When you have diabetes, there is no need to follow a special diet or completely cut out all of your favourite foods. There are many dietary approaches that you could follow however, we want you to enjoy your food and recommend following a healthy, balanced diet, containing regular meals with room for occasional treats if you want them. The eatwell guide below outlines the different food groups that we should be including in our diet, their benefits and recommended portion sizes.
If for any reason this is not suitable for you, or you wanted to follow a particular diet then please ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian.
Fruit and vegetables
- Good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre
- There are no fruit and vegetables that you can’t eat when you have diabetes
- Aim for 5 portions per day, there is no limit on non-starchy vegetables but limit fruit to no more than 3 portions due to the natural sugar content
- A portion is about 80g (roughly a handful) and we recommend aiming for half a plate of vegetables / salad at mealtimes
- Dried fruit, fresh fruit juice and smoothies are high in sugar and should be limited and eaten in smaller amounts.
Dairy and alternatives
- Good source of calcium for healthy bones and teeth
- All dairy contains natural sugar (lactose) so advisable not to overconsume.
- Aim for 2-3 portions daily. A portion is around 150ml milk, a small matchbox serving of cheese (40g), a single pot of yogurt (125g).
- Choose lower fat options eg. semi skimmed milk rather than full fat
- Caution as some low fat yogurts can have a high sugar content. Choose low fat plain yogurts such as natural / greek style or a diet yogurt labelled as “low fat” with “no added sugar”.
Oils and spread
- High in calories so should be limited. No more than 1 teaspoon 2-3 x daily
- Limit fat in cooking methods by grilling, oven baking, steaming or using a non-stick pan with a low calorie spray oil
- Try to use unsaturated fats such as olive oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil and plant based spreads rather than butter and lard which contain saturated fat that can increase our cholesterol levels.
- Main energy source
- Provides vitamins, minerals and fibre
- Broken down into glucose (see carbohydrate section) so caution with portion size
- Aim to have at each mealtime but keep to roughly a fist sized amount / ¼ of your plate
- Try not to double up on portions ie. Don’t have bread if already having chips with a meal
- Choose wholegrain / wholemeal options where possible and leave skins on potatoes.
- Essential for muscle growth and repair
- Aim to have at least 2 servings daily, a serving should take up around ¼ of your plate (a palm sized amount)
- Choose lean sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, beans and pulses more often than red and processed meat as these can increase our cholesterol levels. Vegetarian alternatives are usually much lower in fat so can also be a good alternative.
- Choose leaner cuts of meat and lower fat options (eg. 5% fat minced beef instead of 15%), also trim away any visible fat
- Grill rather than fry and drain away any excess fat.
- Cut down on salt and salty foods – use alternatives such as herbs, spices, pepper, lemon juice to flavour your foods and check food labels to choose lower salt options.
Foods high in fat and sugar
- Biscuits, cakes, sweets, ice cream and chocolate are high in sugar and fat and do not provide any essential nutrients for the body
- They can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet but should only be eaten in small amounts
- Try to cut out full sugar fizzy drinks – diet versions can be used instead or a cordial with no added sugar
- We do not recommend diabetic products such as diabetic chocolate / ice cream or sugar free biscuits. If you want to have these foods then keep to the regular versions in moderation. Plain options are best eg. rich tea / digestive biscuits rather than those coated in chocolate or caramel.
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 14 units per week, this should be spread throughout the week with 2-3 alcohol free days
- 14 units of alcohol is the equivalent of 6 pints of lager, 6 glasses (175ml) of wine, 7 double spirits (eg. gin, vodka)
- Some alcoholic drinks can contain a lot of calories – a pint of beer / glass of wine can be around 200 calories, the equivalent of a doughnut so be careful with how much you are drinking, especially if you’re trying to lose weight
- Choose low calorie / diet mixers, alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks, have smaller glasses of wine and bottled beer rather than pints, try lager shandy made.
What if I have a poor appetite?
If you have a poor appetite, have been losing weight unintentionally or have a low BMI, it may not be appropriate to reduce your portion sizes or cut out cakes, biscuits and other treats that have been helping to minimise your weight loss. Please ask your GP or another health professional to refer you to a Dietitian if this is the case so that a tailored assessment and nutritional care plan can be put into place for you. You can also access some more detailed information here.