Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(2):653

Do I need to follow a special diet?

What you eat affects your blood sugar level, so you need to make wise food choices. Work with your doctor to develop a diet that meets your needs. For most people, a healthy diet consists of 40 to 60% of calories from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 30% or less from fat.

How can I make wise food choices?

In general, at each meal you can have up to 60 grams of carbohydrate foods, 1 choice of protein and a certain amount of fat. Try to eat less fat and sugary foods, and choose a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats and fish.

Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy foods and starchy foods such as breads. Try to eat fresh fruit rather than canned fruits in syrup (canned fruits packed in water or their own juice are okay), fruit juices or dried fruit, and fresh vegetables. Frozen or canned vegetables are okay. Starchy foods (such as cereals, potatoes, cooked dried beans, pastas, breads) are higher in calories than fruits and vegetables.

Protein. Protein is found in poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, beans and some vegetables. Choose lean cuts of meat and trim any fat you can see. Take the skin off of poultry. Choose nonfat or reduced-fat cheese and yogurt. Non-fat (skim) milk is part carbohydrate and part protein, but low-fat (1% or 2%) milk is part carbohydrate, part protein and part fat.

Fat. Butter, margarine, lard and oils add fat to food. Fat is also in dairy and meat products. Try to limit fat by avoiding fried foods, mayonnaise-based dishes (unless it's fat-free mayo), and high-fat dairy products. Your doctor or dietitian will tell you how many grams of fat you can eat each day. When you are considering fat-free foods, check the label to see how many grams of carbohydrates they contain.

Can I eat sugar?

Yes, but talk to your doctor first. Doctors have learned that eating small amounts of simple sugar usually doesn't cause problems for most people who have diabetes.

What else do I need to know?

Your doctor will probably show you how to monitor your blood sugar level. Paying attention to what you eat and how it changes your blood sugar level will help keep it close to normal.

What if my blood sugar isn't normal?

If your blood sugar is low (called hypoglycemia), you may feel cranky, tired, confused, shaky or sweaty. Drink some fruit juice or a regular (not diet) soda. This can return your blood sugar level to normal.

If you're very thirsty, urinating more often or having blurred vision, your blood sugar may be much too high. Check your blood sugar level right away and call your doctor about what to do.

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Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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