There are 280 people diagnosed with diabetes in Australia every day, with this chronic condition affecting more and more Australians. The good news is that you can mostly manage and prevent diabetes through adopting a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, it helps to know what the best foods to eat to keep you energised and feeling healthy are.
Firstly, if you have been told to watch you blood sugar levels, you don’t need to eat a special diet. In fact, you simply have to eat a healthy balanced diet that includes more of the good, slow burning carbohydrates and eat at regular intervals to keep your blood sugar levels stable. They often say that if you want to avoid having diabetes, you need to eat like you already have diabetes.
While we’ve all heard the advice to ‘eat a balanced diet’, knowing how to choose the best food can be tricky and overwhelming. But eating when you have diabetes doesn’t need to be complicated if you follow this practical advice.
Carbohydrates are key
Carbohydrate rich foods supply our muscle and brain with an effective energy source. As carbohdyrates are digested and absorbed, our blood sugar level rises, promoting the release of insulin, which is needed to regulate blood sugar levels. People with diabetes have trouble regulating these insulin levels, or are unable to produce insulin at all.
Carbohydrates are not the devil and should not be feared. In fact, if you have diabetes, they can be the key to managing your blood sugar levels. Understanding the better choices you need to manage your blood sugar levels and using the Glycaemic Index (GI) is a great place to start.
What is GI?
The GI looks at how quickly carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the blood stream. Low GI foods are digested slowly, providing longer lasting energy and helping your blood sugar levels stay stable. Higher fibre, low GI foods like fruits (with skin on) vegetables, legumes and wholegrain bread, rice, cereals and pasta are better choices.
Follow these simple tips from Diabetes NSW for staying healthy when you have diabetes.
– Include small quantities of carbohydrate foods at each meal.
– Eat 3 regular meals a day
– Eat 2 serves of fruit each day (fresh, tinned in natural juice, dried or frozen).
– Eat at least 5 serves of vegetables each day (fresh, canned or frozen). One serve equals ½ cup cooked vegetables, 1 cup salad vegetables or 1 medium potato. Try nibbling on salad vegetables during the day if hungry like a carrot, tomato or celery.
– Include low fat dairy foods each day. The daily amount you need depends on your age and gender so ask your dietitian for specific advice.
– Ideally include at least one low glycaemic index (GI) food at each meal.
– Choose foods that are low in salt (sodium).
– Drink plenty of water and limit juices, regular soft drinks and cordials.
– If you drink alcohol, aim for no more than 2 standard drinks a day.* A standard drink is equivalent to a middy (285ml) of beer, a small glass of wine (100ml), a nip of spirits (30ml) or 60ml of fortified wine. Try to drink alcohol with a carbohydrate containing meal and include alcohol-free days.
– Exercise for 30 minutes each day
Want to know which foods you should be putting into your shopping trolley each week? Start with this convenient list of healthy foods for people managing diabetes.
Use the list below as a guide on your next trip to the grocery store. Depending on your preferences and the amount of people you are feeding, you may not need all of the items on this list.
– Fresh fruit – Aim to eat 2 pieces of fruit each day, which means you should buy at least a dozen pieces of fruit each week to keep in your handbag, on your desk or in the fridge.
– Fresh vegetables – Find what fruit and vegetables are in season by choosing what is on special or cheap.
– Skim milk, 1% low-fatmilk, or unsweetened soy milk (whatever you prefer)
– Yogurt (Jalna Greek Yoghurt is a great option)
– Free-range eggs
– Cottage or ricotta cheese
– Reduced-fat cheddar cheese
– Lean fresh meat, poultry, or fish that you’ll use in the next few days
– Fresh herbs like mint, coriander, parsley and rosemary
– Frozen fruit – Great to add to yoghurt or smoothies
– Frozen vegetables – Perfect for a quick stiry-fry
– Frozen fish fillets or shellfish
– Frozen chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
– Balsamic vinegar or other vinegars – white wine, rice, or cider vinegar
– Salt-free spices and herbs– try Cardamom, chilli powder, dried oregano, turmeric, paprika
– Cooking spray
– Extra Virgin Olive oil – for salads and cold dishes
– Avocado or macadamia oil – for cooking at high temperatures
– Oats – Try steel oats instead of instant as it has a lower GI
– Whole grain cereal (unsweetened) like All-Bran, Vita Brits, Guardian
– Brown rice or other whole grains – try as quinoa, freekeh, or whole grain barley. Pre-cooked varieties are convenient options!
– Pasta – try whole wheat varieties instead of white
– 100% whole wheat or multigrain bread
– Unsalted nuts – Try dried fruit and nut packs that are portion controlled.
– Seeds (sunflower, flax)
– Popcorn (light, microwave)
– Potatoes (white or sweet)
– Pasta sauce
– Canned vegetables
– Canned fruit – canned in juice not syrup
– Canned beans – try lentils, chickpeas, four bean mix
– Canned tuna or salmon – Drain the oil well before eating