Moderation is key when it comes to managing diabetes. Douglas Twenefour, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, explains what to eat when and shares his top 10 tips for managing your diabetes...
There is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ eating pattern for people with diabetes, but Douglas Twenefour suggests tips that can be incorporated into individual healthy eating goals for people who have the condition...
1. Eat regular meals
Spacing meals evenly throughout the day will help control your appetite and blood glucose levels – especially if you are on twice-daily insulin.
2. Opt for slowly absorbed carbohydrates
All carbohydrates (carbs) affect blood glucose levels, so be conscious of how much you eat and opt for carbs that are more gradually absorbed. Try wholewheat pasta, basmati rice; granary, pumpernickel or rye bread; new potatoes in their skins, sweet potatoes and yams; oat-based cereals, such as porridge or natural (unsweetened) muesli.
For more information, take a look at our Spotlight on... low-GI foods.
3. Cut the fat
Eat less fat – particularly saturated fat. Try unsaturated fats and oils, especially monounsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil and rapeseed oil, as these types of fat are better for your heart. Use lower fat dairy products including skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. Grill, steam or bake foods rather than frying. Remember that all fats contribute similar amounts of calories, so limit your overall intake if you are aiming to lose weight.
4. Five a day
Aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day to give your body the vitamins, minerals and fibre it needs. A portion is: 1 medium-sized piece of fruit, like a banana or apple, 1 handful of grapes, 1 tablespoon (30g) dried fruit, 1 small glass (150ml) of unsweetened 100% fruit juice or fruit smoothie, 3 heaped tablespoons vegetables.
5. Eat plenty of beans
Beans, lentils and pulses are all low in fat, high in fibre and cheap to buy. They don’t have a big impact on blood glucose and may help to control blood fats such as cholesterol. Try kidney beans, chickpeas, green lentils, and even baked beans. Include in soups and casseroles, cold in salads, in falafel, bean burgers and low-fat houmous and dahls.
6. Eat more fish
All types of fish are healthy, provided they’re not coated in batter or fried, but oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout are particularly good for you. They are rich in omega-3 (polyunsaturated fat) which helps protect against heart disease, which people with diabetes are at higher risk of. Aim to eat two portions of oily fish a week.,
7. Cut back on sugar
Having diabetes doesn’t mean you need to eat a sugar-free diet. You can include some sugar as part of a healthy, balanced diet, provided you don’t over do it. Just aim to have less of it. You can also use other sweeteners as an alternative to sugar. Some easy ways to cut back on your sugar intake include choosing sugar-free drinks, buying canned fruit in juice rather than syrup and reducing or cutting out sugar in tea and coffee. But remember, sugary drinks are an excellent treatment for hypos (hypoglycaemia – low blood glucose level).
8. Reduce your salt
Having too much salt increases risk of high blood pressure. This in turn increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, which people with diabetes are already at higher risk of. Reduce salt in your diet to no more than 6g a day. Try cutting back on processed foods which account for about 70 per cent of our salt intake. You can also try flavouring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.
9. Drink sensibly
The recommended alcohol limit for men and women is no more than 14 units per week. Remember: 1 unit is a single measure (25ml) of spirits, half a pint (284ml) of normal strength lager, beer or cider but a small (125ml) glass of wine is actually 1.5 units. Alcohol is high in calories. To lose weight, consider cutting back. It is not a good idea to drink on an empty stomach, especially if you take insulin or medications that put you at risk of hypos, as alcohol can make hypos more likely to happen.
10. Don’t bother with so- called diabetic foods
These products offer no benefit to people with diabetes and may still affect your blood glucose levels. They can contain as much fat and calories as ordinary versions, are often expensive and can have a laxative effect.
For more information on diabetes visit Diabetes UK
This article was last reviewed on 3rd October 2017 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.
A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
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