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10 ways to eat well with diabetes

Whether you're living with diabetes or not, the whole family will benefit from eating well. And, the good news is that it's easy to get started. Try out these top tips for healthy eating.

1. Eat regular meals

Space your meals evenly throughout the day, and make sure everyone has breakfast.

2. Keep an eye on portion sizes

Be mindful of your overall portion sizes of your food. If you are trying to lose weight, you may need to adjust them. 

  • Try using smaller plates.
  • For main meals, dish out your vegetables first and let this fill up your plate.
  • Separate the different foods on the plate rather than piling them on each other.
  • Resist the temptation for a second helping; have a glass of water first.

3. Carbs count

Include carbohydrates in the food you eat each day. Healthier sources include wholegrain starchy foods, fruits and vegetables, pulses and some dairy foods. As all carbohydrates affects blood glucose levels, be conscious of the amounts you eat. 

4. Cut the fat

Everyone needs some fat as part of a healthy diet. But, cut back on saturated fats, which are found in foods that are made of animal products like butter and cheese, red and processed meats, palm oil, coconut oil, ghee, and cakes and pastries.

5. Get your five a day

illustration of a tomatoAim for at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, so that you and your family get the range of vitamins, minerals and fibre you need to eat well. Choose seasonal produce to cut costs.

6. Cut back on salt

Too much salt is associated with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of diabetes complications. Adults should have no more than 1 teaspoon (6g) of salt per day, while children have even lower targets. Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods so cut back on these and try to cook from scratch, flavouring your food with herbs and spices instead. It is always a good idea to read labels and choose lower salt options whenever possible. 

7. Dish up the fish

Illustration of fishAll types of fish are good sources of protein, and oily fish is particularly good, as it's rich in omega-3 (polyunsaturated fat), which protects against heart disease. Fresh, frozen or canned are all good – choose canned fish in spring water, and look out for added salt.

Avoid fried fish, or, if you do have it, remove the batter. Aim to eat two portions of oily fish, such as mackerel, sardines or salmon, every week.

8. Eat more beans

Beans, lentils and pulses are low in fat, high in fibre, cheap to buy and packed with nutrients. They don’t have a big impact on blood glucose and may help to control blood fats such as cholesterol. Try kidney beans, chickpeas, green lentils, and even baked beans, hot in soups and casseroles, cold in salads, in baked falafel, bean burgers and low-fat hummus and dhals.

9. What about sugar?

Even with diabetes, you can include some sugar in foods and baking. The trick is not to overdo it, by keeping sugary foods and drinks for an occasional treat, and finding alternatives where you can. Try using artificial sweeteners when sweetening food and drinks at home. 

10. Hydrate

illustration of water in a glass with a strawWe all need to stay hydrated by drinking 8–10 glasses of fluid per day. Water is best, but milk, tea and coffee, herbal teas and some foods, particularly fruit and veg, all contribute to this total.

You don’t have to cut out alcohol and sugary drinks altogether – just keep an eye on what you’re drinking and how much. 

...and 2 things you can do to help manage your diabetes

1. Give 'diabetic' foods a miss

Foods labelled as ‘diabetic’ offer no benefit to people with diabetes and may still affect blood glucose levels. They are expensive and contain as much fat and calories as ordinary versions, and they can also have a laxative effect.

2. See a dietitian

Diabetes UK recommends that everyone with diabetes should see a registered dietitian at diagnosis, and then have regular reviews. Ask your GP to refer you to see a registered dietitian.