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Dietary guidelines for diabetes

Eating a healthy diet is just as important as your medication.

No foods are out of bounds but your choices are an important part of your diabetes management.

Food provides us with energy to fuel our body and maintain our health but where does the energy come from?

Energy recommendations to maintain weight are suggested to be 2000kcals for women and 2500kcals for men daily.

Food can be divided into different groups such as Carbohydrates ,Proteins, Fats ,Dairy and Fruit and vegetables. To maintain good health it is necessary to have foods from all food groups.

The Eatwell Guide (attached) has been developed to help understand and represent the amounts of the different food groups which should be eaten daily /weekly.   Let’s look at each food group individually beginning with CARBOHYDRATES . These can be split into STARCHY FOODS and SUGARS.


  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Crackers and biscuits

Starchy foods are a very important part of a healthy diet. These are our ENERGY GIVING foods and are converted to glucose which is our bodies preferred source of energy. Carbohydrates also are a main source of fibre which plays an important part in gut health. As carbohydrates are converted to glucose you need to be aware of how much you eat as these RAISE THE BLOOD GLUCOSE.

This does not mean cut out carbohydrates but to have them in moderate amounts at each meal time.

Choosing WHOLEGRAIN as this contains more fibre than white or refined starchy food. These are digested more slowly so it can help us feel fuller for longer so helpful when watching your weight. Wholegrain foods are Wholemeal bread, chapatti, brown rice (microwaveable packets are suitable)Wholegrain breakfast cereals eg Shredded wheat ,wholewheat pasta ,and oats. There are also high fibre white versions of breads and pastas which will help to increase your fibre intake.

A sample menu could be


Bowl of Cheerios,or 2 shredded wheat or Weetabix with skimmed or semi skimmed milk and a banana


Wholemeal or seeded bread sandwich, piece of fruit


2-3 oat cakes with cottage cheese

Evening Meal

100g Chicken /meat with 3-4 egg sized boiled potatoes and at least 2 different veg

Diet yogurt such as shape /natural or Mullerlight

For recipe ideas see


Sugars can be split as:

NATURAL eg fruit sugar (fructose) and milk sugar (lactose )

ADDED sugar eg honey, glucose syrup, invert syrup, granulated

Sugars usually when on a list of ingredients end in “ose”

All carbohydrates break down to glucose and it is the TOTAL amount you eat daily which has the effect on your blood glucose levels.

Nutritive sweeteners, such as xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol also have an effect on blood glucose. These are often found in Diabetic foods which are not recommended. These are expensive and often higher in fat and kcals.

Non Nutritive sweeteners

These are calorie free and do not effect blood glucose levels and are suitable for people with diabetes to use in small quantities. Examples are; Saccharin, Canderel, Splenda and Truvia (Stevia)

If you are interested in counting sugars in your food download the free change for life app ‘Sugar Smart’.


People with diabetes are not advised to purchase “diabetic” foods and should be able to meet their dietary requirements by appropriate selection from everyday foods and if are consumed be aware of the laxative, fat and calorie content.


There is not a recommended amount of daily carbohydrate per person as this depends on your age, activity levels and if you need to lose weight.

It may be harder to manage blood glucose levels with a high carbohydrate meal for example 1 supermarket thin crust pizza 330g contains around 90-100g carbohydrate which is a large amount at one sitting compared with a roast chicken dinner with 3 egg sized boiled potatoes which will contain 30g of carbohydrate.

For good health most of your carbohydrate should be in the form of starchy carbs with some from fruit and dairy. Carbs from added sugar should be kept limited.


Some people with diabetes (usually Type 1) count the amount of carbohydrate they eat at each meal and then alter the amount of insulin taken in accordance with this. If you are interested in learning more about carbohydrate counting and your medications, there are education courses which are free and tailored to your individual needs. People with Type 2 diabetes can attend the X-Pert course and Type 1 DAFNE (Dose adjustment for normal eating). Your practice nurse, GP or Health Professional from the diabetes team can arrange this for you.


These include Chicken, Red meats, Fish, Eggs, Beans and pulses.

Protein is necessary for growth and repair of cells and contain essential vitamins and minerals.

Some types of meat are high in saturated fat so choose lean cuts and cut off visible fat. Try to grill meat and fish rather than frying and poached or boiled eggs contain a lot less fat. The government recommend cutting down on processed meats (bacon, sausages, reformed meats) and to cut down to under 70g per day.

Fish and chicken are lower in fat. Recommendations are to have 2 portions of fish a week (2 x140g) which includes an oily fish such as mackerel and salmon.

There are proteins from vegetable sources such as nuts, tofu, Quorn, seeds, beans and pulses. Beans and pulses are great to add into dishes as they are high in fibre and low in fat. Nuts and seeds are high in protein but contain a lot of calories and fat so if watching your weight only have these in small amounts.

Proteins do not affect your blood sugar and help fill you up so if you are trying to lose weight these are good to include at each meal time especially if reducing your carbohydrate intake.


These foods do not affect your blood sugar but are high in calories so should be limited. Some saturated fat is essential in the diet but generally we eat too much. GDA for Total fat is 95g /day for men and 70g/day for women with 30g saturated (men)and 20g(women).

Unsaturated fats are healthier fats usually from plant sources such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower and appear liquid rather than solid like saturated. It is better to have the majority of fat from unsaturated sources. Unsaturated fats such as omega 3 fatty acids found in nuts, oily fish and seeds.

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol in your blood and trying a lower fat spread will keep calories down.


It is important to stay hydrated. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid each day.

Water, low fat milk and sugar free drinks plus tea and coffee.

Sugar free drinks such as diet coke/zero/sprite zero/Pepsi max are just a few of the sugar free versions available.

Sugar free flavoured waters are available in most supermarkets.

Be careful that they are sugar free as there are brands on the market that contain a lot of sugar which will raise your blood glucose very quickly.

Certain versions of Volvic contain sugar whereas those which are sugar free have a light blue lid and a sugar free label on the front.

No Added Sugar squashes are suitable for people with diabetes.

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