Much of the dietary advice that is recommended for people with diabetes is similar to that for the rest of the population. Following a healthy diet means:
- Eating lots of vegetables and fruit, at least five portions every day. A portion is one medium fruit such as an apple, banana or orange, a handful of small fruit such as grapes or berries, a medium slice of a large fruit, or three heaped tablespoons of vegetables. Fruit should be evenly spaced throughout the day.
- Basing meals on starchy carbohydrate foods such as cereals, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, noodles, chapattis, or yams. Wholegrain foods such as wholemeal breads, brown rice, wholewheat pasta or noodles, or wholegrain cereals are healthier than refined foods like white breads, pasta or rice. Remember that eating too much starchy carbohydrates in one meal can increase blood glucose levels.
- Eating less fat, particularly the type of fat found in processed foods like pies, pastry, cakes and biscuits (called trans-unsaturated fat), or in red meat, hard cheese, butter, cream, ghee, palm oil or coconut cream (saturated fat). Fats such as olive oil, rapeseed oil and olive oil-based spreads (monounsaturated fats) are a much healthier alternative.
- Eating less sugar, including brown sugar, honey, fructose powder, particularly if aiming to lose weight. People with diabetes do not need to avoid sugar altogether, but should aim to keep their daily sugar intake low. Artificial sweeteners, such as Canderel, Sweetex, Splenda, Hermesetas, can be used as an alternative to sugar.
- Eating less salt, no more than 6 grammes (1 teaspoon) per day.
- Eating fish, including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, or fresh tuna, once or twice each week.
- Eating meals regularly – having a proper breakfast, plus a meal at lunchtime and at dinnertime.
- Drinking plenty of water, at least one litre every day.
Many people with diabetes are overweight or obese. For people who are overweight and insulin resistant, losing weight can improve insulin resistance. Following a low-fat low-calorie diet may help weight loss if these are combined with increased regular physical activity. People who use insulin may need to adjust their insulin dose if they are on a low-carbohydrate diet.
The Eatwell Plate below illustrates advice on healthy eating from the UK Food Standards Agency: