.

**Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, teenagers, and young adults to age 24 need 3 servings.

What is a Serving?

The table tells you the amount to count as one serving. You may want to measure your food from time to time to remind yourself of portion sizes.

Grains, Beans, & Starchy Vegetables

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice, beans, or pasta (the size of your fist or a tennis ball)
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal
  • 1 ounce or 3/4 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1 small potato


  • 1 small piece of fruit (about the size of a tennis ball or your fist) or a melon wedge
  • 1/2 cup of juice
  • 1/2 cup of canned fruit
  • 1/4 cup of dried fruit

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, & Nuts

  • 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish (the size of the palm of your hand, or a deck of cards, or a tape cassette)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup of tuna or low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 egg, or 1 slice of reduced-fat cheese, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1 ounce of cheese (a pair of dice or the length of your thumb) or 4 ounces tofu equals 1 ounce of lean meat (about 1/3 serving)

Milk and Yogurt

  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt


  • 1/2 cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables


"I had a big bagel with cream cheese for breakfast the other day and could not believe what it did to my blood sugar, it was sky high all day. I didn't realize how much carbohydrate was in one bagel, almost as much as eating 5 pieces of toast!!!!! I need to watch my portions, maybe two pieces of toast would have been a better choice."



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This guide is not a substitute for the judgment of trained professionals.
If you are a person with diabetes you should seek care from a qualified practitioner.