Diet for diabetics

The diet in diabetes mellitus consists of a healthy eating program that helps control blood sugar.

What diet should be followed for diabetes mellitus?
There is no special diet in the treatment of diabetes.

The doctor will likely suggest working with a dietitian to create a nutrition program.
During the nutritional consultation you will learn which foods you should eat at the main and snack times.
The plan also says something about the amount of food.
For most people with diabetes (even if mild and non-insulin-dependent), a healthy diet consists of 40-60% calories from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 30% or less from fats.
The diet for diabetics should contain little cholesterol (especially if overweight), little salt and little added sugar.

About 10-20% of older people suffer from diabetes.
Older people also often suffer from other diseases that affect their diet (for example, heart or kidney disease).
The dietitian or nutritionist must take into account all age-related diseases when drawing up a diet plan.


Can you eat any kind of sugar?

Yes. In recent years, doctors have found that eating some sugar doesn’t cause problems for most people with diabetes when these foods are part of a balanced diet.
It is important to pay attention to the amount of sugar when eating and try not to add added sugar to food.
An experienced nutritionist can help balance the diet well between carbohydrates, protein and fats.

General guidelines:
The amount of each type of food one should eat depends on diet, body weight, physical activity, and other health risks.
Everyone has individual needs, which is why you should work with a doctor and nutritionist to create an individual nutrition plan.
There are some reliable general recommendations to guide the patient.

Food pyramid

The diabetes food pyramid divides foods into six groups; here, food groups are determined on the basis of their carbohydrate and protein content, rather than according to the type of food classification.

A person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should eat more foods from the lower part of the pyramid (cereals, beans, vegetables) compared to the foods of the upper range (fats and desserts). This diet helps keep the heart and body systems healthy.

(6 or more servings per day)
Foods such as whole wheat bread, grain products, beans, whole grain rice, whole wheat pasta and starch-based vegetables are at the bottom of the pyramid because they are the most important part of the diet.
As a group, these foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates.
It is important to eat foods rich in fiber.
Whole grains such as whole wheat bread, tortillas, cereal bran, whole grain rice or beans should be chosen. Use wholemeal flour in the kitchen and when baking. Prefer low-fat breads, such as tortillas, English muffins, and pita.

(3 – 5 servings per day)
Choose fresh or frozen vegetables without adding sauces, fats or salt.
Dark green or intense yellow vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and peppers are preferred.

(4 servings per day)
Fruit is better than fruit juice because fruit contains more fiber. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are most suitable.
Choose fruit juices without sweeteners or added syrup.

(2 – 3 servings per day)
Consume low-fat milk, skimmed milk or yogurt. Yogurt naturally contains sugar, but can also contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Yogurt without artificial sweeteners has fewer calories than yogurt with added sugar.

(2 servings per day)
Eat fish and poultry more often. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey. Choose lean beef, veal, pork or game. Cut off all visible fat from the meat. Boil, fry or grill the meat instead of frying it.

As a rule, the intake of fatty foods should be limited, especially foods that contain a lot of saturated fat, such as hamburgers, cheese, bacon and butter.
If you want to drink alcohol, you should limit the amount and limit yourself to drinking during meals.
Desserts contain a lot of fat and sugar, so only small portions of them should be eaten.
Other tips to avoid eating too many desserts:

  • Ask the waiter for extra forks or spoons to share a dessert with others.
  • Choose desserts without sugar.
  • Always order a small portion.
  • It is also important to know how to interpret food labels and consult them when deciding whether to use food.

Diet for children with diabetes

Children with diabetes need to compensate for the intake of carbohydrates with insulin.
The carbohydrates and sugars ingested (e.g. bread and pasta) increase blood sugar.
Fats and other high-calorie foods affect blood sugar based on the rate at which the body absorbs the nutrients it absorbs.
Therefore, it is especially important to limit the intake of foods with high fat or calorie content.
Every child, whether they have diabetes or not, should eat three main meals and two or three snacks a day.
It is important that the child avoids sweets and other “forbidden” foods and understands that eating certain foods changes insulin levels in the body.

Stay active
In addition to a healthy diet, children with diabetes should be physically active every day.
This is important to maintain and control blood sugar levels.
If a child injects insulin, it may be necessary to reduce the insulin dose if they exercise a lot, as this lowers blood sugar.
It is necessary to ensure that the child consumes extra carbohydrates before exercising in order to avoid the risk of too much lowering of blood sugar levels.

The growth and body weight tables are used to monitor whether a child with type 1 diabetes is eating enough.
The changed eating habits and physical activity help to better control blood sugar.
Children with diabetes need to be careful on special occasions (such as birthdays or other celebrations), as many desserts are often consumed.
You can allow the child to eat sugary foods, but then reduce carbohydrates at the other meals of the day.
For example, if the child eats from a birthday cake or other desserts, he should eat fewer potatoes, pasta or whole grain rice compared to other days.
In this way, calories and carbohydrates are kept in balance.

