Diabetes & Healthy Eating

Balancing your diet when you have been diagnosed with diabetes can be challenging. Although the food choices you make and your eating habits are important in helping you manage your diabetes, you should be able to continue enjoying a wide variety of foods as part of healthy eating.


Eating a balanced diet, managing your weight, and following a healthy lifestyle, together with taking any prescribed medication and monitoring where appropriate, will benefit your health enormously.


Remember, in the long run it is better to make small changes that you feel you can stick to rather than completely altering your diet and not sticking to it.


Taking steps to balance your diet will help you to control your-


  • Blood glucose levels
  • Blood fats
  • Blood pressure


It will also help you to regulate your weight. If you are overweight losing weight will help you control your diabetes and will also reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

You are sure to have lots of questions about your diet. We’ve tried to answer the most commonly asked questions here at Groovy Healthy.

A registered dietician will be able to answer any additional questions. Diabetes UK recommends that everyone with diabetes should see a registered dietician at diagnosis, and then have regular reviews for specific advice on their eating habits.

Myths and misconceptions in the South Asian community

The myths:


Q: Can I still have rice in my diet?
A: Yes. Starchy carbohydrate, e.g. rice should be included in all of your meals. Basmati and easy cook rice are good choices for people with diabetes as they are absorbed slowly so won’t affect your blood glucose levels as much.


Q: Should I cut out all of the sugar in my diet because I have diabetes?
A: No, you need to limit the amount of sugar in your diet but you can still have some sugar as part of a healthy balanced diet.


Q: Is it true that I shouldn’t eat fruit like mangoes, grapes and bananas?
A: No, we’re all recommended to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. This helps ensure that you get the recommended daily amount of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.


Q: Should I buy diabetic food from now on?
A: No, they offer no benefit to people with diabetes. They are expensive, can contain just as much fat and calories as the ordinary versions, can have laxative effect and will affect your blood glucose levels.


Q: Are there any herbal remedies that can control my diabetes?
A: Generally herbal remedies are not recommended, as there is no evidence to suggest that they are safe. They cannot cure diabetes and shouldn’t be used to replace medication given to you by your doctor.


Diabetes Healthy Eating Guide

Starchy Carbohydrates

At each meal include starchy carbohydrate food such as basmati rice, chapattis, bread, pasta and breakfast cereals.


The amount of carbohydrate you eat is important in controlling your blood glucose levels. All varieties are fine but try to include those that are more slowly absorbed, as these won’t affect your blood glucose levels as much. Good choices include: basmati rice, easy cook rice, pasta, grainy bread such as granary, pumpernickel and rye.


Fruit and Vegetables

Aim to eat at least five servings in total per day to provide you with vitamins and fibre, as well as to help you balance your overall diet. This food group includes all fresh, frozen, canned, dried fruits and 100% fruit juices.


Be aware though, no matter how much juice you drink on one day it only counts as one portion. Some people find it affects their blood glucose levels quickly too, so it’s not the best choice for quenching your thirst. Try drinking water.

Protein Foods

Meat, fish and their alternatives (such as eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and soya, Quorn and tofu) are excellent sources of protein, which is vital for the building and repair of our bodies.


Aim to include more beans and lentils such as kidney beans, butter beans, chick peas, red and mung beans, as these can help to control your blood glucose levels and blood fats. Try adding then to curries, soups or to a salad.


If you eat fish aim to eat at least two portions of oily fish per week such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and pilchards, as they contain a type of polyunsaturated fat called omega 3 which helps to provide against heart disease.

Eating out, special occasions and fasting

Although a healthy diet is key to everyday living with diabetes and long term health, balanced eating isn’t about restricting or excluding food choices. Whether it’s a wedding, party, religious festival such a diwali, Eid or Baisakhi, food is likely to be on the agenda and having diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to miss out.


We all have a tendency to eat meals that are high in sugar and fat when we eat out. If you do this quite frequently you need to be more careful and make healthier food choices.


If you are invited to someone’s house for dinner assure that your host not to panic about preparing something especially for you, as the most important thing to remember is that healthy eating guidelines recommended for everybody are the same for people with diabetes.


If you eat out in restaurants on a regular basis try to avoid eating dishes that are fried, rich in cream or cooked in coconut milk, as they are high in fat. These dishes include kormas, and Thai green and red curries. Choose dry dishes such as dhal instead and avoid adding butter (makhan) and ghee to foods. Indian sweets can be very high in sugar and calories, e.g. jalebi, gulab jamun, chum chum, barfi and halwa, so should be eaten in moderation.


Order boiled rice instead of fried rice and complement your meal with plenty of vegetables and/or salad. When ordering drinks with your meal choose water, diet drinks or no added sugar squashes instead of sugary drinks.


Going out for meals could have an impact on the timing of your diabetes medication, so discuss this with your healthcare team how best to manage this.


If you wish to fast it is important that you do so as safely as possible, as it may mean that you need to alter your diabetes treatment during this period and have to monitor your diabetes more closely. You must consult your diabetes team before undertaking any form of fasting to check it is safe to do so. The different religions are sympathetic towards individuals with medical conditions and it is important that if you are feeling unwell you should stop fasting. You are able to make fasts at a later date. Again, speak to your healthcare team for advice.

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