When you have type 1 diabetes, managing your health means making conscious choices about what you eat. While there is no one-size-fits-all diet for people with diabetes, there are guidelines you can follow to set yourself up for success. Understanding how different foods affect your blood sugar can help you get started on creating a type 1 diabetes diet plan that works for you.
What to Include in Your Type 1 Diabetes Diet Plan
Having type 1 diabetes doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods, but it does mean you have to be smart about your dietary choices. A thoughtfully chosen, balanced diet can help you keep your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure within your target ranges and maintain a healthy weight.
To create a type 1 diabetes diet plan, consider the following:
- Protein: Protein can play a big role in keeping your blood sugar stable. Because it’s converted to glucose more slowly than carbohydrates are, protein doesn’t cause sudden blood sugar spikes. It also helps you feel full, so you’re less likely to overeat. Look for heart-healthy proteins like fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and beans.
- Carbohydrates: While people with type 1 diabetes should be mindful of their carb intake, you don’t have to avoid carbs altogether. Healthy complex carbohydrates such as fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can be a great addition to your type 1 diabetes diet plan.
- Fiber: Unlike other types of carbohydrates, fiber isn’t digested by your body. As a result, it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes. Getting enough fiber can also help lower your risk of serious health conditions, including heart disease. Foods such as raw vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans are excellent sources of fiber.
- Fat: Good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) support healthy body function and may help lower your cholesterol levels. Avocados, nuts, canola oil, olive oil, peanut oils, oily fish (such as salmon and tuna), and peanut butter are great sources of good fats.
- Beverages: What you drink has just as much influence on your blood sugar as what you eat. The American Diabetes Association recommends drinking low- or zero-calorie beverages, such as these:
- Water (still, sparkling, seltzer, mineral, or infused)
- Unsweetened tea
- Diet sodas
- Skim or nonfat milk
- 100% juice with no added sugar
- Zero-calorie drink mixes
Choosing the right types of foods and beverages for your type 1 diabetes diet plan can support stable blood glucose levels and overall health.
Foods to avoid
Knowing what your type 1 diabetes diet plan should include is important, and you also have to be aware of foods to avoid. Foods containing the following can work against your goal of a healthy diet:
- Saturated and trans fats: Known as “bad” fats, saturated fats can lower insulin sensitivity, raise your cholesterol, and increase your risk of heart disease.
- Cholesterol: Having diabetes puts you at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol. Limit consumption of high-cholesterol foods like full-fat milk and high-fat dairy products, high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, liver, and fried food.
- Sodium: Sodium intake doesn’t directly affect your blood sugar levels, but it can increase your blood pressure and your risk of stroke. To optimize your health, you should monitor the amount of sodium in your diet, especially if you have high blood pressure.
- Sugary beverages: Sugary drinks can raise your blood sugar and are often high in calories. Drinks to avoid include regular soda, energy drinks that contain sugar, and fruit juices with added sugar.
Consulting with your healthcare provider is essential when creating a type 1 diabetes diet plan that works for you. Understanding what foods to avoid and which ones you can enjoy will help you plan your snacks and meals and better manage your diabetes.
What a Type 1 Diabetes Diet Plan Can Look Like
In addition to including the right foods, your type 1 diabetes plan should include the right amounts of those foods. If you’re not sure how much you should be eating, the plate method can help.
The diabetes plate method is a simple way to eat the right foods in the right amounts. To follow the method, fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables (salad, broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc.). A quarter of your plate should be lean protein (chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu, etc.), and the final quarter should be carbs like starchy vegetables, rice, pasta, beans, and fruit. This can help you get the nutrients you need while supporting healthy blood sugar levels.
There is also evidence that the order in which you eat foods makes a difference. Researchers have found that eating proteins or vegetables before carbohydrates leads to lower post-meal blood sugar levels in some people with diabetes. This could give you a way of minimizing the impact of your favorite carb-rich foods without cutting them out altogether.
Of course, always be sure to talk about your type 1 diabetes diet plan with your healthcare provider. They can give you personalized guidance about what and how much to eat and answer any questions you may have.
Gaining Deeper Insight
Routinely self-monitoring your blood glucose levels is the best way to see how your type 1 diabetes diet plan is working. The POGO Automatic® Monitoring System and Patterns® for POGO Automatic app can make that easy.
Patterns is a simple glucose monitoring app that syncs with the POGO Automatic Monitor and imports data seamlessly from many popular wellness devices and health apps. With Patterns, you and your healthcare provider can identify trends and better understand the relationship between your diet and blood sugar levels. With these insights, you can make more-informed decisions about your health and refine your diabetes management plan to support better glucose control.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.