Wellness iNPractice Diabetes

Helping Patients Understand Basic Concepts in Nutrition

Patients with diabetes need to understand basic concepts about nutrition, and why what they eat and when they eat are so important for managing diabetes. You can help your patients understand that they have a wide variety of foods to choose from. To help patients start and stick with a healthy eating pattern, individualize their plan to incorporate habits, cultures, beliefs, and access to healthful foods. See the Building Cultural Competence section for more information.

“Healthy eating” should focus more on the quality of the food and less on nutrient percentages.1

Note that patients with type 1 diabetes and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes should learn how to count carbohydrates or use another meal-planning approach to quantify carbohydrate intake in order to “match” mealtime insulin to carbohydrates consumed.2 

If the patient is attempting to lose weight, consider recommending a daily meal plan that contains 500-1000 kcal/day less than the patient’s usual intake.1 This reduced intake, combined with increased physical activity, can help the patient lose weight. 

For additional nutrition considerations for patients taking diabetes medication, see the Position Statement from the American Diabetes Association on Nutrition Therapy.

Nutrition Resources for Patients

Available in both English and Spanish, the Nutrition Know-how brochure describes:

  • A Diabetes Meal Plan
  • Creating a Healthy Plate
  • How to Count Carbs
  • Making Healthy Food Choices
  • What Foods to Avoid
  • How to Read Nutrition Facts

You can print out the brochure to give to your patients or use it along with the Interactive Meal Builder as part of an in-office consultation on nutrition and dietary considerations for patients with diabetes.

Additional Resources

The American Diabetes Association has developed patient-directed information on the topic of nutrition, including Fast Food Tips, Healthy Eating When Dining Out, Food Swaps, and Money Saving Shopping Tips. Access these and more by clicking here