Diabetes Nutrition

Diabetes Nutrition

Check out the links below for more information on healthy eating, food budgeting, meal planning, recipes and more!

What is Diabetes ?

Diabetes is a condition in which your body cannot properly store and use food for energy. The fuel that your body needs is called glucose, a form of sugar. Glucose comes from foods such as fruit, milk, some vegetables, starchy foods (breads, rice, cereal, pasta) and sugar (which may also be added to more commercially prepared and processed foods).

To control your blood glucose, understanding how to balance your food intake becomes very important. However diet is only component in achieving balance. Activity, lifestyle habits as well as taking medication as your health care provider prescribes, are also keys to overall balance and well-being.

Review the nutrition/lifestyle tips below to help you make positive changes:

  1. Eat three meals per day at regular times as this helps your body control blood sugar levels
  2. Space meals no more than six hours apart to avoid malnourishment, and overeating at a following meal
  3. Limit sugar and sweets (regular pop, desserts, candies, jam and honey)
  4. Limit the amount of high fat food in your diet (fries, fried foods, chips, pastries)
  5. Eat more high fibre foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) as these help you feel full, and help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  6. If you are thirsty, drink water. If you feel hungry and its not meal time, drink water (as often our body will feel hunger when it is in need of water)
  7. Add physical activity to your daily life as this helps control your blood glucose levels after eating

The Diabetes Food Guide

The Diabetes Food Guide is a great tool to help you plan meals and snacks, especially if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or are at risk for developing diabetes. The Diabetes Food Guide can also be used by people who do not have diabetes but want to follow healthy eating guidelines.

The Diabetes Food Guide is  similar to the Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, with reference to food groups and particular serving sizes;  however foods that contain carbohydrate are highlighted so that people with diabetes have a better understanding of foods that affect blood sugar levels, and daily servings for carbohydrate containing foods have been modified to meet the needs of people with diabetes.

Carbohydrate Counting & The Glycemic Index

Carbohydrate counting is a great way to help people determine the amount of carbohydrate in their food (whether it be homemade or store bought) which helps people with diabetes plan healthy meals and snacks that take into account appropriate serving sizes and re-enforce the importance  of meal timing.

Carbohydrate counting is not a diet, but an innovative and easy to use  tool that helps people understand how carbohydrate containing foods affects blood glucose levels, energy levels, satiety, etc.

The glycemic index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate rich foods by how much they raise blood sugar levels. Eating foods that are considered ‘low’ on the glycemic index may help control blood sugars, cholesterol, appetite, decrease your risk of heart disease and can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

To learn more about carbohydrate counting and the glycemic index, please contact the Wabano diabetes program and book an appointment with the dietitian!

Sugar, Sugar Alcohols & Sweeteners

Sugar and sweetened foods may be eaten in moderation by people with diabetes. Their effect on blood glucose levels will vary. Read the following information to expand your knowledge regarding sugar, sugar alcohols, sweeteners and more.

Sugars are carbohydrates, which affect your blood sugar, weight and blood fats. Examples of sugar include: brown sugar, icing sugar, invert sugar, white sugar, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, molasses, barley malt.

Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. Small amounts are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They can also be manufactured. They are only partly absorbed by your body, increase blood glucose more slowly and have fewer calories than sugar. They are used to sweeten foods and food products containing these substances will sometimes be marketed as “sugar free” or “no added sugar”. It is important to note that they may also be found in cough and cold syrups and other types of liquid medications (ie. antacids). Check with a pharmacist if you would like to be certain as to which medications contain sugar alcohols. Examples of sugar alcohols include: lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, polyols, sorbitol, xylitol, polydextrose, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH), isomalt, palatinit, polyol syrups.

It is important to note that sugar alcohols should be consumed in small amounts, as more than 10grams of sugar alcohols a day can cause side effects such as gas, bloating and/or diarrhea. Talk to a dietitian if you are carbohydrate counting and want to use foods sweetened with sugar alcohols.

To learn more about sugars and sweeteners, and how they can fit into your individual meal plan, talk to a dietitian or book an appointment with the diabetes team.


Sweeteners such as Aspartame, Cyclamate, Saccharin, Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium have been approved for use by Health Canada. These sweeteners can be found in packaged foods and beverages as well as available in packets, tablets or granulated form. Some sweeteners should not be used in people who are pregnant (such as cyclamate and saccharin; also known as sugar twin, sweet’n low, hermesetas). People who have a condition called PKU (phenylketonuria) are advised not to use aspartame. People who follow  potassium-restricted diet or are allergic to sulfa-antibiotics should discuss the use of Acesulfame Potassium (AceK) with their physician.

When used in moderation as part of a healthy and well balanced diet, sugar substitutes can contribute to the enjoyment of eating. They are not, however, a miracle solution in achieving or maintaining a healthy weight nor in managing diabetes.

Useful Nutrition Links

Diabetes Meal Plan – Women

Diabetes Meal Plan – Men

Food Budget – Grocery Store Tips  

Planning Healthy Meals on a Budget 

Egg Nutrition 101 

Recipes with Eggs 

Dairy Nutrition 

Recipes using dairy products