What should I eat if I was just diagnosed with diabetes?

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
First and foremost, incase no one else said it: welcome to the family! Now that you have diabetes you’re part of a huge and growing family—you are not alone. There is a lot to learn and it is all new and confusing and you’re probably either pretty bummed or afraid. The bottom line is that you don’t have to learn everything at once. Take baby steps.

Now, as to what you can eat, there’s no diabetes diet. There’s no list of things you can eat and can’t eat. But there’s one thing you can’t drink: regular soda. It simply has too much sugar for your diabetic body and medicines to handle. For the purposes of our discussion, some bottled teas, energy drinks, and coffee or tea with huge heaping spoonfuls of sugar are honorary members of the regular soda family.

But all foods are still open to you. You may have to limit how much of them you eat at any given time, how often you eat them, or what you eat them with—but nothing is off the table. Literally.

A handy and simple rule of thumb is the white foods rule. Which simply says that foods that are white in color tend to raise your blood sugar more quickly than other foods. That doesn’t mean you can’t have them, it just means you should take it easy on them, ideally don’t let them be more than a third of your meal.

The white foods are anything made with sugar, flour, potatoes, or rice. Sugar things include candy, ice cream and cake frosting. Flour things include bread, crackers, and pasta. Potato things include French fries, baked, and hashed browns. Rice includes many breakfast cereals and both brown and white rice dishes. Corn is also an honorary white food, even though it is yellow; and cottage cheese and cauliflower, while white, have no significant effect on blood sugar.

On the other side of the coin anything that used to run, walk, crawl, slither, fly, or swim is a freebie. Sensibly sized portions of meat don’t raise your blood sugar. Nor do cheeses and green leafy veggies.
A diagnosis of diabetes can be overwhelming. The best possible first step is to seek the support of a registered dietitian who specializes in diabetic counseling and meal planning. There is a fair amount to learn, so why not learn from the best! Many of these dietitians also hold a special credential called Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). Ask your health care provider to refer you to a CDE to get started on eating well with diabetes. Many insurance plans actually cover this medically necessary service.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.