News | Published November 20, 2012 | Written by Heather Harpster, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Can nutritional counseling help you manage your diabetes?

Nutrition plays a vital role in the daily self-management of diabetes. The food you eat is closely connected to the amount of sugar in your blood, which is why the right food choices are crucial in controlling your blood sugar level and successfully managing your diabetes. The good news is that having diabetes does not prevent you from enjoying a wide variety of foods; however, eating well with diabetes can take practice and planning.

Nutritional counseling is one tool that helps support people with diabetes by developing a nutrition plan based on their individual needs and goals. Through nutritional counseling, you can learn more about the many factors to consider when deciding what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Some topics covered in nutritional counseling are:

  • Grocery shopping - Good nutrition starts with smart choices in the grocery store. Before you head to the supermarket, plan your meals for the week and create a list to shop from. Creating a grocery list can help ensure that you are only picking up those healthy items, and not giving yourself a reason to wander into the cookie aisle. Start out by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and fish are usually located. Limit your time in the center aisles where junk foods lurk.
  • Eating out - Eating out has become a part of many peoples' lives, from business meetings to entertaining get-togethers to quick meals. You don't want to miss out on these activities just because you have to watch what you eat, and the good news is you don't have to. You can pretty much eat the same foods as your friends and family; however, you may have to be more mindful of food choices and eat certain foods in moderation. If you are choosing where to eat, think about the places that offer you the most options. A little research can help you find diabetes-friendly meals when eating out. Many restaurants now provide nutritional information online. Since restaurant portions are typically larger than normal portions, ask your server to box half of your meal before bringing it to the table as a way to avoid overeating. Also, to ensure you are making healthy choices, ask what's in the dish and request that sauces, gravy and salad dressings be served on the side.
  • Healthy snacking - Snacking may have a negative connotation, but eating snacks can help curb hunger while adding a nutritious energy boost to your day; however, it is important to choose the type of food and the amount of food wisely. A small snack containing a whole grain with some protein or fat can help balance blood sugar levels throughout the day. Be sure to watch portion sizes to prevent increased calorie and carbohydrate intake. It is also important to plan ahead. Pack one or two healthy snacks for your day to help you resist those trips to the vending machine when you need a boost of energy. A few healthy snack options include:
  • Celery sticks with 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • Cucumber slices with 2 tbsp. hummus
  • 1oz. nuts
  • 6 whole-grain crackers with 2 oz. cheese
  • Small apple (sliced) with 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 2 whole grain rice cakes with 1 tbsp. almond butter

Nutritional counseling can also help with many other important considerations like judging portion sizes, reading food labels, planning meals, counting carbohydrates and balancing your food intake with your medications and activity.

To help individuals with diabetes adjust their meal plans, Mount Nittany Medical Center's diabetes team offers group "Life with Diabetes" classes, as well as individual counseling sessions tailored to each person's need. For more information on nutritional counseling and upcoming diabetes classes, please visit our website at, or call 814.231.7194.