Do I need to eat a special diet now that I have diabetes?
No. The diet for diabetes is a balanced healthy diet, the same kind that is recommended for the rest of the population — low in saturated fat, refined sugar and salt, with plenty of fruit and vegetables and meals based on starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes, cereals, pasta and rice. If you are overweight, it is recommended that you reduce your food intake sufficiently to lose 2 lbs (around 1 kg) a week in weight.
Can I still have some sugar in my diet?
Yes. The diet for diabetes does not mean a ‘sugar free’ diet. Sugar can be eaten as part of a balanced, healthy diet without having a harmful effect on blood glucose control. However, you should still try to cut down on sugary foods and drinks since eating them has implications for tooth decay, weight control and the overall balance of your diet.
Blood glucose control depends on diabetes medication and lifestyle factors, such as how much activity you do as well as what you eat.
As we are all different in terms of our nutritional needs, the limits are different too. Lots of foods contain sugar – natural or added – and it is the overall food choices you make, rather than just one food, that will determine whether you are eating a healthy diet.
Tips to cut down on sugar:
Choose sugar free or low sugar versions of squashes and fizzy drinks. Sugar in a liquid form is rapidly absorbed and raises blood glucose levels quickly
Try experimenting by using less sugar in cooking and baking
Intense sweeteners can be used to sweeten drinks, sprinkled over cereals or in some puddings instead of sugar
Look out for reduced-sugar, low-sugar and sugar-free foods as they can help you to reduce the overall sugar content of your diet. Remember that the fat, calorie, fibre and salt content of the diet is important too
Although jam is a high-sugar food you only have a teaspoon or two on a slice of bread so the amount of sugar per serving is small. You may like reduced sugar jams because of the flavour but remember they won’t keep as long
Savoury foods that contain sugar (like some sauces, soups and vegetables) can be eaten as usual
Choose the reduced-sugar versions of foods you tend to eat larger portions of and which you may eat regularly as part of a healthy diet
Although you may worry about the sugar content of cakes, confectionery and biscuits, it’s the fat that is more of an issue. Some varieties of biscuits such as garibaldi, ginger nut or rich tea are also lower in fat — so compare nutrition information per biscuit to make a fair comparison
As an alternative to cake there are lower fat baked products available, such as teacakes, malt loaf, scones and muffins. However, a piece of fancy cake on a special occasion such as a birthday will not harm the balance of your diet
Biscuit and cakes should not form a large part of your diet so those labelled reduced fat or reduced sugar will not offer a big reduction in the overall fat and sugar that you eat.
Which fruits contain the most sugar?
People with diabetes can eat any kind of fruit, regardless of the sugar content. Everyone is encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Do I need to eat special diabetic foods?
There is no need for anyone with diabetes to eat special diabetic foods like biscuits, chocolate, jams or sweets. Instead you can eat ordinary chocolate, biscuits and jams as part of an overall balanced diet. The diabetic foods often cost a lot more, and tend to be just as high in fat and calories as ordinary products. They usually contain a bulk sweetener, such as fructose or sorbitol, which can have a laxative effect and make blood glucose levels rise. Diabetic foods are unnecessary and offer no special benefit to people with diabetes.
Remember that all confectionery, cakes and biscuits are high in fat and calories and need to be limited according to the individual.