Diabetes is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood becomes too high because the body is unable to either convert it into energy or to store it.
Food choices for diabetics
There are no foods that diabetics cannot eat; however, it is essential to reduce the amount of certain foods and to increase others. The dietary guidelines for people with diabetes are very similar to those recommended for everyone else - eating less sugar and fat, more fibre-rich, starchy foods, and more fruit and vegetables, with moderate amounts of meat and fish, as well as milk and dairy foods.
There is no need to buy special diabetic foods - ordinary everyday foods in the right balance are the key to diabetic control. Choosing the right foods, however, can make a big difference.
Plan your meals
Eating regularly helps to ensure your blood sugar does not swing from one extreme to the other. People with diabetes need to base each meal on a starchy carbohydrate food for energy and to help maintain control over their blood-glucose level. It is a good idea to try to eat about the same amount of starchy foods each day, with plenty of vegetables, salad or fruit, and a smaller portion of meat or dairy foods. Starchy foods to try include: cereal, toast, rolls, bread, noodles, rice, pasta and potatoes, picking wholemeal versions where possible, since they are higher in fibre. Fibre can help to slow the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed, for a steadier release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Reduce your sugar intake
As long as your everyday diet is healthy and generally low in sugar, some sweet food (in small portions) will do no harm, particularly if eaten as part of a meal.
Sugary drinks can cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly, so choose sugar-free, diet or low-sugar squashes and fizzy drinks.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
Aim for at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, eating more vegetables than fruit for lower sugar consumption. Easy ideas to increase your fruit and vegetable intake are to add extra vegetables to your meals, such as peas in your pasta sauce or spinach in your omlette. Eat a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables to get the most nutrients.
Cut down on fatty foods
Fat does not directly affect your blood-glucose levels, but it is important for reducing overall weight and the risk of coronary heart disease, both of which are risks associated with diabetes. It is best to try to reduce the total fat in your diet - especially saturated fats. These are the ones found in butter, lard, fatty meat and meat products, full-fat dairy products, and savoury foods such as pies, pastries and crisps.
Reduce your salt intake
Avoid having salt on the dining table, and use less salt in cooking - add fresh or dried herbs and spices instead to enhance the flavour of food.
Moderate alcohol intake
It is best to keep to safe drinking limits, which means no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
One small glass of wine = 1 unit
Half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider = 1 unit
One pub measure of spirits = 1 unit
People with diabetes should have some alcohol-free days each week and should not drink alcohol on an empty stomach, as this can make low blood-glucose levels more likely to occur.
Maintain a healthy weight
Check with a registered dietitian that you are not only eating a healthy diet, but also eating the right quantity to maintain your weight at an ideal level. During exercise or physical activity your blood glucose level falls so you may need to adjust your insulin and have a sugary snack available.
Eat well for diabetes
Watch our video to hear Dr Mala Ubhi share her knowledge about eating well for diabetes. Then join Silvana Franco in the kitchen as she and type II diabetic Chris, cook blueberry drop scones
Visit our recipe page to try this Blueberry drop scone recipe
Diabetic friendly recipes