Food and healthy eating

Enjoying what you eat is one of life’s pleasures, but sometimes it can be tricky if you have diabetes. Here we share stories from people who have learnt how to manage their condition and continue to enjoy food.


Yvonne was diagnosed in April 2022

Making changes

Although my diet was relatively healthy, I had to cut down on things like pasta and jacket potatoes to follow a low carb diet. And although I hate cooking with a passion, I started cooking from scratch.

I’m an organised and disciplined person andI haven’t eaten any cakes, sweets, crisps for a year. There are certain food aisles I don’t got down in the supermarket anymore so I don’t have to look at them. My husband does a lot of the shopping. I give him a list. 

I have about 10 recipes and eat things like cauliflower rice or courgetti with bolognaise or chicken or fish dishes, bean burgers made with celeriac, a few oatcakes with tinned mackerel if I am walking, and low sugar fruits like raspberries, blueberries and apples. That’s my lifestyle now. 

A combination of medication and the low-carb diet made a big difference to my blood sugar levels. My last HbA1c was 6% – down from 13.8%. And my BMI is down to 21.5.

Read 's complete story
A photo of Joanne standing on a stone bridge by a river, smiling to camera

JoanneFound out she was at increased risk of type 2 diabetes after completing the Know Your Risk tool.

Making changes to reduce my risk

The next thing I did was continue through to the online support tools on the Diabetes UK website. Often I just think ‘oh I’ll look at that later’ but I was inspired to really go for it and follow the links. I read all the information about losing weight and diets and increasing your exercise levels, and I printed off some of the free downloads where you can think about planning goals and tracking your habits. Thinking about how I wanted to feel and what I wanted to achieve was really helpful.  

Making the changes actually felt easy. I’ve done various diets over the years and already knew a bit about what helped me to lose weight, but the busy-ness of life as a mum and full-time childminder, as well as the emotional and mental side of things when it comes to weight loss, meant that I hadn't easily kept weight off before. The information I looked at reinforced the knowledge I already had and knowing that I’d taken the time to plan my goals and think about what this would all actually mean for me, I didn’t want to let myself down by not sticking to the plan and making the changes.  

I wrote out a shopping list and planned what snacks and meals I’d have - I like rules, they help me stick to a plan!  

Looking forwards 

I initially lost about half a stone in the first month or so, because I was so determined to stick to my plan. I felt really positive, really engaged in making the changes and wanted to succeed.  

I want to continue to lose the weight that I need to and I think the tools from Diabetes UK will help me to reduce my risk of getting type 2. I’m looking forward to getting some new clothes and feeling better about myself and fitter too. 

I'm really glad that I used Know Your Risk. It kickstarted me to make changes in my life that I already knew I needed to make for a variety of reasons, but finding out my risk of type 2 diabetes was the real catalyst for me.  

Talking to my friends about using Know Your Risk 

After I used the tool, I shared what I'd learnt with some of my fellow childminders who I knew would be interested.  

If one of them came to me and said they’d also found out that they were at higher risk, I’d advise them to do what I did and download the activity and goal planning trackers. That really worked for me.

I'd tell them to look at the diet information too and think about healthy foods that fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied – not necessarily just counting calories and depriving yourself of things you like. For me, I love making a vegetable and lentil soup with coconut milk in it. It’s so tasty and satisfying and because of the coconut that I don’t feel like I need bread and butter with it that will make my blood sugar levels spike. 

Read Joanne's complete story


Healthier meals

I’m a big believer in one meal for everyone! So one change I made was to make our meals healthier. I changed everything to wholegrain: rice, bread and pasta. And when my husband was cooking, I asked him to give me smaller portions. 

And I'd swap to healthier things. For lunch instead of soup and lots of toast, I’d have avocado on whole grain toast and scrambled egg and salad on the side. And I had porridge instead of granola for breakfast. And I stopped having honey with things. And I’d have healthier snacks like yoghurt and passion fruit and not the ‘healthy biscuits’ I started eating in lockdown! And we reduced alcohol to one or two nights again. 

One of the things they kept saying on the course was “don’t eat the same things every day! I find that quite hard. You don’t want to spend too much on different berries and things so they don’t go to waste. 

I have a sweet tooth like my husband. But although he and my son still have their sweet treats, I’ll usually have something healthier. 

Read Mala's complete story
A selfie of Milesh and his wife smiling at the camera

Milesh LakhaniDiagnosed with type 3c diabetes in 2021.

