You can use Choose MyPlate from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a basic guide to choosing healthy foods. It shows the kinds of foods everyone needs—fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy—and how much to eat for each group. Choose MyPlate is based on the 2010 dietary guidelines from the USDA. These guidelines include eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; eating foods lower in salt; and choosing water instead of sugary drinks. The guidelines also recommend choosing non-fat (or at least low-fat) dairy products.
Tips for making healthy food choices
The best choices for the rest of the family are also the best choices for people with diabetes. Choosing foods according to the MyPlate model will help you and the rest of the family follow these guidelines for healthier eating:
- Eat a variety of foods from the different food groups.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. All fruits and most vegetables contain carbohydrates, but their high content of vitamins, minerals, and fiber make them great choices.
- Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. For best health, these should make up only a small portion of overall food choices. Most saturated fats (animal fats and shortenings, for example) tend to raise blood cholesterol levels and are bad for the health of your heart.
- Use salt (sodium) in moderation. Most people eat more salt than they really need. For some people, extra salt adds to their risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is more common in people with diabetes. Uncontrolled blood pressure (greater than 130/80 mm Hg) greatly increases the risk for health problems. Here are ways to cut down on salt:
- – Choose foods “close to nature.” Less processed foods have less salt.
- – Avoid foods canned, boxed, or frozen with extra salt. Try the “no-salt-added” varieties.
- – Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning mixes for added flavor, instead of salt.
- Use sugar in moderation. High-sugar foods should make up only a small part of the diet. However, small amounts of sweet foods can be a part of a healthy diet, even for people who have diabetes. Learn how to fit the sweets you enjoy into your overall plan.
- Use alcohol in moderation. Alcohol can dangerously lower blood sugar (glucose) in people with diabetes who take insulin or diabetes pills. If you choose to drink alcohol, talk to your doctor or dietitian about how to drink safely. Pregnant women should not drink alcoholic beverages.