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What can I eat if I have diabetes?

When you hear the word 'diabetes' come from your doctor's mouth, an array of thoughts might start to race through your mind. And, there's a good chance many of them are food related. As is often the case, diabetes is tied to countless ideas to food, with many of those ideas correct.

We're going to help you figure out the answer to the dreaded question: 'What can I eat?'

What can I eat?

Carbohydrates. Many people mistakenly believe that having diabetes means they can no longer eat any carbohydrates. No fruit, pasta, rice, bread, and more. But that's far from the truth. Those foods contribute valuable nutrients including fiber and a variety of vitamins, minerals and more.

Registered dietitian Victoria Shanta Retelny, author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods encourages you to realize, "The quality of the carbohydrates as well as the portion size counts in terms of overall blood sugar control." Perhaps you used to have a big bowl of pasta in the past, instead of eliminating it entirely, just cut down to about one cup, preferably whole wheat, and replace the rest of the pasta with an assortment of fiber-full veggies and a small amount of lean meat.

Sweets. The thought of never again enjoying cake, cookies, or other sweets can be tough for many. But it doesn't have to be that way. Again, instead of eliminating, simply cut down -- both amount and frequency. Instead of having a big bowl of ice cream every night in front of the television, try having a half cup once or twice a week.

This helps limit your sugar intake to help control the diabetes, but it also helps prevent sugary binges that are more likely when you vow to ban these foods forever. For many, the thought of never having something again makes it even more desirable. In addition, try to eat these foods with or shortly after a well-balanced meal which can help slow the rise in blood sugar.

Fiber. Fiber lowers one's risk of heart disease and many cancers and can also play a role in blood sugar control. Retelny recommends, "Aim for 14 grams per 1,000 calories." That's roughly 25 to 30 grams a day that you can get by incorporating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds into your day.

Favorite foods. If you're favorites happen to be whole grains and broccoli, you're good to go. But what if you're more fond of pizza and chips? No worries, you can still make it work. Retelny suggests, "Enjoy them, but eat less." For example, instead of half a pizza, savor one slice with a large salad; instead of sitting down with a large 8 oz bag of chips, enjoy a 1 oz bag with a healthy sandwich at lunch.

What can I drink?

While it's true that soda, a.ka. liquid sugar, causes havoc with one's blood sugar, there are still a number of refreshing thirst quenchers out there. Retelny advises, "Eliminating regular soda and replacing it with water, mineral water or unsweetened green tea." If you really like the bubbly stuff, try mixing club soda or sparkling water with 100% fruit juice for a light, all-natural soft drink -- roughly 2 tablespoons of juice mixed with 1 cup of water.

As you can see, having diabetes does not mean you're sentenced to a life of little and boring food. There's plenty of answers to "What can I eat?"

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About Heidi McIndoo

Heidi McIndoo, MS is a registered dietitian who has been counseling women, men, and children about healthy eating for twenty years. She firmly believes food should be enjoyed and all foods can fit into a healthy diet -- it's just a matter of how much and how often.

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