Jeanette Terry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old, and she has since lived with diabetes through difficult life transitions, including the teenage years, college, and having children. She addresses the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes—going beyond medical advice—to improve overall adherence and management.  

Diabetes can bring with it a seemingly never-ending list of things you can’t eat. To an extent this is true, but you don’t have to look at it that way if you learn to be smart about your food choices. If you choose your carbs wisely, you don’t have to always give up dessert. You do, however, have to give up something in its place in order to have good blood sugar control.

The key is learning which carbs to avoid in order to maximize your carb limit. Everyone is different—some need to adjust their diets to their lifestyles or vice versa.

3 tips to eat smarter so you don’t have to miss out on the foods you love

1. Find the item on your plate that has the most carbs in it. If it is not the main entrée, make sure that your main dish is low in carbs so you don’t end up overdoing it with a side. If bread is one of the sides, it is often the easiest to forgo.

If it looks like there are going to be too many carbs on your plate, consider replacing something with either more vegetables or a low-carb alternative. Vegetables can be your best friend, and most people have at least a few vegetables that they enjoy eating.

Become an expert in preparing your favorite foods, and get creative so you don’t get bored with them.

The vegetables should take up the most room on your plate. They are generally low in carbs so you can fill up on those and enjoy a small portion of a high-carb choice elsewhere in your meal.

2. Don’t drink your carbs/calories. You might be forgetting to count the carbohydrates in your drinks. They can have the most carbs of the meal in some cases. It is much smarter to choose water or a drink that doesn’t have any carbs in it. That way, you can enjoy more carbs in your meal.

3. Indulge every once in a while and enjoy some dessert. You don’t have to deprive yourself of all delicious delicacies just because you have diabetes. Just be smart.

If you want to have dessert, take a high-carb option out of your meal and replace it with a dessert. But don’t replace good nutrition for pure carbs—your body needs those nutrients. Keep your dessert small and enjoy it, but don’t overindulge.

Ask a professional if you need some help

If you have a hard time deciding which carbs are the better choices, you may want to meet with a dietitian who can help you make a meal plan and recommend certain food items that can work best for you.

There is no one right answer when it comes to dieting for good diabetes control. The best thing you can do is learn about the different carbs and food choices available and then make the decision that is right for you and your lifestyle in order to provide you with the best health.