Some Things In Life Are Free

By Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N

Robin thinks her diabetes meal plan is boring.  She follows it each day because it helps her control her diabetes, but she isn’t happy.  She would like to have more food choices and snacks she can nibble on that are tasty and fun.

Do you ever feel this way?  You don’t have to. Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you must stop eating all of the foods you love. A diabetes meal plan can be very flexible.  Visit your dietitian and let him or her update your meal plan so you can eat more of the foods you enjoy and still improve your diabetes control.  You may have to eat smaller amounts of those items and eat them less often, but you should be able to find a way to have them.


Did you know that there are foods you can add to your meal plan right now, even before you see a dietitian? These are known as “free” foods. A free food has less than 20 calories AND 5 or fewer grams of carbohydrates. Most people can enjoy up to 3 free food servings each day without any effect on blood glucose or weight. However, because some free foods contain small amounts of carbohydrates, it’s a good idea not to eat them all at one time, as the total carbohydrate amount may cause your glucose level to jump too high.

The following is a list of foods that are usually free. Be aware that some brands of these items may not be free, so check the nutrition facts food label on the package before you eat them:


Salad greens (endive, spinach, iceberg lettuce, romaine), 1 cup raw cabbage, cucumber, celery, 5 baby carrots, (or 1 small carrot), hot peppers, green onion, mushrooms, zucchini, radishes, Chinese cabbage, ¼ cup cooked carrots green beans, ½ cup cooked cauliflower


½ ounce of lean meat or ½ ounce of fatfree sliced cheese


¼ cup blueberries, 10 small strawberries, ½ cup rhubarb sweetened with sugar substitute


Club soda, coffee and tea, (unsweetened or sweetened with a sugar substitute), diet soda, sugar-free drink mixes, 1 packet diet hot cocoa mix, flavored water (carb-free), plain, sparkling or mineral water, bouillon (low-sodium), fat free broth


1 cup light popcorn, 2 saltine crackers, 10 goldfishstyle crackers, 1 sugar-free popsicle, sugar-free gelatin, a piece of hard candy (regular or sugar-free), sugar-free gum


Many are free: 1 tablespoon ketchup, ¼ cup salsa, 2 tablespoons yogurt, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, horseradish, mustard, dill or unsweetened pickles, 2 tablespoons diet salad dressing, 3 tablespoons taco sauce, vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar-free jam/jelly, 1–2 tablespoons sugar-free pancake syrup, 1 tablespoon light chocolate syrup, 2 tablespoons sugar-free whipped topping


The next time you’re at the store, look for other free foods you can add to your meal plan. To do this, check the nutrition facts label listed on the package. Find the serving size at the top of the food label. If one serving of the item contains less than 20 calories and 5 or fewer grams of carbohydrates, add it to your free food list.

The list of free foods has opened up many new food choices for Robin. She now nibbles on a small amount of fat-free sliced cheese if she gets hungry between lunch and dinner, and enjoys ¼ cup of blueberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar-free, whipped topping when she wants something sweet. She also plans to meet with her dietitian to find a way to add more of the foods she enjoys to her daily meal plan. Robin is no longer bored with her meal plan now that she has so many options to choose from. It is so nice to know that her meal plan can change. Yours can, too.


Some Things In Life Are Free


About Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N (15 Articles)
Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N is the 2008-2009 Diabetes Educator of the Year (AADE). She is also a Marriage and Family Therapist, Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, former radio show host, and award-winning medical media producer. Janis is the author and co-author of APPROACHES TO BEHAVIOR: CHANGING THE DYNAMIC BETWEEN PATIENTS AND PROFESSIONALS IN DIABETES EDUCATION (ADA, 2014), DIABETES ON YOUR OWN TERMS (Marlowe & Co, 2007), SEX AND DIABETES (ADA, 2007), and THE SECRETS OF LIVING AND LOVING WITH DIABETES (Surrey Books, 2004).
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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

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Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

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In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

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