Eating healthy
and your diabetes

Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy your favourite healthy foods. The good news is that there is no such thing as a “diabetic diet”! A healthy diet for people with diabetes is the same as what’s healthy for the rest of the population. 

The key is understanding how these foods might impact on your blood glucose level (BGL).

The Australian Dietary Guidelines help us make informed decisions about the different types of food and drink that make up a healthy diet. The guidelines are suitable for people with diabetes, but they are general. Your age, gender and the level of physical activity you do will inform the number of recommended serves from each food group as well as your daily energy requirements.

That’s why it’s important you discuss your specific dietary needs with members of your diabetes health care team including your dietitian, diabetes educator, GP or endocrinologist.

"THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A DIABETIC DIET!"

Click on these food types to find out if it's ok to eat
Myth Busting

Above are common foods people think you can't eat if you have diabetes, click on an item to find out if it's ok to eat.

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Making the right food choices

The food we eat is categorised into different groups. To help put together a healthy diet it is important we understand which foods belong to each group, and how much of these foods it is recommended we eat.

Get the know-how on food labelling

We know that all food doesn’t grow on trees and making a healthy choice when it comes to packaged food can be very confusing.

So how do you choose one packaged product over another? The trick is in reading the food packaging labels and understanding what to look for.

Explore the food label below. Touch Hover over different sections to learn more about each nutrient group.
Nutrition Information
Servings per package: 3
Serving size: 150g
  Quantity per Serving Quantity per 100g
*Percentage of recommended dietry intake
Ingredients: Whole milk, concentrated skim milk, sugar, banana (8%), strawberry (6%), grape (4%), peach (2%), pineapple (2%), gelatine, culture, thickener (1442).
All quantities above are averages
Energy 643kJ 428kJ
Protein 4.2g 2.8g
Fat, total 7.4g 4.9g
- Saturated 4.5g 3.0g
Carbohydrate,
total
18.6g 12.4g
- Sugars 16.7g 11.1g
Dietary fibre 3g 2g
Sodium 90mg 60mg

TouchHover over the different sections in the food label and learn more about each nutrient group.

Energy is measured in kilojoules (or calories). Our individual energy needs depend on many factors. Looking at energy intake is important when considering how much of a product we eat (portion size).

Protein is an essential nutrient made up mainly of amino acids. Protein is vital for many body processes, including building and maintaining muscle.

Total fat includes both healthy and unhealthy fats. Fat has the most kilojoules per gram of all nutrients so aim for foods with less than 10g of fat per 100g to help manage your weight.

Saturated fats Aim for the lowest per 100g for a healthy heart.

Carbohydrate is the main source of energy for our body. Carbohydrate includes starches and sugars in food.

Sugars Avoiding all sugar is not necessary, choose healthy sources like fruit or dairy. If there is more than 15g of sugar per 100g, check that sugar is not listed high on the list of ingredients.

Dietary fibre Not all labels include fibre. Aim for at least 6g of fibre per 100g, especially in breads and cereals.

Sodium Food with less than 400mg per 100g are good choices. Food with less than 120mg per 100g or fresh foods are best.

Ingredients are listed from greatest to smallest . Look for healthy ingredients high up this list.

Serving per package is the number of portions.

Serving size is the portion size chosen by the manufacturer. It may not be the same as your portion.

Per serve tells us what nutrition we are getting from one serve of the food/drink.

Per 100g allows us to compare the nutrition between different products.

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Carbohydrate vs. non-carbohydrate

So what are carbohydrate foods?

Examples of carbohydrate foods include:

  • Breads and cereals - bread, cereal, rice, pasta, noodles, crumpets and crackers
  • Starchy vegetables – potato, sweet potato, corn, legumes and lentils (kidney beans, soy beans, chickpeas, baked beans)
  • Fruit – fresh, dried, tinned or juice
  • Dairy - milk, yoghurt and custard
  • Sugary foods – cordial, soft drink, lollies, chocolate, biscuits, cake, ice cream, jam and honey.

Carbohydrate foods are one of the body’s main energy sources. Carbohydrates are broken down in our digestive system into glucose. This glucose is then released into the blood stream where it can travel around the body and be used for energy.

For most people with diabetes it is advised that you include some carbohydrate food at every meal. When thinking about which carbohydrate foods to include as part of your meals and snacks, it is important to consider both the amount of carbohydrate and the type of carbohydrate, as both of these factors will impact on your BGLs.

Everybody is different, and the amount of food and carbohydrates you need will depend on your individual energy needs. Having three regular meals throughout the day will help to manage your BGLs. Your health care team, including your dietitian, diabetes educator or endocrinologist will be able to help you choose foods that suit your needs.

 

Diabetes Queensland is your first place to turn to for help, advice and information about living with diabetes. Learn more about Diabetes Queensland membership.

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What about fats?

Fats are an important part of your diet and contain essential fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E. They are high in energy (kilojoules), so we need to choose foods containing fat carefully.

There are four types of fat, and each fat has a different effect on your body:

Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, avocados and nuts, as well as olive, sunflower, peanut and canola oil. These fats help to reduce the risk of heart disease!

Saturated

Saturated fats are found in foods like processed and fatty meats, full fat milk products, butter, coconut and palm oils. It is recommended you limit saturated fat in your diet as it can increase your cholesterol levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.

Trans

Trans fats are found in some processed biscuits and commercially-made bakery products. They act the same way as saturated fats in the body so it’s recommended we minimise our intake of these fats.

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