Spotlight on... diabetic diets
A healthy diet is key to keeping your blood sugar levels in check and diabetes under control...
Food choices for diabetics
Dietary modification is fundamental to the successful treatment of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, though making sensible choices will mean you can continue to enjoy a wide range of foods. It's imperative that weight is kept within the normal range. The dietary guidelines are very similar to those recommended for a healthy lifestyle: eat less sugar and fat, include more fibre-rich starchy foods and more fruit and vegetables with moderate amounts of meat, fish, milk and dairy. Choosing the right foods can make a big difference and eating regularly helps to ensure blood sugar levels do not fluctuate too much.
Foods to eat
- Starchy carbohydrates provide energy and to help maintain and control blood glucose levels so should factor in every meal, though portion sizes and carb intake should be discussed with a dietician to ensure you are eating to your individual needs. Look for wholemeal or wholegrain breads, high fibre breakfast cereals, wholemeal pasta and brown rice.
- Fibre can slow the rate at which the starch and sugar in foods enter the bloodstream. It can also help reduce blood cholesterol levels as part of a balanced diet. This kind of soluble fibre is found in oats, pulses, fruit and vegetables.
- Whether you are taking insulin or not, stick to low GI foods (see below for suggestions)
- Magnesium, chromium, zinc and vitamin B3 all help to stabilise blood sugar. Eat plenty of dairy products, green vegetables, whole grains, bananas, brewer's yeast, seafood and pulses to ensure adequate amounts of these micronutrients.
- Drink lots of water (avoid squash and sugary drinks) to keep hydrated.
Foods to avoid
- Diabetes is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease so avoid raising cholesterol levels by restricting saturated or trans-fats.
- It is best to keep to safe drinking limits, which mean no more than the 2-3 units of alcohol a day for women and 3-4 units a day for men. Excess alcohol will put pressure on your blood sugar regulation. Never drink on an empty stomach and if you have been drinking, always eat something with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) before going to bed to help stabilise your blood sugar.
- All simple, processed carbohydrates must be avoided. Eat a low-GI diet and cut back on sugary foods that cause blood sugar fluctuations.
Simple salads to keep those blood sugar levels in check:
Use beans and pulses in chillis and stews and serve with brown rice:
Managing your weight can help control Type 2 diabetes. Check out some of our favourite low-fat recipes which don't compromise on taste:
Low-fat and low-sugar treats:
For further advice or information regarding the diagnosis or management of diabetes please consult your doctor
Jo Lewin holds a degree in nutritional therapy and works as a community health nutritionist and private consultant. She is an accredited member of BANT and is covered by the association's code of ethics and practice.