Diet Guides

A healthy diet is crucial to good diabetes management
A healthy diet is crucial to good diabetes management

Effective management of diabetes cannot be achieved without an appropriate diet.

People with diabetes represent a large subsection of society and there will be range of variety in terms of dietary requirements from person to person.

As a result, there is no one diabetic diet that will work for everyone and people should pick a diet that matches their individual needs.

Ideally, patients with newly diagnosed diabetes should receive advice from a dietitian soon after diagnosis.

Which diet is right for me?

There are a wealth of diets that have proved to be either popular with or of interest for people with diabetes.

We’ve compiled some of the more prominent of these diets, looking at both the benefits and disadvantages of each diet.


You will often hear people saying you should eat a healthy, balanced diet but what exactly does this mean? A healthy diet should contain plenty of fruit and vegetables - try to include fruits and vegetables of different colours to get a wide range of nutritional benefits

Starchy foods tend have a direct influence on blood sugar so it’s good to go for either smaller portions of these and/or lower GI versions of these. Lower GI versions will be those that have a higher amount of fibre like whole grain breads and whole wheat pasta.

Potato can hit blood sugar quite hard so a good tip is to swap potato for either sweet potatoes, or for even lower carb counts you can use swede for mash or celeriac for chips.

Fat plays a part in our diet and some fats are healthier than others. The unsaturated fats that are found in avocados, nuts and oily fish come particularly recommended.

The fats that are best to avoid are the fats in crisps, pastries, chips and sweet foods such as cakes, doughnuts and biscuits.

We’re generally advised to have a decent intake of oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel or herrings, in our weekly diet. Lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey breast are often cited as good choices because of their lower calorific content.

The worst meats to choose are processed meats, such as hotdogs and typically found in other pre-prepared meals or snacks. If weight is an issue, stick to smaller portions of food. Research is showing that most people in the UK are eating more than they need.

Cutting back on portions and having water before eating come recommended for those looking to lose weight. Home cooking is a great way of improving your diet as the food is fresher and you avoid the uncertainties of what’s gone into pre-packaged foods and sauces.

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What are the aims of dietary advice?

When you receive advice from your doctor or diabetes team about your diet, they will often make suggestions in order to:

  • Provide a knowledge of healthy eating
  • Encourage lifestyle changes in order to reduce obesity and ensure optimal weight
  • Maintain blood glucose and lipids as near normal as possible
  • Reduce the acute (short term) complications of diabetes such as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia
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Dietary Goals

  • Ensure an adequate and balanced nutritional intake
  • Limit rapidly absorbed carbohydrate intake
  • Monitor body weight encouraging weight maintenance and weight reduction when necessary
  • Avoid hypoglycemia

Weight Reduction

If you are carrying extra weight, and are classed as either overweight or obese, weight loss has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

Modest weight loss of 5-10 kg in one year can significantly improve health outcomes.

General guidance on healthy eating

General guidance on healthy eating from the NHS will generally be based upon the following set of guidelines:

  • Increasing intake of low GI carbohydrate foods
  • Increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Reducing saturated fat intake
  • Reducing sugar intake
  • Reducing salt
  • Safe and sensible alcohol consumption

The NHS advice on carbohydrate intake in particular has met a fair amount of criticism from people with diabetes.

Read more on the debate surrounding NHS dietary advice.


Patients should follow dietary advice as part of lifestyle modification including appropriate exercise regimes and smoking cessation.

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Your Comments
After a recent blood test my GP told me I was pre-diabetic at 6.3 and should go away and lose weight... Since then I have had several dizzy spells. Is there any better advice out there?
Posted by Eve, London on Friday, March 09, 2012
Dieting for type 2 Diabetes is simple, but requires you put in the time to get yourself sorted. As more than a few posts I've seen here, there is no easy 7 day diet. The key to getting youself under control is simple, look at your food packaging before assigning yourself a meal. What you need if you are out of control is a diet with a 2-1 ration proteins to carbs. It does not cure you in a week or a month, but healthily over several months. Once you reach a normal glucose level (5 - 7), make your diet a 'mostly equal 1-1 balance of protien to carbs, the 'mostly' part being a couple to few grams protein higher than carb. Adding exercize will greatly help in this process, and this will also help with your cardio concerns as well.
Posted by Tim, uk on Friday, October 14, 2011
My doctor expressed mild concern at my blood sugar levels.I have reduced my weight and follow a diet plan of eating foods with a low glycemic index. Each meal is balanced between protein, carbohydrates and "good" fat. I follow the excellent advice in "The Zone" by Barry Sears - a truly excellent book.
Posted by David Mitchell on Friday, October 14, 2011
I have been a type 2 for 10 years. When I was first diagnosed, I was told that I could eat 'the same food as anybody else' - that is, to eat lots of carbs with every meal. That struck me as odd, seeing that diabetes is an inability to metabolise carbohydrates. So I decided to do regular blood tests after meals to see what the evidence really was in my case. Like everybody who tests in this way, I soon found that a meal heavy in carbs put my blood glucose levels up to dangerous heights. By trial and error, I found that the only way of keeping them at safe levels was to drastically reduce carbs to about 130 grams a day. As a result, for seven years now I have had blood sugar levels the same as a non-diabetic's (around 5.5%.) I have no complications. and effectively no signs of progression. I don't think I would have been saying that if I had followed the standard high-carb advice. But even better news was that this way of eating actually reduced, rather than increased, all the important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and in particular, kept after-meals 'spikes' of blood sugars to safe levels of 7.5 or below. That completely undermines any justification for the standard high-carb eating model, because if high glucose 'spikes' are now considered to be the greatest CVD risk factor for diabetics, the only way of avoiding them is to keep carb intakes low.
Posted by david wilson, perthshire on Tuesday, August 09, 2011
I have had type 2 diabetes for four years without any real problems, about one month ago I decided to go on a diet and to date I have lost a stone. To acheive this I am being very careful about what I eat. I am however eating a lot of fruit both fresh and dried; the long term is that I lose weight and help my diabetes. I am however concerned that the fruit may be increasing my sugar level, I am only surmising this. If i have to cut down on fruit, what are the alternatives that i could eat within a healthy diet, without being constantly hungry? regards barrie Williams
Posted by barrie williams, Swansea, Wales on Thursday, May 05, 2011
I was diagnosed with type 2 on 22.12.08 which has so far been diet controlled. I have recently had a 'review' with the diabetic nurse from my surgery and she was really pleased with my results, which were: BP : 131/70, Weight 58kg, HbA1c 5.5% and cholesterol 4.7!! She said the results are brilliant - keep doing whatever you are doing with your diet, it's working!! Thing is, I have no clue about any 'diet' I am supposed to be following. I take BP tablets - Candesartan 8mg & Amlostin 5mg, Aspirin, and Simavador 40mg for Cholesterol. Question is: Do I really need all these drugs??
Posted by mobic, Somerset on Thursday, February 10, 2011
Please can someone tell me what I should be looking for on food lables is it levels of salt, sugar & fat?
Posted by Peter Reeev on Friday, January 28, 2011
I have been to three diabetes 'lessons' which have taught me everything on this page. Not being a scientist - is anyone going to work out a diet for me? No! Of course not. I have to work it out myself which considering the overload of confusing good carbs, bad carbs, mixed carbs (or whatever) information I am given, doing it myself could be devastating. Not to mention that at the end of the three days, I was told I could eat fish and chips as long as I don't eat anything else for the day. Makes white bread look ok. My only hope is couting fat% - otherwise I am none the wiser... Why don't they issue a 'perfect' seven day diet sheet that we can stick to? There are even treatments for cancer these days, so why are we being left behind to die?
Posted by SueP, Poole, Dorset on Thursday, January 27, 2011
To lose weight you have to eat less of the wrong food and exercise more, following the recomended diet, fruit and vegetables contain natural sugars and salt , are also rich in iron, carbohydrates are necessary for energy, proteins are vital, calcium a neccessity,although dairy products i.e. cheese/cream /full fat milk/butter should be consumed in moderation, We all have a chemical called mitochondria in our cells that act as a powerhouse, a healthy diet will supply us with the energy to produce A.T.P. (adenosine triphoshate) by respiration (aerobics) look up mitochondria. I have recently been diagnosed with diabetes and finding it difficult to change my eating habits, however it has to be done! I'm currently researching all aspects of the condition, treating it as a challenge and determined to be positive and educate myself. Preventative medicine is better than cure, although I think its never too late to educate (myself).
Posted by gail phillips on Monday, January 24, 2011
I have recently found out that I'm type 2 but have yet to see a dietician. I'm on medication but I'm finding it difficult trying to work out the diet any straightforward advice? Explain the complex carb intake... my head is spinning from all the advice. Sorry if this comes across like I'm a daft girl, just trying to make sense of it all. Thank you.
Posted by dm neat, Germany on Friday, January 21, 2011
I was diagnosed Type 2 in Feb 2009 since then I have eliminated all cakes, sweets, alcohol and desserts. I seem to have adopted by default a high protein and medium carbo diet and have lost about 10 kilos. This has been combined with cycling about 30 miles per week. A useful experient resulted in the discovery that champers or Cava have no effect on glucose levels at all! Expensive, but strangely gratifying.
Posted by Reg Buckinghamshire, Buckinghamshire on Thursday, January 20, 2011
I tried reducing starch. I gained weight but felt much better and the blood sugars decreased although the cholesterol increased. My husband had the same diet and lost a stone. Now I have a raised microalbuminurea count. Was it the diet? I stopped it after a few months because of the cholesterol problem. I was already taking a high dose of statins and also Ramipril for high blood pressure. My kidney hurts after eating although kidney function test has returned to normal after a gall bladder operation. I am confused and bemused; don't know what to eat or where to go from here. I have been somewhat inactive due to joint pains and a bad knee that gives out suddenly so I am curtseying to complete strangers in shops and I hate swimming so please don't suggest that one. Walking around here gives me asthma and facial pain because of the pollution. I feel like just giving up and eating what I want and when and forgetting all about the diabetes. I have been diagnosed 10 years and am diet controlled. BG count first thing in the morning is on average 6.5. Any help would be appreciated.
Posted by Nicky Phillimore, London on Thursday, January 13, 2011
What snacks can I have to eat as I'm diabetic? What sort of food can I eat? Advice please. Many thanks.
Posted by Kirsty, Salford on Friday, January 07, 2011
It seems insane to me to recommend that diabetics should eat so much carbohydrate which becomes glucose after digestion. It's like fighting fire with petrol. If I can't process the glucose in my blood stream it would seem logical to help by consuming less carbohydrate, no? I too ate all the healthy stuff, wholegrains, porridge etc and developed type 2 diabetes.
Posted by John, Swansea on Friday, December 03, 2010
You wanna lose weight? Try eating less, drinking more water and moving more. You know, get your heart rate up 3 or 4 times a week, it really is as simple as that.
Posted by sensei on Sunday, November 21, 2010
I just can't lose weight. Don't like cheese, limit butter, don't eat cream cakes, check the nutritional values. It gets very depressing when you lose nothing!
Posted by joje, Harrogate on Saturday, October 30, 2010
I empathise with the above diet comments. As coeliac, I have followed a very careful diet for over 20 years, and not bad before that. I can reduce actual sugar but only a little, we don't use much, and my alcohol intake is about 5 units per year. I have never smoked, so it's difficult to cut out things I don't do.
Posted by Peter Saul, Towcester, Northants on Monday, October 04, 2010
I can sympathize with Ann from Lancashire. I too follow all the suggestions for a healthy diet and I find it difficult to know what else to do. I have been on medication for years and in recent months have been diagnosed with breast cancer. So more medication, that piles on the weight. Please help!
Posted by Susan Rae, Lancashire on Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I was diagnosed with Type 2 in March 2010. I already do all these things and did so before my diagnosis. I have been on a low sugar low fat high fibre eating plan for many years so it is difficult to know what else I can do to improve the situation. The dietician had no advice for me as she agreed I eat a very healthy diet. Has anyone got any suggestions for me
Posted by Ann Lancashire on Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Having been diagnosed with Type 1 a couple of months ago, I have cut down on all of the above and have reduced my weight by 10 pounds or so. I feel OK, generally, but whatever I eat I seem to find that my stomach gives me some hassle throughout the night.
Posted by Richard Leicester on Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I do all of the above and it helps me, so thanks!
Posted by natalie, england on Monday, January 25, 2010
I do all the above things except increasing starch. I am reducing starch and feel much better for it. I know that I cant lose weight whilst eating too much starch. It's working now so why fix it?
Posted by charles jaggers, glynneath south wales on Friday, January 08, 2010
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