What is a balanced diet for Diabetes?

What is a healthy, balanced diet for Diabetes? From Diabetes UK

What is a balanced diet for Diabetes? by Diabetes UK
What is a balanced diet for Diabetes?

Whether you are living with diabetes or not, eating well is important.
The foods you choose to eat in your daily diet make a difference not only to managing diabetes, but also to how well you feel and how much energy you have every day.

  • How much you need to eat and drink is based on your age, gender, how active you are and the goals you are looking to achieve.
  • Portion sizes have grown in recent years, as the plates and bowls we use have got bigger. Use smaller crockery to cut back on your portion sizes, while making the food on your plate look bigger.
  • No single food contains all the essential nutrients you need in the right proportion. That’s why you need to consume foods from each of the main food groups to eat well.

Fruit and Vegetables

Naturally low in fat and calories and packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and vegetables add flavour and variety to every meal.
They may also help protect against stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.

Try: adding an extra handful of vegetables to your dishes when cooking – peas to rice, spinach to lamb or onions to chicken.

Starchy Foods

Potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, chapattis, naan and plantain all contain carbohydrate, which is broken down into glucose and used by your cells as fuel. Better options of starchy foods – such as wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta and basmati, brown or wild rice – contain more fibre, which helps to keep your digestive system working well. They are generally more slowly absorbed (that is, they have a lower glycaemic index, or GI), keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Try: potatoes any way you like – but don’t fry them – with the skin left on for valuable fibre. 

Dairy foods

Milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium, which is vital for growing children as it keeps their bones and teeth strong. They’re good sources of protein, too.
Some dairy foods are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, so choose lower-fat alternatives (check for added sugar, though). Semi-skimmed milk actually contains more calcium than whole milk, but children under 2 should have whole milk because they may not get the calories or essential vitamins they need from lower-fat milks.

Try: yogurt with fruit or on curry

Foods high in sugar and fibre

You can enjoy food from this group as an occasional treat in a balanced diet, but remember that sugary foods and drinks will add extra calories – and sugary drinks will raise blood glucose – so opt for diet/light or low-calorie alternatives. Or choose water – it’s calorie free!
Fat is high in calories, so try to reduce the amount of oil or butter you use in cooking.

Tip: Remember to use unsaturated oils, such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil, as these types are better for your heart

Salt

Too much salt can make you more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Processed foods can be very high in salt. Try cooking more meals from scratch at home, where you can control the amount of salt you use – when there are so many delicious spices in your kitchen, you really can enjoy your favourite recipes with less salt.

Tip: seasoning food with herbs and spices, instead of salt. Try ginger, lime and coriander in stir-fries, or use spicy harissa paste to flavour soups, pasta dishes and couscous.

Type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease

This is an autoimmune disease, which is more common in people with Type 1 diabetes, where the body reacts to gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye), which damages the gut lining and makes it difficult to absorb food. 
Everyone with Type 1 diabetes should be assessed for coeliac disease. If you are showing symptoms, you should be given a blood test. If the test is positive, diagnosis is confirmed by a gut biopsy. Don’t start a gluten-free diet until you have a definite diagnosis, as this may give an inaccurate result. The only treatment is to cut out gluten from your diet permanently. A specialist dietitian can help you with both diabetes and coeliac disease.

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All of our recipes are accredited by Juliette Kellow, registered dietitian.