What Can I Eat?

The answer to this question depends on the nutritional protocol that you have decided to follow. There are, of course, many variations on the four (4) major approaches to diabetes management (these were covered in more detail in a previous chapter, “Approaches to Diabetes Management”).

But sometimes you just think it would be helpful to have a list of foods you can eat and foods you can’t eat. So I’d like to try to do that in this chapter.

Standard American Diet

Most experts, self-proclaimed or actual, will agree that the Standard American Diet (or SAD) is high in carbs and high in fat of all kinds and is high in calories. The SAD is typically comprised of primarily refined and processed foods. This is the easiest “food list” to make because it can contain almost anything you want to eat. Diabetics who eat the Standard American Diet are not managing their diabetes other than possibly taking “diabetes pills” or insulin shots as prescribed. They may or may not be exercising portion control, and may or may not be exercising at all.

American Diabetes Association

The premise of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is, “Living with diabetes doesn’t have to mean feeling deprived.” The implication is that truly healthy eating makes one feel deprived. From what I can determine, ADA is very mainstream, middle-of-the-road, and compromised. ADA guidelines are very much “conventional wisdom” rather than “present truth.” ADA holds on to what they feel is “tried and true.” They seem to imply that anything other than ADA recommendations, such as low-carb high-fat or high-carb low-fat vegan, is a “fad diet.” However, if your goal is to follow ADA guidelines on nutrition, you can find handy food lists at the following location:

The following sub-pages contain lists for each category:

  • Diabetes Superfoods
  • Fats
  • Alcohol
  • Non-starchy Vegetables
  • Grains and Starchy Vegetables
  • Protein Foods
  • What Can I Drink?
  • Dairy
  • Fruits

If you’d rather have your food lists in a paper copy, you can order one at:

LCHF (Low-carb High-fat)

Low-carb can be defined as anything from 20 grams to less than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. At its most simplistic, LCHF is described as “fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of fat.” As part of a short “course” in LCHF for Beginners, a general food list is given at:

Atkins Fruit & Veggie List

While we don’t wholeheartedly recommend Atkins for diabetics (we feel it is too high in protein and too high in carbs), here’s a food list available online with a link to download a PDF copy:

Ketogenic Food Lists

For anyone who is seriously interested in a very low-carb high-fat, or ketogenic, diet (20-30 grams of carbs per day), I have compiled a food list based on the work of Eric C. Westman, MD (A Low Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Manual: No Sugar, No Starch Diet) and author/blogger Jimmy Moore (Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-carb, High-fat Diet), with modifications for Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics. You can find a PDF copy on our blog at:

High-carb Low-fat Vegan

The McDougall Program

This is perhaps the most well-known of the high-carb low-fat vegan nutritional approaches to lifestyle medicine. The McDougall Program is based on the premise that carbohydrates (starches) should be the center of your diet, with “70%-90% percent of your calories…derived from complex carbohydrates.” This is the only program I found that offered actual food lists online:

Food lists may be found in the sub-pages entitled:

  • Starch Staples
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Foods Not Allowed

Adventist-based Programs

There are several Adventist-based programs, some with specific programs for diabetes, and all of which are “plant-based.” Examples are:

  • NEWSTART® (Weimar Institute)
  • Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP)
  • TakeTEN (St. Helena Medical Center)
  • Wildwood Lifestyle Center
  • Life & Health offers an online video course called “Diabetes Undone
  • The Lifestyle Center of America, recently rebranded as Full Plate Living, has published a book specifically for diabetics called The Thirty Day Diabetes Miracle (available from Amazon.com).

Of the above, the only place where I found a food list was at the Full Plate Living site, which seems to focus a lot on fiber, referring to high-fiber foods as “superfoods.” You can see this list at: