Helpful info for a healthier lifestyle
Diabetic Diet

Is There a “Diabetic Diet”?

If you or a loved one has diabetes you, or they, have likely been encouraged to follow a “diabetic diet” or perhaps the term “diabetic diet plan” or even “diabetes meal plan” was used. Do you wonder if there’s just one diabetic diet that’s right for everyone with diabetes or prediabetes regardless of a person’s age, height, weight, physical activity level, eating habits, food preferences and so on? Great question!  

The answer has changed dramatically over the years. That’s because research has evolved and so have the recommendations from the American Diabetes Association that reflect this research.

The term “diabetic diet” is outdated and is no longer in use. Today’s diabetes meal planning guidelines recognize that every person is an individual with unique characteristics, lifestyle and nutritional needs. Plus, research shows there’s no one right way to eat healthy for diabetes. Instead there’s a range of eating patterns that can help you accomplish your diabetes and nutrition goals. These range from a healthy vegetarian plan to a Mediterranean-eating style, to abiding by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and to a lower carbohydrate and higher protein plan.

It’s important to point out that the core principles of these eating plans are quite similar: eat sufficient servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes/beans and low-fat or fat-free dairy foods. Use healthier fats and oils, go light on red and processed meats and the unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fat. Do keep in mind that each person’s eating plan must consider his or her calorie and nutrition needs, diabetes goals and personal food preferences and habits. Monitoring the amount of carbohydrate one eats continues to be a key strategy to control glucose levels.

The bottom line is this: Work with your healthcare provider to zero in on a healthy eating plan that works for you for the long haul. Don’t try to drastically change your eating habits. Rather, try this: slowly and over time, tweak your eating habits and food choices to eat more healthfully.

The nutrition goals for diabetes have expanded beyond the narrow focus on just blood glucose control. Today’s focus encompasses control of blood fats (lipids) and blood pressure as well as glucose. It’s the control of these three factors, as well as getting to and staying at a healthy body weight, over the years that can help keep you healthy and prevent or delay diabetes complications. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Many people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight. Research shows that losing a small amount of weight soon after diagnosis and keeping as much of that weight off as possible can help with control of glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure.   

A few more questions on this topic are likely on your mind:

Do you wonder if, because you’ve been encouraged to lose weight to control your prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, you must follow only one type of eating plan to a T?  

The answer is no. Again, research shows there’s a variety of eating patterns that can help you lose weight and keep those pounds off, including the eating plans mentioned above. The key? Any eating plan you choose to follow to lose weight must contain fewer calories than your body needs.

And interestingly, though you may have read a few reports that claim low calorie sweeteners cause people to gain weight, recent studies show just the opposite. Using low calorie sweeteners and foods sweetened with them as part of an overall healthy, calorie controlled eating plan can help you lose weight and keep it off.

Next Question, about Reducing Sugar

Do you still need to put sugary foods and sweets on your forbidden list if you have diabetes? The answer, according to the American Diabetes Association, is no. This doesn’t mean you should go wild with eating sweets and sugary foods. You can fit small portions of these foods into your healthy eating plan, on occasion, based on your diabetes, weight and nutrition goals.

If you want to keep sugary food and sweets to a minimum to help control your calories and carbohydrates, you may be searching for ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Low calorie sweeteners and foods sweetened with them may come to your rescue. Consider using SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener to make lemonade, sprinkling it to sweeten a bowl of strawberries or oatmeal, or even creating a scrumptious dessert. Get helpful cooking and baking tips here: or read this blog post.

So, is there a one-size fits all “diabetic diet”? The answer today is no.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies nearly 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope notes: “Healthy eating today is one tough job! The good news is simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating. A step in the right direction for a long and healthy life.”


  1. Evert A, Boucher J, et al. Nutrition therapy recommendations for the management of adults with diabetes. Diabetes Care: 2013;36(11):3821-3842.
  2. U.S. Health and Human Services. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.  
  3. Jensen MD, et al. Guideline for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults: A Report of the ACC, AHA, TOS Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 2013.
  4. Peters JC, et al. The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12-week weight loss treatment program. Obesity Journal. 2014;22(6):1415-21.
  5. Tate D, et al. Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults: main result of the Choose Healthy Options Consciously everyday (CHOICE) randomized control trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;95:555-563.
  6. Victoria A. Catenacci, Zhaoxing Pan, et al: Low/No Calorie Sweetened Beverage Consumption in National Weight Control Registry. Obesity. e-pub, 2014



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