Gestational diabetes

If a pregnant woman is affected by diabetes, some general advice should be observed, such as:

  1. Do not overdo with the amount of fats and protein.
  2. Eat a limited amount of carbohydrates in the form of the following foods: fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates (such as bread, cereals, pasta or whole grain rice).
  3. Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices and desserts.
  4. You should eat three small meals a day and one or two snacks. Do not skip meals and snacks.

Vegetarian and vegan diet for diabetics

Nowadays, many people opt for a vegetarian diet. People who follow a vegetarian diet do not eat meat (i.e. red meat, poultry, fish or products made from these foods).
This diet is a serious healthy alternative, but it needs to be well planned.
If you choose a vegetarian diet, make sure you eat a mix of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy and cheese products (if you decide to incorporate dairy and cheese products).

There are many types of vegetarian diets. The most common are:

  • Vegan, this group does not eat meat, eggs or dairy products.
  • Lacto-vegetarian, this group does not eat meat or eggs. However, they eat dairy and cheese products.
  • Ovo-lacto-vegetarian, this group does not eat every animal protein, but eggs and dairy products are included in the diet.

Can a person with diabetes follow a vegetarian diet?
Yes! A vegetarian diet is a healthy choice, even for individuals with diabetes.
Research suggests that this type of diet can help prevent and control diabetes.
In fact, research on vegan diets has shown that reducing carbs and calories was not necessary. In addition, body weight was favorably influenced.

Vegan diets contain more fiber, less saturated fat and less cholesterol compared to traditional diets.
The fiber of this diet can maintain the feeling of satiety after eating over a longer period of time, which means that you consume less.
If the intake of fiber is more than 50 grams per day, this favors a lower blood sugar level.

The vegan diet
The vegan diet is also referred to as a pure or total vegetarian diet.
Those who eat vegan do not eat meat or foods made from meat products.

Diabetics can also opt for this type of diet.
The vegan diet includes many plant-based foods.
The diet with soy products and a mixture of vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains provides sufficient protein and other important nutrients.
The biggest deficiency for this group may be vitamin B12 deficiency, but this can be supplemented with supplements or multivitamins.

Diabetic diet: select high-fiber carbohydrates that are released slowly

Carbohydrates have a huge impact on blood sugar levels, more than fats and protein, but cannot be avoided.
Therefore, one should choose the right type of carbohydrates.
As a rule, it is recommended to limit refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice, as well as soda, sweets and snacks.
On the other hand, one should focus on high-fiber complex carbohydrates, also known as slow carbohydrates.
These types of carbohydrates help maintain proper blood sugar levels because they are digested more slowly, thus preventing the body from producing too much insulin.
In addition, they give energy and create a long-lasting feeling of satiety.

These foods should be avoided

  • White rice
  • White potatoes (including French fries and mashed potatoes)
  • Regular pasta
  • White bread
  • Sweetened cereal products
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Croissant or pastry

The above foods can be replaced by the following:

  • Whole grain or wild rice
  • sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower puree
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Wholemeal bread
  • High-fiber cereal products (cold grain products that are not heated before eating)
  • Oat kernels or oatmeal
  • Bran Muffins

What foods are released slowly?
Different tools have been developed to answer this question.
The glycemic index describes the period of time in which a food converts into blood sugar and thus increases blood sugar levels.
Glycemic load is a parameter that indicates the effect of a meal on blood sugar based on the glycemic index and the amount of carbohydrates it contains.
Foods with a high glycemic index cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly, while foods with a low glycemic index have little effect.

Australian chef Michael Moore has developed a simpler way to regulate the carbohydrates you eat.
He classifies food into three broad categories: fire, water and coal. The more the body has to work on digestion, the better.

Foods in the fire category have a high glycemic index and are low in fiber and protein.
This includes “the white foods” (rice, pasta and white bread, potatoes, baked goods, etc.), desserts, potato chips and many other transformed foods.
These foods should be restricted in the diet.

Foods of the water category are free foods, that is, they can be eaten at will. This category includes all vegetables and most types of fruit (attention: fruit juice, dried fruits and canned fruits raise blood sugar levels very quickly and are not considered water foods).

Foods in the coal category have a low glycemic index and contain a lot of fiber and protein.
This category includes nuts and seeds, lean meat, fish, whole grain cereals and beans.
The coal category also includes foods used as substitutes for “white foods”, such as whole grain rice, whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta.

8 Tips for a Low Glycemic Index
Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables, such as beans and mushrooms, or fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches and forest fruits.

Tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes and papaya usually have a lower glycemic index than desserts.

