Student Pharmacists Discuss the Importance of Healthy Eating with Diabetes

SOP script your future_FB newsfeedAs we move into March the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy continues our focus on medication adherence. In fact, we are participating in a nationwide campaign called “Script Your Future.” The goal of the campaign is to encourage everyone to take their medication as prescribed. In addition, Script Your Future, targets three disease states–cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes. Since March is also National Nutrition Month, our students are pairing messages related to medication adherence, healthy eating, and disease management. Three of our P3 students, who are also USCOP Fellows, have some important tips for managing Diabetes through healthy eating.

Heathy EatingEvery person battling with diabetes is not the same, and because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all diet to help them control their blood sugar. However with a few skills, managing blood sugar through healthy eating isn’t that difficult. There are several tools available that can help with this, like using the Create Your Plate method from the American Diabetes Association and understanding how to correctly read nutrition labels.

There are a few easy steps to using the Create Your Plate method for healthy eating for people with diabetes. First, a dinner plate should be seen as having an imaginary line down the middle, and that one of those sides is cut in half again so that now there are three sections on the plate. The biggest section should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, like greens, carrots, beans, broccoli, etc. Then, grains and starchy foods should fill one of the smaller sections, such as potatoes, corn, green peas, rice, bread, or pasta. The other smaller section should contain lean protein, like chicken, fish, cheese, or eggs. Now that the plate is full, a serving of fruit (¾ cup of fresh fruit or ½ cup of fruit juice) and a serving of dairy, like 1 cup of milk or yogurt, should be added. Low-calorie drinks like unsweetened tea or water are great beverage choices.

While nutrition labels can seem complicated, they contain several important pieces of information for patients with diabetes when meal planning. The first thing to take note of is the serving size typically listed at the top. The nutrition information on every food label is based on the serving size, and 1 serving size may not be the entire package. For example, the serving size for most cans of soup is 1 cup while the can contains 2+ servings. The next thing listed on a nutrition label are the percent daily values (%DV) for the major nutrients in the food item. It is important to realize that these percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet, so this may not match up to the person’s meal plan.

The most important part of the nutrition label for patients with diabetes is the carbohydrates. The label will state how many carbohydrates are in each serving and then break it down into the kinds of carbohydrates present, which typically are dietary fibers and sugars. Dietary fiber is important as it isn’t digested or absorbed so it doesn’t raise the blood sugar and prevents it from rising too quickly. It also helps lower cholesterol. For patients with diabetes, a normal range of carbohydrates per meal is 45 to 60 grams so reading this section of the label is crucial.

FOOdWhile diet is extremely important for diabetes management, it is not the only area of a person’s life that should be monitored. Additionally, moderate exercise of 30 minutes a day, or 150 minutes per week, is recommended for an individual with diabetes. This in conjunction with a healthy diet should provide a healthy lifestyle that will slow the progression of diabetes. It is important to speak with your doctor personally about the best way to diet, exercise, and lose weight. Don’t forget to ask your doctor about an A1c test, daily blood sugar monitoring, cholesterol levels, and the appropriateness of a yearly influenza vaccine, eye exam, and foot exam.

Contributed by: Jeremy Arthur, Jamie Huff, and Katie Oliver, Class of 2017


  1. “Create Your Plate.” American Diabetes Association. N.p., 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <;.
  2. “Health Care Professionals.” Tools. N.p., 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <;.
  3. “Taking a Closer Look At Labels.” American Diabetes Association. N.p., 27 June 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <;.

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