How Many Calories Should a Diabetic Eat a Day?

by Linda H. Lamb

About Linda H. Lamb

Linda H. Lamb is a veteran newspaper journalist whose experience includes over 10 years at "The State," South Carolina's largest newspaper. As its medical writer, she was named top beat reporter in the state (2003), with a special interest in nutrition-related issues including obesity, chronic disease management and cancer. Lamb holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.


Counting calories is a worthwhile pastime, especially for diabetics. If you are a Type 1 diabetic, keeping track of calories in your diet can help you head off other serious ailments related to obesity. If you are a Type 2 diabetic, chances are you’re overweight already -- and dropping some of those pounds can help you manage your disease.

Daily Calories

A session with a dietitian can help determine how many calories you need daily. Basic guidelines from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse are: about 1,200 to 1,600 calories if you are a small, active woman, a small woman who wants to lose weight, or a medium-sized sedentary woman; about 1,600 to 2,000 for a large woman and about 2,000 to 2,400 for a very active medium-sized or large woman.

Risks of Overweight and Obesity

To boost your motivation for counting calories, consider some of the hazards of being overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risks include coronary heart disease; cancers of the breast, colon and endrometrium; high blood pressure; high cholesterol and triglycerides; stroke, liver and gallbladder disease; sleep apnea; respiratory problems; osteoarthritis; and some gynecological problems such as infertility.

Healthy Choices: Eat More

In addition to counting calories, it’s important to choose healthy foods for your meals and snacks. First, boost the fiber in your diet by choosing whole-grain foods such as oatmeal, whole-grain rice and whole-wheat breads, bagels and tortillas, advises the CDC. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily -- fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Include dark-green veggies such as broccoli and spinach; orange ones such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash; and a variety of beans, peas and lentils.

Healthy Choices: Eat Less

As you cut calories and plan healthier meals, limit foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats, the CDC recommends. Avoid fried foods and fatty cuts of meat. Phase out dairy products made from whole milk; choose nonfat or low-fat versions of milk, yogurt, sour cream and cheese. Avoid cakes, candy, cookies and crackers that are high in fat and sugar. Finally, watch out for fattening salad dressings: choose nonfat or low-fat versions.

Cooking Tips

Solid fats tend to be high in saturated and trans fats, so choose nonstick spray or liquid oils for cooking -- canola oil, for example. Experiment with recipes using fish and lean meats. Watch portion sizes, too, because even healthy foods can pile on pounds if you eat too much of them, warns the American Diabetic Association. Fat adds flavor, of course, so make up for that by trying some new spices and condiments. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse suggests flavored vinegars, lemon juice, soy sauce, salsa and herbs.

Photo Credits:

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or