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Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes

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Diabetes health tip

Diabetes: Sorting fact from fiction
Diabetes is a serious illness. To help contain this leading cause of disability and death, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.

More diabetes health tips...

Diabetes Lipids Class
Gain practical information and plan how to lower your cholesterol in 6 to 12 weeks.

Heart-healthy eating with diabetes: Making good protein and fat choices

People who have diabetes are more at risk for heart disease. That means the type and amount of protein and fat you eat can affect your heart health.


Food portion tip

Three ounces of meat is about the size and thickness of a deck of playing cards.

More about food portions...

Poultry, meat and fish are high in protein which help your muscles stay healthy.

However, if you eat too much of these, you add extra calories and fat.

Most adults need about 6 to 8 ounces of meat (weight after cooking) each day. Think of this as one small and one medium serving each day. Three ounces look like a deck of playing cards.


You need some fat in your diet for good health. Fat provides energy and important nutrients.

Did you know?

A high-fat meal can cause insulin resistance and keep your blood glucose higher for a longer period of time.

It is important to choose foods that have healthy kinds of fats.

Fat contains more than twice the calories as the same amount of protein or carbohydrate. One serving size equals five grams of fat.

Unhealthful fats can clog blood vessels which can cause a heart attack or stroke. A general rule is to use 1 to 2 teaspoons of fat at each meal.

Fat contains more than twice the calories as the same amount of protein or carbohydrate. One serving size equals 5 grams of fat.

Tips to decrease fat

  • Buy lean cuts of meat such as round or loin.
  • Trim all fat from meat before cooking.
  • Remove skin and fat from poultry before cooking.
  • Bake, roast, broil, barbecue or grill meats instead of frying.
  • Choose white meat more often than dark meat.
  • Drain off fat after cooking and blot with a paper towel.
  • Use a nonstick surface to pan broil foods.
  • Avoid gravies made with fatty drippings.
  • Microwave, steam or par boil vegetables in a small amount of water and season with only a small amount of fat or with spices.
  • Use low-fat or fat-free margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressings, cream cheese and sour cream more often than regular versions.

Types of fats in food

(These are general guidelines. Talk with your doctor or diabetes educator
to find out what is best for you.)

Monounsaturated (healthiest)

Polyunsaturated (healthy)

(not healthy)

Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated trans fats
(not healthy)

Most nuts

Peanut butter (natural or trans fat-free)

Olive, canola, peanut and flaxseed oils


Tub margarine

Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, trout)


Sunflower, corn and soybean oils

Fatty meats

High-fat milk and cheese

Coconut and palm oils

Butter and lard

Many pre-packaged or prepared foods

Crackers, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, pastries

Fried fast food and chips

Shortening and stick margarine

Heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated)


Serving size


2 tablespoons or 1/8 medium

Margarine: regular soft, tub or squeeze

1 teaspoon

Margarine: Reduced-fat tub

1 tablespoon

Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip: regular

1 teaspoon

Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip: light/reduced fat

1 tablespoon


  • almonds, cashews, mixed nuts
  • peanuts
  • pecans, walnuts

  • 6
  • 10
  • 4

Oil (all kinds)

1 teaspoon

Olives, large (black or green)


Peanut butter (natural or trans fat-free) or nut butter

1 teaspoon

Salad dressing

1 tablespoon

Salad dressing: reduced fat, light

2 tablespoons

Sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons

Less heart-healthy fats (saturated and trans fat)


Serving size

Alfredo sauce

2 tablespoons


1 slice


1 teaspoon

Cream: regular or light

2 tablespoons

Cream cheese: light or reduced fat

2 tablespoons

Cream cheese: regular

1 tablespoon


2 tablespoons


1 teaspoon

Sour cream: regular

2 tablespoons

Sour cream: light or reduced fat

4 tablespoons

Tartar sauce

1 tablespoon


Dietary fat guidelines for adults

Weight loss

Maintain weight


40 to 55 grams a day

65 to 75 grams a day


30 to 45 grams a day

55 to 65 grams a day


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, fifth edition, ISBN 1-931876-32-0; National Dairy Council

First published: 12/01/2006
Last updated: 04/26/2013

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts