Eating For Health

The dLife Healthy Eating Plate promotes a back-to-basics, natural foods diet to help prevent and manage diabetes

Lynn ProwittBy Lynn Prowitt

With the array of colorful plates, food pyramids, and conflicting dietary prescriptions out there, figuring out the best way to eat for your diabetes health is confusing at best. Since dLife is an independent voice whose mission includes delivering the best diabetes information and advice, we decided to create our own Healthy Eating Plate, designed to help people manage (and prevent) diabetes.

We considered the dietary recommendations of the ADA, the AHA, and the USDA, along with the current body of scientific findings on diet and health. Then we put it all together and looked at it through a diabetes lens. This plate may, in fact, depict the healthiest approach to eating for everyone — as it promotes a back-to-basics, natural foods dietary pattern. Let's look at a few of its specific recommendations:

  1. Eat a colorful variety of low carb, low glycemic veggies. Roughly half of what you eat should fall into this category of food. Studies show that green and other deeply colored vegetables help prevent disease, including many of the complications of diabetes. Research has also shown that low carb and low glycemic eating promotes good blood glucose control.
  2. Try to have a single portion of natural, unprocessed protein food at every meal and snack. Protein foods won't raise blood sugar and often lessen or slow the impact of any carbs you consume with them. Processed meats (deli meats, sausage, bacon, "spam," etc.) have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Unprocessed animal proteins, especially full-fat dairy products, may convey important health benefits (e.g., weight control and "good" HDL cholesterol) and should be consumed in moderation. To learn about the amount of protein you need, read diabetes dietitian Lara Rondinelli's column here.
  3. Eat a variety of beans, nuts, seeds, and low glycemic, low carb fruits in small to medium portions, depending on carb count. These categories of plant foods are particularly high in disease-fighting compounds and are also good to excellent sources of fiber and aid in blood glucose control. Though most of these foods are low glycemic, some are higher in carbs, so balance portions based on the net carb count of the food (total carbs – grams of fiber over 5 = net carbs).
  4. Eat small portions of whole grains and starchy veggies (optional). Although whole grains and starchy veggies convey some health benefits, they are typically high glycemic, high carb, and often pretty low in fiber. Choose the most nutrient-packed varieties and keep portions small.
  5. Use healthy, minimally processed oils and fats. Chemical processing and high temperatures can destroy the healthy compounds of some oils – and may even create some unhealthy ones. Use oils with a high smoke point for cooking and cold- or expeller-pressed and extra virgin oils for drizzling. Butter contains some beneficial fatty acids, but is calorie-dense so use sparingly.
  6. Season your food with health promoting herbs and spices. These traditional culinary enhancers come packed with an enormous array of disease-fighting compounds. Expand your repertoire, and use fresh and dried herbs and spices daily.
  7. If you enjoy red wine, black or green tea, and dark chocolate, consume these in moderation. Because of various phytonutrients found in grapes, tea leaves, and cacao beans, these "luxury" food and drink items may contribute to diabetes control and heart health, among other benefits. The key is moderation, as red wine contains alcohol, tea contains caffeine, and chocolate contains sugar.

Note: Individual health issues and medications may dictate dietary restrictions. Talk to your doctor before making a significant change to your diet.  The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: April 25, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.
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