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.


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

Naomi Dindol


Many patients started off quite well at the start of the pandemic as they were motivated to lose weight. But then their lifestyles changed through working at home and gyms being shut.

The change in daily routine has been a struggle for some. They found it not so easy to keep up with blood sugar control or weight loss when their energy levels changed. 

One trend we noticed is that initial availability of foods changed. People weren’t doing their shopping as regularly as before. So we've been helping people decide how to make a balanced meal using things in the freezer and cupboards. 

Recipe competition

One thing I'm excited about is a recipe competition I’ve started. It's for our pregnant ladies coming through the diabetes clinic. And it's to celebrate the diversity we have in the community around our hospitals. 

When advising what to eat, we want to suggest things that different communities want to eat and like to eat. It's good to involve our patients in sharing good practice to help other women who are struggling. 

So we've asked women who have found a meal or snack they're prepared to share that recipe. It needs to have kept their blood sugar levels within a tight range. We want them to tell us what the inspiration is behind it and what culture it belongs to. 

Joy of food

We’re hoping we can build up a lovely collection of different foods and meals for our patients to try that fit in with our healthy eating guidelines.

Food should be an enjoyment - and I quite often say to patients - I want you to enjoy your food. It's important. 

My partner and I have tried a few new recipes during lockdown. It’s having more time. We couldn't get out to our usual places at the weekend or do our hobbies or eat out. At the start I was using more long-lasting vegetables and more tinned products. And trying out different casseroles and curries. 


Things I’m looking forward to

I'm been looking forward to going out to dinner and being able to see family and friends a lot more. 

I was going to say I was looking forward to going to the gym, but I haven’t been since it re-opened. That’s a big change for me. I find I enjoy being outdoors a lot more now.

And I’m excited about running group education again. It’s so nice to talk to more than one patient at a time and get conversation going. Patients enjoy it too. Another patient might ask a question they hadn’t wanted to ask or hadn’t thought of. 

Read Naomi Dindol's complete story

Liz CromwellDiagnosed with gestational diabetes in 2009

Making changes

One day, I shared a photo of myself on a family WhatsApp group. My brother replied with a comment that my smile looked ‘forced’.

I felt like he must have seen that something was wrong with me. It was the final straw.

For the first time in years, I wanted to change how I felt. I threw away all the junk food in the house and signed up to a ‘boot camp’ class.

I’d never done any exercise before. Boot camp was geared towards working to your own personal capacity. So, if I couldn’t do something, I didn’t feel the need to push myself. After my class, I’d come home and eat a big plate of heavy food. So, although I felt a bit fitter, it wasn’t having a huge impact.

Read Liz Cromwell's complete story
Bupe laughing

BupeDiagnosed with type 2 during the Covid-19 pandemic

Changes to food and lifestyle

The good thing was that I had the time to do something about it. The doctor said that it was reversible because I was still at an early stage.  She also prescribed me with medication and was very persistent that I take it. I collected the prescription but I was determined to do it on my own without taking any medication. 

The first thing I did was review my lifestyle. I knew I was spending too much time sitting down and not tracking the amount of exercise I was doing. I also knew that I was eating too late at night and also eating the wrong food. I changed the food I ate and then started to look for local community fit classes, like Zumba, or classes that I could do with my friends because I really liked that social element. 

Whilst I was looking for local classes, I came across this post on Facebook about Diabetes UK’s One Million Step Challenge and thought that this could be the motivation I needed to make sure I logged 10,000 steps a day. I signed up and my husband was very supportive and gifted me a Fitbit to help me track my exercise. 

Read Bupe's complete story
Deborah wearing a beekeeper suit

Deborah Goodman

Changes to my lifestyle

I’m really happy about my journey so far as I think I have come a long way. I have cut down on the snacking and swapped my breakfast so instead of having my regular sugary cereal bar I now have rolled porridge oats. I am now drinking more water (2 litres a day on average) and my alcohol intake has halved. I’m also doing more exercise.

For me it’s always been about making small changes as they’ll eventually add up. I knew this programme was going to benefit me in the long run and making small changes makes me feel confident that I can continue to keep up with these lifestyle changes in the future as they are sustainable. What I’m aiming for is a healthy lifestyle.

Read Deborah Goodman's complete story
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