What can I do?
Eating right for diabetes
When you have diabetes, you may wonder what ‘eating right’ means for you – what food choices should you make? The good news is, there is no such thing as a special ‘diet for diabetes’.1 It is recommended you eat the same healthy foods recommended for people without diabetes – just with a little more planning and care.1 Keep reading to learn more.
Diabetes diet myths
Having diabetes doesn’t mean giving up all your favourite foods. The first step to making smarter choices is to separate the diet myths from the facts.
Myth: You must avoid sugar altogether
Fact: You can still enjoy your favourite sweet treats if you plan properly and limit hidden sugars. You can include dessert sometimes, as long as it’s part of a healthy meal plan.2
Myth: You must cut your carbs dramatically
Fact: The type of carbohydrates you eat as well as the serving size is key. Focus on eating low-GI, whole grain carbs instead of starchy carbs, since they’re high in fibre and digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more even.2 Read more about low-GI carbs further down the page
Myth: A high protein diet is best
Fact: Research has shown that eating too much protein, especially animal protein, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes.2 A healthy diet includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats, as our bodies need all three to function properly. Read on to find out more.
A healthy diet is one that is packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, includes lots of fibre, low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates (such as wholegrain breads, cereals, beans, lentils and other legumes), low-fat dairy products and lean proteins such as lean red meat, skinless chicken and fish. Think a rainbow of fresh foods!
Diabetes Australia recommends people with diabetes follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines.2 Download an easy-to-follow summary of the dietary guidelines, including tips on choosing healthy foods.
How much should I be eating?
Portion control is crucial in managing diabetes. Even when planning and preparing a healthy meal, it is important to consider portion size of different foods.
- About ¼ of your plate should be filled with low GI carbohydrates – grain or a starchy food such as a low-GI basmati rice, wholegrain pasta or corn.
- ¼ of your plate should be filled with lean protein including lean red meat, fish, skinless chicken or tofu.
- The last ½ of your plate should be filled with raw/cooked vegetables or salad like broccoli, carrots, salad, and/or beans.
A quick way to help visualise portion sizes is by dividing your plate into three sections and filling it as shown below.3
Navigating the festive season with diabetes
Overindulging on sugary, salty treats this silly season can contribute to high blood glucose levels as well as weight gain and high cholesterol.1 Empower yourself to make healthier food choices by bringing healthier (but still delicious) snack alternatives with you, such as raw unsalted nuts, wholegrain crackers, vegetable sticks and delicious homemade dips like our Lupin “Hummus’ Dip
Tips for eating right with diabetes:2
- Eat regular meals and spread them evenly throughout the day – this helps manage your blood glucose levels.
- If you take insulin or other diabetes medication, you may need to have snacks between meals.
- Watch your snacks – choose healthy snack options.
- Try to include the whole family in enjoying the same healthy meals together – there will be no need to prepare separate meals.
- A dietitian can help you put together an individualised diet plan that works for you.
What are low-GI carbohydrates and how can they help?
Eating right when you have diabetes doesn’t have to be complex – it is about knowing what is best for you and your diabetes management plan. It’s recommended that people living with diabetes consume low-GI carbohydrates, to help reduce their average blood glucose levels.4
Low-GI foods have a different response between people, and therefore GI numbers should be used as a guide:4
- Low-GI foods are foods with a GI less than 55.
- Intermediate-GI foods are foods with a GI between 55 and 70.
- High-GI foods are foods with a GI greater than 70.
Next time you are doing a grocery shop, keep an eye out for these low-GI foods that can help with your diabetes management:5
- Traditional rolled oats
- Dense wholegrain breads
- Lentils and legumes
- Sweet potato
- Diabetes Australia. Eating Well. Available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/eating-well.
- Diabetes Australia. What should I eat? https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/what-should-i-eat.
- Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. Plating it up: the portion guide. Available at: https://www.baker.edu.au/health-hub/fact-sheets/the-portion-guide.
- Diabetes Australia. Glycemic Index. 2021. Available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/food-activity/eating-well/glycemic-index/.
- Diabetes Australia. What should I eat? 2020. Available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/food-activity/eating-well/what-should-i-eat/.