Shobhaji loves her son-in-law. He is the most caring one in her family, just a call away when it comes to fulfilling basic household needs and emergency situations. He is a shopaholic, hard-working boss, has all the frills and luxuries of life, travels abroad two times a year, is well-dressed and well-coiffured. But what baffles her is his refusal to follow his doctor’s instructions on how to manage his diabetes.  You see he just can’t keep his appetite for sugary treats under control.

Think how hard it must be for a diabetic to stop the sweet cravings. Yes, it is a major task to refuse a bowl of caramel custard or kheer topped with pistachios especially when you don’t get it at home any more!  Ugh…it’s a plight that can be really frustrating.

Good living is on the rise these days, and so are illnesses. Some health issues are genetic and some lifestyle-related.   Let’s first take a look at what uncontrolled diabetes is doing to people all over the world:

Statistical Look at Diabetes the World Over

As per the updated January 2015 fact sheet of World Health Organisation, the findings on diabetes are startling.  Read an excerpt below:     

  • In 2014, the global prevalence of diabetes was estimated to be 9% among adults aged 18+ years.
  • In 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes.
  • More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle income countries.
  • WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030.
  • A healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Although the future looks grim, you can see that you can control diabetes.  There are diabetologists who can  guide you on small but significant lifestyle changes, weight management, and diet modification that can help a pre-diabetic, a borderline diabetic, and a confirmed diabetic,  to get the best of nutrition, without compromising on taste, and a very good quality of life.

Recommended Diet for Diabetics

According to diabetologist, Dr. Sanjiv Bhambani who is practising at Moolchand Medcity, “A diabetes diet should be high on fibre, must contain milk without cream, buttermilk, fresh seasonal fruits, green vegetables, etc. Per day calorie intake should be between 1,500-1,800 calories with a proportion of 60:20:20 between carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, respectively.” The doctor further adds that a diabetes diet should have at least two seasonal fruits and three vegetables in a diet plan.  (Times of India)

Some of the foods are a strict no-no for diabetics. For example, white and refined bread, pasta and fried, processed and fatty foods. Dry fruits are not recommended for diabetics, as the fructose levels in them can increase the blood sugar level. Fresh fruits are most welcome to be added to a diabetic diet.

For diabetics, a nutritious diet with healthy lifestyle habits should be the rule of thumb:

(1) Restrict foods that are high in sugar

(2) Eat in moderation throughout the day, not in volumes

(3) Watch out for the carbohydrate consumption – when to take, how much to eat

(4) Eat whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables

(5) Eat less fat and less salt

(6) Limit alcohol intake

We now give you ‘power foods’ that are identified by nutrition and diabetes experts as high on the following nutrients such as Omega 3, fiber, vitamin D and calcium. They are so versatile that they can be used in the form of recipes, as stand-alone snacks and as an add-on to their meals.

  1. Beans

Excellent source of protein and fiber, beans give the best nutrition to diabetics, whether consumed in the form of black beans or kidney beans (also known as rajma). They are extremely high in fiber as they yield about 1/3rd of your daily nutrition requirement in just about half a cup. Moreover, beans are packed with magnesium and potassium. Add beans to soup, salads and more such compatible dishes to benefit from the same.

  1. Dairy

Dairy products such as milk have an excellent combination of carbohydrates and proteins that keep blood sugar levels in check. Go for fat-free milk or lower fat versions, as regular toned milk is high in fat. Keep drinking milk with meals throughout the day or in parts. You can also enjoy the classic yogurt after meals or cottage cheese (paneer) as a main dish or snack. Milk can also be had at breakfast in the form of porridge, oatmeal or to thicken soups. Two servings  of milk a day works well for diabetics.

  1. Greens

Some of the veggies that are rich in high fiber like peas, beans, and leafy vegetables such as spinach and cabbage, broccoli are best for a diabetic’s diet. Use them extensively in sandwiches, salads, and in the main dish. Go for fresh or frozen vegetables but see to it that they have no added sauces, fats, or salt.

  1. Lentils

No daily nutrition is complete without a bowl of daal. Similar to beans, lentils are full of fiber and are a great substitute for non-vegetarian food. Lentils are rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals. Ask a true blooded Indian and he or she will wax eloquent about the flavoursome tadka daal with green chilies and garlic thrown in to bring on the lip-smacking taste.

  1. Grains

Two types of grains are there – whole grains (unprocessed) that have the kernel intact, for example, whole-wheat flour, whole cornmeal, barley, brown and white rice, oatmeal and refined grains (milled) where the bran and germ have been removed. Examples are white bread, white flour, white rice and others. For a diabetic, eating whole grains is a better option as they have lots of fibers that helps keep the blood sugar level from rising.

  1. Protein Foods

Poultry, meat, seafood, processed soy foods, nuts, eggs, bean, and peas are rich in proteins. Take them more often. When buying chicken or turkey, make sure to have its skin removed. See to it that all visible meat fat has been trimmed to a bare minimum. Instead of frying non-veg items, bake, roast, broil or grill so that you don’t get bad cholesterol.

  1. Oils/Fats      

Oils are not everybody’s friend.  They add calories and raise blood sugar. Your daily consumption of oils should be not more than 7 teaspoons and that isn’t asking for too much. Fatty foods such as hamburger, bacon, deep fried foods are high in saturated fats and should therefore be avoided. Foods rich in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats such as fish, vegetable oils and nuts fall in the ‘healthy fats’ bracket so can be taken but not in excess.

  1. Fruits

Restrict intake of fruit juices. Instead, go for whole fruits as they have more fiber and nutrition. Munch citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits. If you want to drink fruit juices, make sure they do not have added sweeteners or syrups.

  1. Sweets          

Asking a diabetic to avoid eating sweets is like asking for the moon. But with a bit of effort and patience, you can have your cake and eat it too! Go for sugar-free sweets, as they will cut down on the excessive calories. Split your favourite dessert with your friends or family – always ask for extra spoons or forks. Sharing your dessert with others will help you curb your sweet appetite.

The USDA Plate Method for Diabetics

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced the ‘plate method’ in 2011, replacing the Food Pyramid, for planning the most nutritious meal for diabetics.


A diabetic’s plate should be divided in half first and the other half divided again into 3 portions.

The largest portion of the plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables like carrots, spinach, lettuce, greens, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, beetroot, mushrooms, etc.

Starchy foods and grains like rice, whole grain bread, cereals, daal, potatoes, peas, and even light snacks like popcorn should fill one smaller portion.

The other two smaller portions should comprise of protein-rich foods like tofu, cheese, eggs, fish, chicken without skin, etc., and a moderate helping of fruit and/or milk.

This diet pattern, when followed regularly, will keep diabetes under control and improve the functioning of the heart, kidney and other major organs that are usually affected by diabetes.

If you are a diabetic, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor and nutritionist.   Be frank about your food preferences and they will work out the best diet plan for you.  You can have nutritious and tasty meals without having to give up all your favourite food.  They will help you work out ways and means for controlling your sugar level that will leave you happier and with a better quality of life than ever before.      

How do you manage your food cravings as a diabetic?  What is your diet plan?  Do you follow the Plate Method?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Additional Reading:

Diabetes Fact Sheet – WHO

Diabetes Type 2 – Meal Planning

USDA – Choose My Plate

Download Free eBook on Natural Remedies for Diabetes

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Download Free eBook on Natural Remedies for Diabetes