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Your lifestyle, diabetes and food

When it comes to food and eating, we’re all different – some of us like having one meal day, while some of us eat three square meals sticking to specific meal times. Sometimes our busy schedules dictate the way we eat. Throw diabetes into the mix and it can quite difficult to know what and when to eat as well as manage the condition.

When you’re first diagnosed with diabetes, you’re advised to eat healthy, balanced, regular meals. But, in reality, that can prove difficult, simply because we lead such busy lives. There’s no one-size-fits all and having diabetes shouldn’t stop you from living your life and enjoying food.

Here we look at some examples of how our lifestyles might affect our food choices.

Eating ‘on the go’

Whether you are juggling family life or have a hectic job, many of us end up eating ‘on the go’. But this doesn’t necessarily have to mean poorly controlled diabetes and expensive, unhealthy food.

Top tips to help

  • Review your day. Keep a diary for a week, noting what, when and how much you eat, what activity you are doing and how you feel. Take the time to look over your food choices and eating patterns.
  • Make time for a healthy, filling breakfast. If you’re short on time in the mornings, try preparing your breakfast the night before. Try a slice of wholegrain bread with peanut butter and grab an apple, or leave oats combined with low-fat milk in the fridge overnight and add mixed berries in the morning. If you’re grabbing breakfast from a café, steer clear of the pastries and muffins (even the skinny ones) and have porridge made with low-fat milk or a slice of granary toast instead.
  • Plan ahead and prep food at the weekend or in the evenings – roast vegetables such as carrots and butternut squash keep quite well in the fridge and can be added to salads for at-work lunches. Make up salad boxes with roast vegetables, cooked chicken, fish or some healthy homemade hummusand add grains such as rice or quinoa. Save time and money by taking leftovers for lunch the next day. If you’re buying lunch, go for the healthy ranges of sandwiches or soups. Check food labels or ask for nutritional information.
  • Pack a snack box with healthy, filling, easy-to-eat snacks. Fruit, a boiled egg, vegetable crudités, edamame beans, plain popcorn or a small handful of unsalted nuts all make good snacks.
  • Don’t forget about drinks. Often drinks from coffee shops and cafes can be high in calories. Ask for skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and skip the sugar, syrup and cream.

Family life

If you have a hectic family life, it might seem like you don’t have the time to incorporate healthy eating into your day, but a few simple changes could benefit the whole family.

Top tips to help

  • Involve the family in planning meals for the week. Once you know what you’re eating, it’s easier to make a shopping list, more economical and you’re less likely to waste food.
  • Get the kids involved in food shopping and cooking. It’s a great way for them to learn about healthy eating and carb counting, and might even get the fussy eaterson board.
  • Cook in bulk and freeze portions.
  • If the weather’s good, have a picnic or a barbecue outside. Using recyclable disposable plates and cutlery can save time on the washing and tidying up.If the weather’s good, have a picnic or a barbecue outside. Using recyclable disposable plates and cutlery can save time on the washing and tidying up.
  • Stock up on cupboard and freezer essentials, such as tinned beans, tinned and frozen vegetables and fruits, pasta, rice and frozen fruit and vegetables so you can whip up a meal in no time.
  • Be mindful of any snacking, such as eating the kids’ leftovers or having a couple of biscuits with your cup of tea, especially if you’re trying to manage your weight.

Shift work

When you’re working shifts, it can be difficult to have a regular eating pattern and make good food choices, especially when no two days are the same or you’re swapping from night to day shifts.

Top tips to help

  • Bring food and snacks from home.
  • Prepare or freeze meals beforehand, so they’re ready to eat when you get home.Prepare or freeze meals beforehand, so they’re ready to eat when you get home.
  • Try to eat in line with a regular day. For example, if you’re working an afternoon shift, have a healthy, filling lunch before your shift starts rather than in the middle of your shift. If you’re doing a night shift, try to eat your main meal before your shift starts at a regular time and have a light snack at your break.
  • Keep hydrated – keep a bottle of water on sugar-free drink with you and cut down on caffeinated drinks.
  • Talk to your manager. Explain that you might need to take breaks and eat regularly.
  • Ask your diabetes team for help with planning your eating around your shifts. This could include getting advice on meal times, types of foods that will keep you full for longer, as well as advice on adjusting your medication if you need to.

Exam stress

It may feel like your life has been turned upside down when you’re studying for and taking exams. Eating healthily is probably the last thing on your mind, but eating regular, healthy meals and keeping on top of your diabetes can help you keep focused.

Top tips to help

  • Try to eat regularly. Build meal and snack breaksinto your revision timetable to remind you to eat.
  • Start the day with a good, filling breakfast to keep you going.
  • Keep brain-boosting snacks with you, such as bananas, mixed berries, apple slices with a little peanut butter, or a small handful of a homemade trail mix.
  • Get help from your friends or family. They could help prepare your meals for you and, if you’re lucky, they could bring you snacks and drinks.
  • If you’re making your own meals, try quick meals such as beans on wholegrain toast, a Spanish omelette, a wrap with cooked chicken strips and salad, baked salmon and vegetables, or stir-fries.
  • Cut back on the caffeine and keep well-hydrated with water and other sugar-free drinks. Aim for 1.2 litres a day.

Don’t forget…

Eating healthily and regularly is important, but also remember your diabetes medication can also be adjusted to fit your lifestyle. If you test your blood glucose levels, be aware you may need to do so more often in some situations. Speak to your diabetes healthcare team for specific advice.

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