If you have type one diabetes, you may be wondering what you can eat. The short answer is that you can eat anything—but some foods are better for you than others. In general, it’s a good idea to focus on eating whole foods that are minimally processed, with plenty of vegetables, fruits, protein, and healthy fats. And while there are no foods that are off-limits for people with diabetes, there are some that might give you a harder time than others. Here’s a closer look at the best and worst foods for people with type 1 diabetes.
The Best Foods for People With Diabetes
The best foods for people with T1D are those that are minimally processed and rich in nutrients. Here are some of the best options:
All types of vegetables are good for people with type one diabetes. Yes, even the starchy one. They’re high in fiber which helps to slow the blood sugar spike and are loaded with nutrients.
Similarly to vegetables, fruit is packed with fiber and nutrients! None of them are off limits for people with T1D. However, some fruits do have more sugar than others so it’s important to pay attention to the sugar content and bolus accordingly. A cup of pineapple and a cup of blueberries WILL impact blood sugar differently.
Both lean & fatty protein sources are excellent choices for people with type 1 diabetes. They are high in protein and nutrients. They’re also a good source of iron and other minerals. If you are eating a fatty source of protein, like salmon or beef, it’s important to make sure it’s raised species appropriately. This means for fish you’re looking for WILD CAUGHT (as opposed to FARM RAISED). And if it’s beef you’re looking for Grass-Fed, Pasture Raised, Organic.
Healthy fats from olive oil, coconut oil, lard, nuts, avocados, and fish help improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of heart disease. Beware of seed oils, vegetable oils, and other PUFAs, they are a source of major inflammation in the body and can cause a cascade of hormonal imbalances.
Some of my favorite dinner recipes that reflect these qualities are:
The Worst Foods for People With Diabetes
Welcome to the most controversial part of the blog post. In my experience with T1D, there are some foods that I choose to limit. These include:
Refined & conventionally processed grains
Refined grains like white bread, pasta, and rice have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients during processing. They’re also high in simple carbohydrates that can cause blood sugar spikes. That being said, I LOVE my white rice – which is why I choose to “dress” my rice. I rarely ever eat white rice plain. I almost always add cauli rice to it AND instead of cooking it in water, I cook it in bone broth. This addition of fiber from the cauliflower and the fat & protein from the bone broth slow the digestion of the food so that it blunts the sugar spike.
Sugary drinks like soda and juice contain empty calories that more often than not contain refined sugars, artificial flavoring (even “natural flavors” are artificial, they are allowed to call them natural because they mimic a flavor that is available in nature, like strawberry as opposed to bubble gum), and dyes . There is also very little you can do to “dress them up” which leads to a hard & fast blood sugar spike. A better option is herbal infused waters, tea, sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime, or any of THESE REFRESHING drinks.
Diet drinks are horrible for anyone – diabetes or not. It doesn’t spike your BG, but that doesn’t mean it should be ingested. This should be a whole post in itself, but for now I’ll just leave at this… fake foods do not belong in your body.
Desserts like cakes, cookies, candy bars, and ice cream are often high in sugar and low in protein & nutrients. I personally choose to limit desserts as opposed to cutting them out entirely because I do I think they have a place in a balanced diet. Desserts can be a slippery slope, so be aware of the ingredients and how often you’re indulging.
Some of my favorite health desserts are:
Summary of the Best & Worst Foods for People with Type 1 Diabetes
If you have type one diabetes it’s important to choose your foods carefully. While you can technically eat anything, focusing on eating minimally processed whole foods will serve you AND your blood sugars well. Foods that should be limited are refined & conventionally processed grains, sugary drinks, diet drinks, and desserts.
Let Me Know in the Comments
What foods serve you well and what foods do you limit?
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