It’s important to eat healthy when you have diabetes, but a diabetes diet doesn’t have to be boring and restrictive. There are many creative ways to eat healthy without limiting yourself. Let’s start by dispelling some common myths.

Healthy food and regular exercise are important factors in keeping blood sugar levels under control.
Healthy food and regular exercise are important factors in keeping blood sugar levels under control.

A diabetes diet is a meal plan that helps you control your blood sugar levels. The key to an effective diabetes diet is to eat healthy food in the right proportion and at the appropriate time of day. It may sound simple but common myths can create confusion for some patients.

Myth: I Can’t Afford to Eat Healthy

Many people mistakenly think that healthy food is a lot more expensive than junk food but that’s not necessarily the case. A 2013 study in the British Medical Journal found that a healthy diet only costs an extra $1.50 per day. On a societal level, research has shown that healthier diets can save the U.S. billions of dollars in healthcare costs each year.

Don’t make the assumption that healthy food must be labeled organic or gluten-free. Sure, eating that way can be helpful in certain situations but if the extra cost for those certifications is a deal-breaker, don’t stress. Just focus on eating mostly whole foods—while avoiding processed meals and snacks—and that alone will go a long way in upgrading your current diet, without breaking the bank!

Eating whole foods while avoiding processed food is a superb way to eat healthy without breaking the bank.
Eating whole foods while avoiding processed food is a superb way to eat healthy without breaking the bank.

Myth: I Can’t Have Sugar

Not necessarily. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics can eat sweets in limited amounts, as long as these patients are engaging in moderate to intense exercise several times per week. Plan your meals properly. Have small servings of sweets as part of your meal, rather than as a snack. Avoid “hidden” sugars like corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, brown rice syrup, and honey. Some unexpected sources of sugar include pasta sauces, salad dressing, granola bars, dried fruit, breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal, and even ketchup. Always read labels. You may also consider natural alternative such as stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol. Use of these plant-based, non-caloric sweeteners will not impact blood sugar levels in most patients.

Myth: I Have to Eliminate All Carbs

Again, moderation is key. Some studies have found success among diabetics eating a moderate carbohydrate diet, with those on a Mediterranean diet experiencing the best results. Watch your portion sizes and opt for minimally processed carbohydrates such as steel cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, and even popcorn! Watch your butter intake, though. Coconut oil is a healthier alternative and research shows it can improve symptoms in diabetics.

Popcorn is a whole grain and can be a fun part of your diabetes diet.
Popcorn is a whole grain and can be a fun part of your diabetes diet.

Myth: A High-Protein Diet Is Best

Studies show that eating a diet high in animal protein can cause insulin resistance. A balanced diet that contains moderate amounts of protein, limited carbohydrates, and healthy fats is best. Some of the best sources of “good” fats are fish, avocado, seeds, nuts, olive oil, and eggs.