Healthy eating for diabetes

Joel Hahnke, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist on staff at Banner Children’s Specialists. His office can be reached at (480) 827-5370.

Question: What is meant by “healthy eating” when it comes to both diabetes prevention and diabetes management?

Answer: We have all heard the importance of maintaining a “healthy diet.” Eating healthy boosts energy, improves mood, and helps control body weight, among many other benefits. One of the most important things a healthy diet can do is help in the management and prevention of diabetes and other diseases.

Nearly 30 million children and adults have diabetes in the U.S., and nearly 90 million more people have what we call prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. For these individuals, the types of foods they eat have an immediate and direct impact on their health.

Healthy eating for individuals with diabetes or prediabetes includes knowing what foods to eat and what to avoid.

Foods to eat include:

  • Lean proteins: Lean proteins should take up a quarter of your plate and can include lean meats, fish, beans and legumes, dairy products, and quinoa.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables, preferably fresh, should fill half of your plate.
  • Whole grains: Examples of whole grains are brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, and quinoa. Your whole grain selection should fill the remaining quarter of your plate.

Foods that are not healthy and should be avoided include processed or “junk” foods, which are high in sugars and carbs, have an unhealthy fat content, and are low in vitamins and micronutrients.

Foods in this category include fast food, frozen meals, crackers, chips, candy, cookies, cakes, and sweet beverages (including juices and soda pop). Eating these foods increases body fat and increases blood sugar levels, so they promote unhealthy weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes. For people who are managing their diabetes, these foods also make it hard to keep blood sugar levels in good control.

While healthy eating is so important, it is also necessary to understand that there is more to properly managing or preventing diabetes than the type of food you eat. Getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, proper medication use, not smoking, and receiving regular check-ups also play crucial roles in the fight against diabetes.

If you have any questions or would like more information about the connection between diet and diabetes, talk with your physician or call Banner Children’s Specialists at (480) 827-5370.