Cereal products should be consumed in as little processed state as possible: “unrefined”, such as bread, rice, wholemeal barley and millet.
You can eat traditionally processed foods such as ground bread, oat seeds and breakfast cereal.
White potatoes and refined grain products such as white bread and white pasta should be limited.

Limit desserts in concentrated form, including very high-calorie foods with a low glycemic index, such as ice cream.
The consumption of fruit juice should be limited to one glass per day.
Sugar-sweetened beverages should be avoided completely.

Eat healthy proteins in your main meals, such as beans, fish or skinless chicken.

Choose foods with healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts) and avocado.
Limit saturated fats from dairy and cheese products and other animal products.
Avoid partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), which are contained, for example, in fast food and many ready-made foods.

Eat three meals and one or two snacks every day, don’t skip breakfast.

Eat slowly and stop when you’re full.

Sweets for diabetics

The diet for diabetics does not provide for a complete avoidance of sugar. Those who suffer from diabetes can still eat their preferred dessert in small quantities. The key is moderation.
The good news is that cravings pass and preferences change.
As eating habits change, the foods you like best may seem too sweet over time and healthier alternatives can be found.

How to integrate desserts into a diabetes diet?
If you want to eat a dessert, you should avoid bread, rice or pasta.
Eating desserts at a meal adds extra carbohydrates.
Therefore, it is better to avoid carbohydrate foods during the same meal.

You should add some healthy fats to the dessert.
It may seem counterproductive to switch from a dessert with low fat to a dessert with a higher fat content, but the fat slows down the digestive process and thus the blood sugar level does not rise as quickly. You should use healthy fats, such as peanut butter, yogurt or almonds.

Eat desserts better as part of a meal rather than in an isolated snack.
When eating desserts and desserts, there is a spike in blood sugar levels. If you eat other healthy foods, the blood sugar level rises less quickly.

Tricks to reduce sugar
Reduce the consumption of soft drinks, soda and juice.
A recent study has shown that consuming a can of a sugary drink every day increases the risk of diabetes by about 15.
Reduce the amount of sweeteners for tea or coffee.
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For example, if a recipe requires <> tablespoon of sugar, you can only use <>/<> or <>/<> of a tablespoon.
In addition, you can enhance the sweetness with cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract.
You can find healthy ways to satisfy sweet cravings.
Instead of ice cream, you can use frozen banana cream or enjoy a piece of dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.

You should eat only half of the dessert and replace the other half with fruit.
Caution should be exercised with alcohol.
It’s easy to underestimate the calorie intake of alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine.
A cocktail mixed with soda and juice contains a lot of sugar.
Those who want to drink should do so with moderation (no more than 1 drink per day for women; 2 for men).


Fats can be useful or harmful in nutrition.
Diabetics have a higher risk of heart disease, so it’s even more important for them to pay attention to fats.
High-fat foods promote obesity, so their amount in the diet should be limited, also to prevent diabetes.

Some fats are unhealthy, while others can be very beneficial.
All fats contain calories, so portions should always be controlled.

Unhealthy fats – the two most harmful are saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as red meat, eggs and milk and cheese products made from whole milk.
Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated fats, are created by adding hydrogen to a liquid vegetable oil to make it more solid.

Healthy fats – the best unsaturated fats come from plant sources and fish and are liquid at room temperature.
Primary sources are: olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts and avocado. One should also focus on the omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and promote brain and heart health.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, tuna and flaxseed.

Ways to Decrease Unhealthy Fats and Add Healthy Fats:

  • When cooking, use olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil.
  • Before cooking, remove visible fat from the meat, peel off the skin of chicken and turkey.
  • Instead of potato chips or crackers, you should eat walnuts or peanuts.

You can mix them with cereal at breakfast or enjoy a handful for a snack in between.

  • Almonds contain many healthy fats.
  • Instead of deep-frying, it is better to grill or fry in the pan.
  • Serve fish 2 or 3 times a week instead of red meat.
  • You can spread avocado on the bread instead of cheese. This preserves the creamy consistency and is health-promoting.
  • When baking bread, rapeseed oil or applesauce should be used instead of butter.
  • Instead of cream, which is relatively heavy, soups should instead be made creamy with a little condensed milk and flour, mashed potatoes or low-fat cream.

Take regular meals

It is best to eat regularly at certain times.
The body can better regulate blood sugar levels and body weight when meal times are regular.
One should always try to eat moderate portions at meal or snacks.
The breakfast should not be missed. You should start the day with a good breakfast. The daily breakfast provides energy and maintains an even blood sugar level.

You should eat up to 6 regular small meals per day.
People tend to eat larger portions when they are particularly hungry, while regular meals help keep portions appropriately small.

One should always maintain the same calorie intake.
The amount of calories consumed daily through food influences a constant blood sugar level.
You should try to consume more or less the same amount of calories every day instead of exaggerating in one day or meal and then restricting yourself as a result.

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