You Don't Have to Give Up the Foods You Love With Diabetes

Carmen cooks the way her mother and grandmother taught her. She likes to make these traditional Latino dishes for her husband and children. But because many of the foods contain a lot of fat, salt and sugar, Carmen is overweight. Not long ago, Carmen's doctor told her she has type 2 diabetes. According to her doctor, Carmen's eating habits may have raised her blood sugar to unhealthy levels. 

Traditional Latin foods are known for their rich, full flavor. But many are also fried or full of salt and sugars. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), eating foods high in fat and calories can place people at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This is especially important for Latinos, since they are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes than non-Latino whites. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a program for eating more healthy called Más que comida, es vida. It has information in Spanish and English to learn to cook if you have diabetes, without giving up the traditional Hispanic and Latin foods you've always enjoyed. 

“It is possible to enjoy Latin food that is both delicious and good for you,” comments Chef Lala, national spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association's Latino initiative, Por tu Familia. “By making simple changes to ingredients and cooking methods, people can keep the big flavors of Latin cuisine without missing any of the familiar tastes they have known for years.” 

The ADA offers these simple tips to eat a more healthy diet:

  • Put some color on your plate.  Take advantage of all the fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Try to have 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Bulk up your meal with fiber. Put more fiber in your meal plan by choosing fresh produce and whole grain products, such as brown rice or whole wheat tortillas.
  • Skip the salt. Use herbs, garlic and other seasonings. Try spicy chili peppers to add flavor and zip. Try smoked turkey instead of salt pork.
  • Put away your frying pan.  Instead, broil it, bake it or grill it. Or, use a cooking spray instead of butter when frying or sautéing.
  • Reduce fats in your cooking. Remove skin and fat from meats before cooking. Use skim instead of whole milk.

Carmen has since learned that she does not have to abandon Latin foods in order to control her disease. Thanks to information that helps Hispanics know more about making healthy food choices, she can include many traditional dishes in her diet and at the same time control her diabetes.

Click on some of the links below to find easy to prepare, delicious recipes or more information about eating well.


From the Centers for Disease Control

Feature: Choosing Healthy Eating Without Giving Up the Foods You Love

From the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Delicious Heart Healthy Latino Recipes/Platillos latinos sabrosos y saludables (Available in Spanish)

From the National Diabetes Education Program

Tasty Recipes for People With Diabetes and Their Families (Available in Spanish)

From the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

“What I need to know about eating and diabetes” (Available in Spanish)

From MedlinePlus

Diabetes and diet (Available in Spanish)

Interactive meal planning tutorial for people with diabetes

From the American Diabetes Association

Interactive Tool, “My Food Advisor” 

This information is for education only. It is not medical advice. Please ask your doctor for advice about changes that may affect your health.

Reviewed by:

Richard L. Lane MD., Managing Medical Director, KY

Lynette Cooper RN CMCN  Legal Specialist Sr