Whether you’ve been newly diagnosed with diabetes or have been managing the condition for years, it can be tricky to plan meals that both optimize nutrition and keep your blood sugar in check. Navigating the latest nutrition news can also add another layer of confusion.

Here’s what you need to know to feel confident in selecting and enjoying a variety of dairy foods in everyday meals and snacks.

  • Dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt are at the core of a healthy overall diet as per the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association. Aim to include at least 3 servings per day.
  • Dairy foods supply a nutrient package that includes essential vitamins and minerals. Three of these—calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—are important “shortfall” nutrients that many of us don’t get enough of.
  • All dairy foods supply affordable, high-quality protein.
  • Pairing dairy foods with other nutritious choices helps maintain steady blood sugar levels.

When tracking your carbohydrate intake, remember that milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese supply carbohydrates from a natural sugar called lactose. Be mindful of portion sizes and read food labels closely to limit added sugars so you can stay within your personal target carbohydrate range per meal or snack. Here are typical carbohydrate amounts for a serving of dairy.

Carbohydrate Content in Common Dairy Foods

cottage cheese 1 1/4 cups 10 grams carbs
milk 1 cup 12 grams carbs
plain yogurt 1 cup 17 grams carbs
ricotta cheese 1/2 cup 7 grams carbs
shredded cheese 1/3 cup 3 grams carbs
hard cheese 1½ ounces 1½ grams carbs

Values from USDA Nutrient Database.

Here are some easy dairy-based meals and snacks for blood sugar control.

Dairy and Prevention of Diabetes

Dairy foods also play a key role in the prevention of diabetes for those without the condition. A growing body of research connects the regular intake of at least 2 servings of dairy foods a day with multiple health benefits, including a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend 3 servings of dairy foods per day for most individuals.

The Bottom Line: Is Dairy Good For Diabetics?

With the incidence of pre-diabetes and type 1 and type 2 diabetes on the rise for both children and adults, it’s important to know how to take control and manage your personal risk or manage the condition to prevent irreversible long-term damage. Enjoying dairy foods as part of your overall nutritious diet is a step in the right direction. Connect with an expert Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to develop a personalized eating plan for you.

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