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Eat what you love with Diabetes

What can diabetics eat?

Why are carbohydrates an integral part of every healthy diet? They impact blood sugars, or glucose, more than fats and protein. So, diabetics who count their carbs at each meal and snack have good success keeping their blood glucose in a healthy range. When you're diagnosed with diabetes and meet with a registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator (CDE), you're usually given a carbohydrate prescription for each meal. This prescription will work with the medicine or insulin you're taking to help keep your blood sugar normal.

What is a carbohydrate serving size?

15g of carbohydrates = 1 carbohydrate serving

Serving SizeTo determine your serving size, check the nutrition facts label for the number of carbohydrate grams (g).

  • If the total carbohydrate count is equal to 15g, then check the top of the food label for the serving size for one serving.
  • If the carbohydrate total is more than 15g, then divide the total by 15. For example, a food with 30g of carbs contains 2 carb servings, because 30 divided by 15 = 2.
  • If the carbohydrate total is less than 15g, then multiply the serving size so that your serving will have 15g carbs.

List of foods with 1 carb serving

The food list below shows the approximate size of 1 carbohydrate serving. Because products vary, check the nutrition facts information to get an accurate carbohydrate count.

  • Apple = 1 small (4 oz.)
  • Bagel = 1/4 large (1 oz.)
  • Banana = 1 small (4 oz.)
  • Beans, Pinto = 1/2 cup
  • Beans, Kidney = 1/2 cup
  • Bread = 1 oz. slice
  • Cake = 2" square (unfrosted)
  • Cereal  = 3/4 cup or 1 oz. (ready-to-eat)
  • Cereal  = 1/2 cup (cooked)
  • Cookies = 2 small
  • Corn = 1/2 cup
  • Crackers = 6 (Saltines)
  • Fruit, Canned = 1/2 cup (unsweetened)
  • Hamburger Bun = 1/2 bun
  • Ice Cream = 1/2 cup (light)
  • Jam or Jelly  = 1 tablespoon
  • Milk = 1 cup Orange Juice = 1/2 cup
  • Pasta = 1/3 cup (cooked)
  • Peach = 1 medium
  • Popcorn = 3 cups (popped)
  • Potato = 1/2 cup (mashed)
  • Potato Chips = 3/4 oz. (15–20 chips)
  • Pretzels = 3/4 oz.
  • Rice = 1/3 cup
  • Sugar = 1 tablespoon
  • Sweet Potato = 1/3 cup
  • Taco Shells = 2 (6" size)
  • Tortilla = 1 (6" size)

Sample diabetic menu for a day

Here is an example of a diabetic meal plan with the carbohydrates evenly distributed throughout the day.

  Meal ideas Approximate Carb grams Carb serving choice
Breakfast 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup berries
Snack 1/2 banana 15g 1
Lunch 2 slices of whole wheat bread
3 oz. fresh turkey
1 clementine
Calorie-free beverage
Snack 6 oz. yogurt 11g 1*
Dinner 4 oz. chicken breast (no skin)
2/3 cup sweet potato
1 cup green beans
Snack 3 cups of popcorn 15g 1
Total carbs   166g 12 servings
*A carbohydrate serving is the amount that provides 15g of carbohydrates or 1 choice.

High-carb Foods List of high-carb foods

The foods in this list affect your glucose levels much more than other foods, such as meat, non-starchy vegetables or fats. It doesn't mean you have to eliminate them from your diet, but managing the amount you eat and balancing them throughout your day can make a big difference in controlling your blood sugar levels.

  • Bagels, biscuits, bread, crackers, taco shells, and tortillas
  • Ready-to-eat or cooked cereal
  • Pasta and rice
  • Starchy vegetables – such as corn, peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Dried beans: kidney, pinto peas, black-eyed or split pea
  • Fruit: canned, dried, and fresh fruit juice
  • Milk, soy milk, and yogurt
  • Sweets – such as cake, cookies, ice cream, jam, jelly and sugar
  • Popcorn, potato chips, and pretzels

Healthy alternatives for your diet

Healthy AlternativesTry picking from the rainbow of colors available to maximize variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans, with meals.

  • Choose lean meats, like cuts of beef and pork that end in "loin" such as pork loin and sirloin. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
  • Choose whole-grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with your stir-fry or whole-wheat spaghetti with your favorite pasta sauce.
  • Choose nonfat dairy, such as skim milk, nonfat yogurt and nonfat cheese.
  • Choose water and calorie-free diet drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Include high-fiber foods like kidney or pinto beans and lentils in your meals.
  • Include fish in your meals 2-3 times a week.
  • Use oils to replace solid fats when possible.