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Cooking at home with diabetes


Whether you’re living with diabetes or not, cooking your food from scratch at home is the best way to know exactly what you’re eating, and will help you make sure that your food really is part of a healthy, balanced diet. 

Everyone can get involved in preparing and cooking meals, which not only helps give children the skills to cook for themselves when they’re older, but also gives them an idea of where different foods come from. Some jobs need supervision, like when using knives, cooking on the hob or using the oven. But, even younger children can join in cooking with spreading tomato sauce on pizza bases and stirring pre-chopped cucumber into yogurt as a dip.

Try these other ideas

Recipe makeover

There are probably a few favourite family recipes that may not be the healthiest. Using the tips on reducing fat, sugar and salt, encourage older children to come up with an alternative that fits into your healthy, balanced diet. For example, a lasagne can be made healthier by using courgette ribbons in place of pasta, making a sauce with low-fat spread and low-fat cheese, and adding plenty of vegetables.

Weighing and measuring

Younger children can help and it brings the maths they learn at school to life at home. Grow your own: even a window box will do. Plant herbs, cut-and-come again salad leaves and tomatoes in a grow bag. Let the children gather what is needed for that day’s meal.

Bake and play

Children can stir the mix for fairy cakes, fruit loaf or scones, then top them with Greek yogurt sprinkled with raisins.

Marinades: cheaper cuts of meat often need marinating. Younger children can help to mix the ingredients for this.

Slowly does it

Too much oil, butter, ghee and other fats can make you put on weight and increase your risk of heart disease. Since people with diabetes, particularly South Asian men, are at greater risk of heart problems, it pays to cut down on the amount of fat you add in cooking. Start by measuring the amount of oil and salt you normally add, and then gradually cut down. There’s no need to change drastically all in one go – the trick is to do it slowly, so the whole family gets used to the change.

Bring it down…

Part of eating healthily is cutting back on sugar, fat and salt – try these tips:


  • Experiment with using less sugar in baking. Fruit cakes, fruit scones and tea breads can be made without added sugar, as the dried fruit adds bulk and sweetness.
  • Use sweeteners to add extra sweetness.
  • When making jams and marmalades, try to reduce the ratio to 1lb fruit to ½lb sugar.


  • Choose lean meat, poultry and fish.
  • Remove any visible fat and discard the skin from poultry before cooking.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products like semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, reduced-fat cheeses and low-fat, unsweetened yogurts.
  • Poach, steam, grill, boil or bake foods rather than cooking with added fat.
  • Use an oil sprayer and non-stick pans for stir fries; if it starts to stick, just add a splash of water.
  • Use pulses, such as peas, beans or lentils, in soups and salads or to replace some of the meat in casseroles and shepherd’s pie.


Experiment with flavouring food with dried mixed herbs, fresh thyme, tarragon or oregano, or spices such as chilli flakes, cumin and black pepper, instead of salt

Time to eat!

It can be hard to get everyone together every day, so make it a rule that, at least once a week, the whole family gather to enjoy what they’ve cooked. There’s no need to cook different meals for different members of the family – but remember that portion sizes differ according to ages and whether any adults are trying to lose weight. So, dish up more protein for active teenagers and make sure there are at least two vegetables on offer. And use smaller plates – what looks small on a 12-inch plate looks fine on an 8-inch one.

Three dishes to prepare together

  1. Home-made pizza: Use ready-made wholemeal pizza bases, or make your own, then spread with tomato sauce and top with grated cheese, ham or chicken pieces, and a few basil leaves.
  2. Fruit compote: Using frozen fruits of the forest or other berry mix, blitz in the blender, serve in bowls topped with yogurt or light créme fraiche and a few seeds
  3. Pasta bake: Turn out the fridge and see what can be used in this classic use-up Friday dish. Older children can trim off the wilted parts of vegetables, while younger ones can grate the cheese.
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