It’s Diabetes Week this week (11th to 17th June) and in this blog we’re outlining 7 Top Tips for Eating Well With Diabetes. Diabetes is a health condition where the person’s ability to produce insulin is impaired. This results in the abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and hence raised levels of blood glucose. While type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas can’t make insulin at all, type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder mostly related to lifestyle. Eating healthily and taking regular physical exercise are essential parts of managing both kinds of diabetes.
Space your meals evenly throughout the day. Plan to have the same eating pattern each day. It is always good to plan your meals ahead. Avoid having long gaps between each meal and try to make sure that you have a healthy breakfast to kick start your day.
Be aware of portion size
Count your carbs
Carbohydrates are our main source of energy and also provide important nutrients. Remember, all carbs are broken down into glucose and the type and amount you eat can make a difference to your blood glucose level and diabetes management. The two main types of carbs are:
- Starchy: bread, pasta, potatoes, yam, cereals, couscous etc.
- Sugars: naturally occurring, found in fruits (fructose) and Dairy (lactose) or added sugar in sweets, chocolates, desserts etc.
Fibres are also very important in the management of diabetes; they are another type of carb which is not digested and has no nutrients but still helpful in other regulatory functions. They are of two types:
- Insoluble Fibre: helps to keeps your digestive system healthy, found in whole meal, brown rice, whole grain etc.
- Soluble fibre: helps to keep your blood glucose and cholesterol under control, found in banana, apple, carrots, oats, barley etc.
The actual amount of carbs you need depends on your age, activity level and specific goals e.g. trying to lose weight or improve sports performance. The total amount of carbs you eat is the biggest influencer for your blood sugar level. Aim to include low glycaemic Index (GI) foods (whole grains for example) in your diet which will help to control your blood glucose levels.
Researchers suggest that eating more than five portions of fruits and vegetables (the latest optimum recommendation is 10) a day canreduce the risk of diseases and early death. Try to include all the colours of the rainbow, to provide generous quantities of vitamins and minerals from your diet. Choose seasonal fruit and vegetables, which can also help reduce your shopping bill.
Fish is a good source of protein for patients with diabetes. Oily fish in particular is a good source of omega-3 (polyunsaturated fat) which protects against heart disease. Fish in all forms are good, fresh, frozen or canned. If choosing canned, look for those stored in spring water and check out the salt content. Beans, lentils, and pulses are good vegetarian options for protein and are packed with nutrients. They do not have too much impact on blood glucose levels and help control cholesterol too.
Check your fat and salt
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet, so try to include good fats in your diet and avoid having saturated fats. Having too much salt in your diet can increase your blood pressure as well as complications in the management of diabetes. Try to flavour your food with herbs and spices instead of salt. Always check nutrition labels before buying.
Two thirds of the body is made up of water. If you do not have enough fluids you may feel tired, get headaches, and not feel at your best. Fluid includes water and other drinks/food that provides water such as tea, coffee, milk, fruits etc. The amount of fluids taken depends on your age, weather and the amount of physical activity. The Eat Well guide suggests having 6- 8 glasses of water in addition to the other fluids that you have in your diet. Water helps in digestion and has zero calories.
Having a support system around you can really help you to manage your condition in the long term. There are always ups and downs but having a discipline and regularity can make things easier. I’d recommend keeping a food diary to stay aware of your eating patterns and help you plan ahead. Taking advice from a registered nutritionist can help to keep you on track, especially during the initial years. We’re here to help you better understand your body’s requirements and to adjust your diet to optimise your blood glucose levels.
At Superwellness, we help employees and employers understand the modifiable risk factors diabetes and bring awareness and management skills during out talks and workshops. We can provide practical everyday nutritional advice on diabetes prevention and management. If you would like to add this perspective to your wellbeing programme please do not hesitate to contact us.
Vandana Manocha, Associate, Public Health and Corporate Nutritionist
Vandana has led several projects focused on health improvement and promotion, providing informed evidence based choices following the NICE and SACN guidelines. These range from tackling obesity and diabetes and facilitating lifestyle and behavioural changes with the ‘Kent community Health NHS trust’ to running research projects with Cambridgeshire County Council.
- Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, et al.Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality–a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology. Published online February 22 2017
- Low carbohydrate diets for diabetes control – Dr Katharine Morrison, 2005
- Low-carbohydrate diet in type 2 diabetes: stable improvement of bodyweight and glycemic control during 44 months follow-up – Nielsen JV, Joensson EA, 2008 UK fat alert: 26 million will be obese by 2030 – Jeremy Laurance, published August 26, 2011
- Diabetes UK
- Eat well guide Public health England