Healthy Eating

Everyone is advised to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar and fat, and high in fruit and vegetables. This is what is recommended for people with diabetes too.

The 6 steps to healthy eating:

  1. Eat regular meals
  2. Try to cut down on fat
  3. Eat more fruit and vegetables
  4. Eat less sugar and sugary food.
  5. Limit salt intake
  6. Drink alcohol in moderation

Also included in this section is information to help you understand the reasons behind diet recommendations, guidelines about alcohol and diabetes and what to look for when eating out.

Everyone is advised to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar and fat, and high in fruit and vegetables. This is what is recommended for people with diabetes too.

The 6 steps to healthy eating:

  1. Eat regular mealsbased on starchy foods such as bread, potato, pasta, rice and cereals. Because these foods are digested slowly to produce sugar, it is essential that they are eaten in moderate portions throughout the day to balance blood sugar levels.
  2. Try to cut down on fat,particularly saturated animal fats, as this type of fat is linked to heart disease. By using less butter, margarine, cheese, full fat dairy foods and eating less fried and pastry dishes can help maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Eat more fruit and vegetables,the golden rule is aim for at least five portions a day. They provide healthy vitamins and fibre, which are essential for good health.
  4. Eat less sugar and sugary food.Use diet, sugar-free or low sugar alternatives wherever possible. A sugar free diet does not exist, so savoury foods that contain a small amount of sugar can still be eaten.
  5. Limit salt intakeby adding less at the table and eating less salty foods, as salt can cause blood pressure to rise.
  6. Drink alcohol in moderation,as alcohol has an impact on blood sugars. This will be discussed later.

Whilst these are the basic guidelines, people with diabetes need more individualised advice. You should see a state registered dietitian when you are first diagnosed. The dietitian will ask you what you normally eat and give specific advice on how you can adapt your eating habits.

Although eating the right diet is important in managing your diabetes; you should still be able to continue to enjoy a wide variety of foods. Do not be tempted to buy special diabetic foods as they offer no benefit for people with diabetes, but will cost a small fortune. To understand the reasons behind the diet recommendations it is important to know how food groups effect the body. Below is a table that will hopefully explain:


Food Group
Effect on Blood Sugars
Healthy Eating
No Effect These foods are high in hidden fat so are bad for your health.

Recommendations - to limit the quantity while you improve the quality.
Salad Dressing
No Effect Fat in the diet can make the fats in you blood and you weight increase.

Recommendations - to reduce your intake of fat
Little Effect These foods provide fibre which is essential for the bowels and vitamins that protect the body.

Recommendations - Increase your intake of these foods.
Carbohydrates- there are two types of carbohydrates: - -
Sugar- chocolate, cakes, fizzy drinks, jam, honey, sugar, etc. These foods cause the blood sugars to rise very quickly, so these foods need to be limited whenever possible -
Starch- bread, potato, pasta, rice, cereal, fruit, crackers. These foods cause the blood sugars to rise slowly, and your insulin is balanced to allow you to eat these in healthy quantities Starchy foods are naturally low in fat so are a good choice to fill you up.

Recommendations - to include a starchy food at every meal.


As a general rule, you don't have to give up alcohol just because you have diabetes. But this is not a licence to go out and get drunk. It's just that the same principles of sensible drinking apply.

What is sensible drinking?

The maximum amount you should drink in a week is 14units for women and 21units for men.

What is one unit of alcohol?

  • Half a pint of beer, lager or cider
  • 1 pub measure of vodka, gin, whiskey, etc.
  • 125ml glass of wine

Alcohol Facts

  • It's illegal to buy alcohol if you are under 18 years old
  • Alcohol can be addictive
  • Alcohol is high in calories
  • The effects of alcohol are felt much more quickly on an empty stomach
  • Alcohol will effect your blood sugars- it will cause them to rise initially and then will lower them making you more prone to hypos. This effect can go on until the following morning
  • Your judgement can be affected, so you might not realise when you are going hypo
  • Your body's ability to help itself is severely reduced.

Alcohol Safety

  • Tell your friends that you have diabetes, plus what to do should something happen
  • Wear ID
  • Have Hypo treatments on you
  • Don't binge drink
  • Don't drink and drive
  • Ensure that you are taking regular carbohydrate (starch) snacks during and after drinking- Remember the hypo risk is greater the morning after so always have some breakfast

Also see alcohol section in Lifestyle issues

Food eaten in restaurants and from takeaways is generally not as healthy as food prepared at home. If you are eating out occasionally then have what you like and enjoy.
If you are eating out very regularly you may want to look at ways in which you can limit the damage.

  • The Chinese- Stick with the stir fried dishes, limit sweet and sour sauces. Choose boiled rice or noodles to provide the carbohydrate. Try to limit the number of fried starters, try soup insteadSnackfood1
  • The Indian- Tandoori and tikka dishes are best as these are lower in fat. Other choices that are lower in fat than the creamier korma and passanda dishes are the jalfrezies, baltis, and dupiaza. Serve with boiled rice and plain naan. You can always have a side order of vegetables and a dahl dish. Dahl is made from lentils, so is a good fibre provider.
  • The Italian- The pizza base is a healthy starch; the unhealthy part comes from the topping. Vegetable toppings like onion, peppers, mushroom, sweetcorn, olives, chillies will be better than the meat and sausage topping. When choosing pasta dishes try to pick the tomato based ones instead of cream sauces. You can always have a side order of salad.
  • Burger Chains- don't go supper size. You can now choose more healthily in most burger chains. You can improve the burger by not having cheese or mayonnaise. A healthier choice would be the chicken fillet burgers. You could skip the fries or by limiting fries to a small portion or by having potato wedges would lower the fat content. Watch out for the milkshake as these are both high in sugar and fat- a diet fizzy drink or tea/coffee would be a better choice.Snackfood2
  • The Chippy- Unfortunately fish 'n' chips contain a lot of fat and calories. You can limit the damage by asking for a small portion or by sharing the chips- a chip butty is healthier than a large portion of chips. Ensure that you ask for a portion of either beans or mushy peas as this will at least add fibre to the meal


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