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Ask Dana:  After years of living with type 1 diabetes and never receiving a set diet, I wonder what nutritional macros I should follow.


Dear Dana,

I have had type 1 diabetes for years now and no one has ever given me a set diet to follow. After all these years, I wonder what is the approach to my nutrition macros that I should follow and is there anything else I should make sure to focus on with my nutrition?

– Paul Mason
Hollywood, Florida


Dear Paul,

This is a question that I am asked quite often as a registered dietitian who works with people living with type 1 diabetes (T1D). The short answer is that a healthy diet for someone living with T1D is the same sort of healthy diet that everyone should follow.


This includes a measured amount of complex carbohydrates like high-fiber fruits and vegetables along with whole grains.  Carbohydrates should be about 45-65% of your total nutrition intake depending on a variety of factors outside of T1D. Many T1D follow a lower carbohydrate diet and that can also be a healthy approach as long as you receive all your micronutrient needs; a registered dietitian can help give you individual guidance on that.


Protein intake should fall between 10-30% of your diet depending on age and other personal factors.  Protein should include mostly lean animal proteins, lower-fat dairy products, and protein available in nuts, seeds, and whole grains.


Healthy fats are another important macronutrient to consider. A healthy range of fat intake should be between 20-30% of your calories but it is the type of fat that can really impact your health.  Focus on fats that come from plant-based sources like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds. As many T1D are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, these healthy fats can help support healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.


What Foods to avoid if you have Type 1 Diabetes

As with all things nutrition, moderation is the key.  Processed, sugary carbohydrates are not healthy for anyone and are especially challenging for one aiming to avoid potentially extreme highs in their blood sugars.  Foods with high amounts of saturated fats can contribute to, not only an increase in calories but an increase in unhealthy low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.  And, of course, managing your total intake of calories can help with weight management especially as we age.

Nutrition is best discussed on an individual basis for one’s unique needs and health concerns.  Yet, a healthy diet for a T1D does not need to be much different from a typical healthy, balanced diet. Learning to manage your insulin for this healthy diet is yet another challenge and something to reach out to our IDS team if you need help.  We also have a great team of registered dietitians to help with your individual nutrition plan. We’d love to help guide you!

If you need more individualized guidance, connect with our team here at IDS!

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