Diet for people living with diabetes
A healthy diet is the foundation of diabetes management and a healthier way of life for everyone.
Healthy eating is all about enjoying a variety of foods from each of the five food groups:
- vegetables and legumes/beans
- grain foods such as breads, cereals, rice and pasta
- lean meat, fish, poultry and nuts
- milk, yoghurt, cheese or dairy alternatives.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating provides an easy guide to the types of food we should be eating every day for good health.
Vegetables and legumes/beans
Eating a wide variety of vegetables every day is a great way to make sure that you are getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy. As well as providing important nutrients and loads of fibre, vegetables are very low in kilojoules meaning they are great food to fill up on without having to worry about your waistline. Most Australians need more vegetables in their diet.
For good health, we should all be eating at least 5 serves of vegetables every day. A serve of vegetables is equal to ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables, beans, lentils or other legumes; 1 cup of salad or ½ a medium potato.
Types of vegetables include:
- Carrots, broccoli, peas, corn, zucchini
- Potato, sweet potato, pumpkin
- Lettuce, cucumber, tomato
- Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils
Frozen or canned vegetables are great alternatives for fresh vegetables and are just as nutritious. These are also often cheaper, easy to prepare and may be easier to access in remote areas. Just make sure to choose canned vegetables with no added salt.
Finding it hard to reach your five serves of vegetables? Try these tips to get more veggies into your day:
- Eat a variety of colours of vegetables every day including red, green, orange andwhite choices
- Cut up vegetables into sticks and store in the fridge for an easy and healthy snack
- Add vegetables to every meal. Add grated or chopped vegies into soups, casseroles or pasta dishes. Add beans to meat dishes such as bolognese sauce or taco mince.
- Buy vegetables in season or from local sources such as farmers markets for best value for money and long–lasting freshness.
In Queensland we are blessed with a huge variety of delicious fruit all year round. Like vegetables, fruit provides many important nutrients and is packed with fibre. Fruit provides more kilojoules than vegetables though, which is why it is recommended to eat 2 serves of fruit a day.
Canned and frozen fruit are also great choices for quick and healthy snacks or to add to your favourite meals. Make sure to choose canned fruit in natural juice rather than syrup.
Example serves of fruit include:
- 1 medium apple, pear, banana or orange
- 2 small apricots, plums or kiwi fruits
- 1 cup of canned fruit
- ½ cup of 100% fruit juice (no added sugar)
- 4 dried apricots or 1 ½ tablespoons of sultanas
Tips to enjoying fruit every day:
- Choose fresh fruit over fruit juice or dried fruit for added fibreTop your breakfast cereal with your favourite fresh fruit instead of sugar or honey
- Try fruit as a dessert with low fat yoghurt or custard
- Buy fruit in season or from local sources such as farmers markets for best value for money and long-lasting freshness.
Grain foods such as breads, cereals, rice and pasta
Grain foods should make up the majority of our diet, so try to eat these foods at every meal. Choose wholegrain varieties, like multigrain bread, wherever possible to make sure you get long lasting energy and plenty of fibre.
The grain foods group includes food like:
- breakfast cereal
- cous cous
Often people are concerned about eating too many foods from this food group, particularly if they are trying to lose weight. However, these foods tend to be very low in fat and will keep you fuller for longer, particularly if you choose wholegrain options.
Keep an eye on your portion sizes and try to reduce the amount of butter, margarine or other high fat spreads that you add to these foods.
A serve of grain foods is equal to:
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/2 a bread roll
- 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta, or
- 2/3 cup of breakfast cereal
Great grain tips:
- For variety, experiment with different grain foods like cous cous or polenta. They are very quick to prepare and delicious served with casserole dishes
- Add pearl barley to soups for an extra burst of energy
- Try different types of breads for your lunch time sandwiches including sourdough bread, wholemeal pita bread or multigrain wraps.
Lean meat, fish, poultry and nuts
This food group is the main source of protein, iron and vitamin B12 for our bodies. Iron is particularly important for women and the iron in meat is more easily absorbed than the iron from other foods such as vegetables and legumes.
Meat is an important part of the Australian diet but we tend to eat bigger servings than we require.
A protein serve is equal to:
- 65g of cooked lean red meat such as beef, pork or lamb (about 90-100g raw)
- 80g of cooked lean chicken or turkey (100g raw)
- 100g of cooked fish (about 115g raw)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup of cooked or canned lentils, chickpeas or other beans
- 170g tofu, or
- 30g unsalted nuts
For those who don’t eat meat, alternatives such as lentils, chickpeas or other beans are important sources of protein. However, everyone could benefit from eating these types of foods more often.
The fat in meat tends to be saturated fat so be sure to choose lean cuts of meat wherever possible and remove all visible fat from your meat before you cook it.
More tips to lower the fat content:
- Try low fat cooking methods such as grilling or stir frying.
- Flavour your meat with low fat marinades and herbs such as mixed herbs, garlic and lemon juice.
- When cooking casseroles and stews allow them to cool slightly and skim the fat off the top before serving.
- Reduce the amount of meat you use in a recipe and replace with legumes like kidney beans, chickpeas or lentils (this will save money and add more fibre too!).
- Try to eat more fish every week and grill or bake your fish rather than deep frying.
- Try to include 1-2 meat-free meals each week by swapping in other protein-rich foods like eggs, tofu or other legumes.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese or dairy alternatives
Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are an important source of calcium and protein. Most adults are recommended to eat about 2 serves of dairy each day. For good health try to choose low fat or skim varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese.
An example serve from this food group is:
- 1 cup of milk (250ml)
- 2 slices of cheese
- 200g tub of yoghurt
- ½ cup evaporated milk
If you don’t eat dairy foods, calcium fortified soy milk or yoghurt are great alternatives. Other non-dairy sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones like sardines or salmon and almonds.
- Snack on low fat yogurt or wholegrain crackers with cheese
- Try adding your favourite fruit to natural yoghurt to reduce added sugars
- Choose plain milk over flavoured varieties
- Add cheese to your sandwiches, pasta or vegetable dishes.
- Add milk or milk powder to soups or sauces.
In general, for good health:
- limit saturated fat and moderate your total fat intake
- choose foods low in salt
- limit alcohol consumption avoid foods high in kilojoules and added sugar and salt, like sweet biscuits and chips. Only eat these foods occasionally and in small amounts.
More information about healthy eating: