Diabetes

Eat plenty of starchy carbohydrates

Energy should come from foods high in starchy carbohydrate, such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and breakfast cereals. Base meals around these foods and choose wholegrain versions as much as you can as they are higher in fibre which will help to control blood sugar levels. They also have the additional health benefit of providing extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep you healthy.

Do:
Choose carbohydrate foods that have a low glycaemic index (GI). Low GI foods release their energy slowly into the bloodstream and help to keep blood sugar levels more stable.

Low GI foods
Apples, pears, peaches, grapefruits, plums, cherries, dried apricots, mushrooms, avocados; green, leafy vegetables, lentils and beans; soya products, wholegrain pasta; porridge and oatmeal; wholegrain rye bread (including pumpernickel); brown rice.

Don’t:
X Eat too many high GI foods, especially between meals, as these foods can cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly.

High GI foods
Honey; sugar of all sorts; chocolate; sweet still and fizzy drinks, ripe bananas, raisins, popcorn.

Regular meals and snacks

Having small regular meals and snacks throughout the day will prevent blood sugar levels from dipping too low and help to keep them under control.

Do:
Eat breakfast; by the morning, your body has been without food for many hours, and blood sugar levels can be low. Eating breakfast, such a bowl of wholegrain cereal or a toasted bagel with peanut butter, boosts your energy levels and sets you up for the day ahead.
Include healthy snacks between meals such as yoghurts, fruit, low fat cheese and crackers, vegetables sticks with a healthy dip

Don’t:
X Skip meals

Reduce your intake of unhealthy fats

Eating too many unhealthy fats can be bad news for people with diabetes. Avoid sources of saturates and trans fats as much as possible.
This means:

  1. Cut down on fatty meats and meat products, choose lean cuts of meat and remove visible fat and skin.
  2. Add pulses, beans and lentils as a healthy alternative to meat when making stews, curries or casseroles.
  3. Choose low fat dairy products such as semi-skimmed milk and low fat yoghurts.
  4. Avoid fried foods, fast foods and eating too many pastries, cakes, buns and biscuits.
  5. Always check labels on food and avoid products that contain hydrogenated fats

A healthy balanced diet

The principles of a healthy balanced diet apply equally to people with diabetes, no food is off limits, even sugar; balance and timing are more important, and there is no need to buy special products.

Do:
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least 5 portions a day), moderate amounts of protein foods such as lean meats, fish, eggs and soya, and moderate amounts of lower fat dairy products
Aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily, such as mackerel, salmon, trout, herring, sardines, pilchards and fresh tuna (canned tuna doesn’t count). If you don’t like fish, try the omega-3 enriched eggs instead.
Keep salt intake down to no more than 6g per day. This means avoiding adding too much during cooking and at the table and checking nutrition labels on packaged foods to compare products.

Don’t:
X Eat too many fatty and sugary foods. These can be enjoyed only occasionally. If you do eat something sweet, it is better to have a small amount as part of a mixed meal to prevent rapid rises in blood sugar levels.

Be active everyday

Keeping your weight within a healthy range is one of the most important ways to control your diabetes. Losing weight is not easy, especially if you’re not keen on exercise but if you look for opportunities to be more active everyday, you can make a big difference to your blood sugar control and help bring down your blood pressure.

Do:
Aim to do 30 minutes of activity (broken up if you prefer) at least 5 days a week.
Swap your shoes for trainers on your way to work so you can walk up escalators and stairs, get off public transport a few stops earlier than you need to, or park your car a few blocks from the office and walk for 10 minutes.
Leave your desk at lunchtime and take a stroll outside

Don’t:
X Use the car if you’re journey is less than a mile, always walk.

Keep well hydrated and stick to alcohol guidelines

Try not to let yourself get dehydrated. By the time you feel thirsty, it’s too late, you’re already dehydrated.

Do:
Sip water and other healthy drinks throughout the day and carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go.
Drink alcohol sensibly. The guidelines for alcohol apply to people with diabetes:
Men – no more than 3-4 units a day
Women – no more than 2-3 units a day

Don’t:
X Over do it. People with diabetes should be extra careful not to binge drink, drink too quickly or drink on an empty stomach. If you do drink regularly, aim to have a few alcohol-free days each week.