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Eat Healthy Foods

The National Institutes Of Health's "National Diabetes Education Program"

Why do you need to eat healthy foods?
  • For energy to learn, live and be active.
  • To grow at a healthy rate.
  • To keep your blood sugar or glucose (GLOO-kos) in balance — not too high or too low.
  • To lose weight slowly, if you need to, under your doctor's care.
Do kids with diabetes need special foods?

No, they don’t! Meals that are healthy for children with diabetes are great for everyone in the family.

How does food affect your body?

Food is the fuel that our bodies use for energy. The three main sources of fuel are carbohydrates (CAR-boh-HY-drate), protein, and fat. The body changes them into glucose for energy or stores them as fat. Eating a balance of foods that contain carbohydrates (carbs for short), protein, and fat every day will help keep your blood glucose close to normal. It may also keep your weight where you and your doctor want it to be.

Carbs are a great source of energy for our bodies. Many foods contain carbs. Some are better for you than others. If you eat too many carbs at one time, your blood glucose may get too high. Learn to eat the right amount at meal and snack times to keep your blood glucose in balance.

These are good carb choices. They have lots of fiber:

  • Whole grain foods, such as brown rice, whole wheat breat and crackers, oatmeal and cereals
  • Lentils and dried peas or beans such as kidney, black, white, split, or black-eyed; these foods are also a good source of protein
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, white, green, blue and purple
  • Other good sources of carbs include non- or low-fat dairy foods, soy milk, pasta, potatoes, corn, squash and yams

Choose these carbs less often:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Sweetened fruit juice
  • Regular soda
  • Sweets and desserts

Protein helps build strong muscles and bones. Protein foods do not make the blood glucose go up like carbs do. Protein in your meals helps you feel less hungry.

Foods that are a good source of protein include:

  • Meat and poultry without skin or extra fat
  • Fish, low-fat cheese and eggs
  • Natural peanut butter and soy products like tofu

Fats are a good source of fuel for the body and help you grow. Fat does not make blood glucose go up but too much fat can make you gain weight.

Choose fats that keep your heart healthy:

  • Small portions of low-fat salad dressing, low-fat mayonnaise, and margarine in a tub
  • Nuts, olives, and olive oil in small amounts
  • A slice of avocado

Choose these high fat foods less often. They are not healthy for your heart:

  • Butter, stick margarine, and regular mayonnaise
  • Fried foods like potato chips and french fries
  • Meats with fat on them, including bacon and lunch meats and hot dogs
  • Cakes, cookies, pies, and other desserts
What about sugar, sweets, and desserts?

Most people like the taste of sweet foods! Small amounts of foods that contain sugar can be part of a healthy meal plan. Desserts such as cakes, muffins, pies, cookies, and ice cream contain a lot of fat as well as sugar. If you choose to eat any of these sweet foods, just have a small amount at the end of a healthy meal. Have a piece of fruit if you are still hungry.

Avoid regular soda, sweetened fruit drinks, and sports drinks as they are all high in sugar. Drink water instead.

How much should you eat?

The amount of food you need to eat each day varies with your age, sex, height, and activity level. The amounts in Your Healthy Food Guide are right for girls ages 11 to 17 or boys ages 11 to 14 who get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day. If you are a boy older than 14, or if you want to enter your own height or activity level, visit

Ask your doctor or dietitian about making a meal plan just for you, especially if you need to lose weight. Being active and eating smaller amounts of food and fewer sweet or fatty foods can help you lose weight in a healthy way. You will keep your heart healthy, too.

It is best to spread your food out over the day. Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack — check out your options with your doctor or dietitian. You will have a good supply of energy and you will not get too hungry.

For fun, take the Portion Distortion Quiz. You will learn how today’s portions compare to the portions 20 years ago and how much physical activity you will need to do to burn up the extra calories in today’s food portions.

Putting it all together!
  • Learn about healthy foods and make healthy choices at each meal and snack.
  • Ask your health care team to help you make and use a healthy eating plan.
  • Be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day.
  • Keep screen time to two hours or less a day. This includes time watching TV, playing video or computer games, and using the computer.
  • Take the correct amounts of insulin or pills, if you need them to manage your diabetes, and check you blood glucose at the times planned with your health care team.

It’s not always easy to eat healthy foods when others seem to eat whatever they want. Do the best you can and know that it will make a difference in your life.

Last updated October 14, 2008