Lifestyle changes

Looking back, in the year leading up to my diagnosis I probably hadn’t been taking as good care of myself as I should’ve been.  
I knew I needed to make big changes to my lifestyle, both in terms of my diet and exercise. Previously I had eaten a lot of curry (with potatoes), white rice, and chapatis. This became a treat when I realised how many carbs I was consuming. I started to eat a lot more salad and vegetables, Quorn, and soya. I also reduced things like chocolate, crisps, and alcohol. In fact, I probably ate more salad in two years than I had in the rest of my life. My exercise also increased massively. I took on the London to Brighton cycle ride, started playing football and badminton, as well as walking.  

However, these changes didn’t seem to work and in 2019 I was put on insulin as well as Metformin, which was a real blow. I kept questioning if this was right, as I seemed to be making such little progress. I was having symptoms of high blood glucose levels, so it felt like the medication I was on was no longer effective.

Read Milesh Lakhani's complete story

AndieJanuary 2021

Losing weight without 'missing out'

My favourite thing about using Learning Zone is adapting my favourite recipes.

The weird thing is, I actually eat more often now than I used to: three meals and two snacks every day. But I’ve lost two and a half stone since my diagnosis at the start of the year — and it’s been through small increments so I still don’t ever feel like I’m ‘missing out’. in fact, the diet I’ve been supported to adopt through the Learning Zone is the most enjoyable I’ve ever tried. 

Fake Nandos

I properly love a takeaway, but thanks to the Fakeaway Food hacks in Learning Zone we have a ‘fake Nandos’ every other week in our house and haven’t had a Nandos takeaway since last year! I know what’s going in it and can take out the less healthy elements, and my daughter loves it.

The food hacks have made me think differently and consider other possibilities. If I do get a takeaway, I’ve learnt which ones are more healthy. I might get Turkish now instead of pizza, because I know they’ll do lots of veggies and bulgur wheat. 

Food is really important to me and I was finding it virtually impossible to find healthy alternatives to West Indian and Caribbean food online, which is what I grew up on. It’s very carb-heavy — you’ll have rice, dumplings, yam, dasheen, eddoes, a rum cake and mac and cheese, and usually at least one thing will be fried too. There's also a lot of pressure in a typical Indian or Caribbean family to eat a bit of everything. 

Healthy swaps

What I’ve been finding helpful from Learning Zone is knowing what are the best choices to make that fit into my life, like brushing food over with oil instead of deep frying it. I’ve started making samosas in the oven instead of frying them, and swapping potatoes for sweet potatoes, which is a game changer. 

Even going out  to restaurants, I’ve learnt some healthier swaps — cauliflower and aubergine curries in an Indian restaurant are healthier and more filling, and I’ve managed to get my friends into vegetables they’d have never eaten before!

When certain foods and ways of cooking are such a central part of the culture you’ve grown up in, it can take a little while to adjust. I’ve explained to my mum that I’ll eat rice and peas with her, but will cook my own so I can swap the rice for brown rice and use less coconut.

Even if cooking food isn’t something you’re confident about, I’ve found that you get familiar with your favourite recipes from Learning Zone and they start becoming second nature once they’re under your belt. Sometimes there’s nothing like pressing the reset button and Learning Zone really makes that easier to do. 

Different treats

There are so many little things I’ve picked up from Learning Zone that are easy to keep in my routine: I can still have chocolate (which I absolutely love) but instead of having a whole bar of dairy milk now, I’ll get six little Hotel Chocolat low sugar range chocolates, and have one of those as a treat with a cup of tea at the end of the week. They’re so much tastier it’s worth waiting for. And Learning Zone was how I found out that grapes are a big no no, and a lower sugar swap would be having an apple every day — nobody tells you that! 

Sharing the learning

Learning Zone hasn’t just helped me. It’s helped make a difference to the children with type 1 diabetes in the school where I work. We bake a lot at school to raise money, and I’ve been able to learn recipes from Learning Zone that I can share with them, and that I can bring into school so they can participate in. Before they'd have missed out on activities like this.

And that’s so important to me. I try to share things that I get from Learning Zone with the parents of the children I work with. The information is out there, but sometimes there is so much, it helps to be given it in bitesize chunks, and from a reliable source. I hope that it’s helping these kids learn from a young age that their diabetes doesn’t have to stop them from taking part in things  — and helping them feel more confident about managing their diabetes. 


Read Andie's complete story
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