What is healthy eating?

What is healthy eating? image shutterstock 677362576

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Keeping to a healthy diet helps you to control your diabetes and reduce the chance of developing long-term complications.

The best dietary approach for you to follow is one you can stick to. Examples of different dietary approaches include:

  • Low fat
  • Low carbohydrate
  • Mediterrranean
  • Intermittent fasting

You also need to consider if you taking medication for your diabetes and if you need to lose weight.

The diabetes team run lots of education programmes which can provide you with further information.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals – and contain antioxidants which help protect you against cancer and heart disease.

Aim for at least 5 portions daily. 1 portion is for example a banana or apple, a handful of grapes, a tablespoon of dried fruit, a small glass of fruit juice or fruit smoothie, 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables, a cereal bowl of salad.

Fresh, canned, dried, frozen and juice all count. Fruit should be canned in natural juice.

Vegetables and salads are low in fat and calories so should be a large part of your meal or snack.

Fruit contains natural sugars so can increase your blood glucose levels. Keep fruit juice or smoothies to a small glass once daily and spread fruit portions out over the day.

Bread, other cereals and potatoes

These foods provide energy in our diets. They also provide B vitamins, some calcium and iron.

All carbohydrates will have an effect on your blood glucose levels so it is important to be aware of the amount you eat. It can be helpful to eat a similar quantity of carbohydrate with every meal.

Try to include foods which are more slowly absorbed (have a lower Glycaemic Index). Better choices include pasta, basmati rice, granary bread, new or sweet potatoes, oats.

Higher fibre and wholegrain varieties have additional benefits such improving digestion.

The amount of carbohydrate you need varies from person to person dependant on your activity levels.

Meat, fish and alternatives

These are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, especially iron.

Choose oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or pilchards twice weekly. These contain a type of fat called omega-3 which helps protect against heart disease.

Limit fatty processed meats such as sausages and burgers. These contain fats which may increase your cholesterol levels and contribute to weight gain. Include lean meat, fish and poultry.

Increase your intake of beans, lentils and pulses. These may help to control your cholesterol levels.

Include 2 – 3 portions daily. One portion is equal to:

  • 75g-100g (3– 4 oz) lean meat, poultry, oily fish
  • 100-125g (4 – 5 oz) white fish
  • 2 eggs (up to 7 a week)
  • 4 tbs beans/lentils or dhal
  • 2 tbs nuts/peanut butter.

Milk and dairy foods

In addition to providing most of our calcium, these are also a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Choose reduced fat varieties of milk and cheese and diet/light yoghurts.

Try to include 2-3 portions daily. One portion is equal to:

  • 200ml (1/3 pint) milk
  • 1 small pot of yoghurt/fromage frais/cottage cheese
  • 30g (1oz) matchbox size piece of cheese


Monounsaturated fats are the best type of fat for your heart. Choose rapeseed oil (often labelled as vegetable oil), olive oil and spreads based on these such as olive oil or buttery style spreads.

Grill steam or bake foods instead of cooking with oil or other fats.


Choose sugar free, diet or no-added sugar squashes and fizzy drinks.

Your diet does not need to be sugar free. Small amounts of sugar can be used in foods and in baking.

Reduce salt intake

More than 6g of salt per day can lead to stroke and heart disease. Limit the amount of processed foods you eat and try flavouring foods with herbs and spices instead of adding salt during cooking or at the table.

Drink alcohol in moderation

Alcohol can contribute to weight gain, raised blood pressure and hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels).

Keep alcohol intake to moderation. That’s up to 2 units per day for a woman and 3 units per day for a man.

  • Pub measure of spirit (25ml) = 1 unit
  • Small glass of wine (125ml) = 1 ½ units
  • Pint of beer, lager, cider = 2-3 units

Have at least 2 days a week with no alcohol.

Do not use diabetic foods and drinks

Foods labelled as ‘diabetic’ such as sweets and chocolate offer no special benefits and are not recommended. They may be high in fat and calories, are expensive and some may cause diarrhoea.

More information

Diabetes structured education can help you learn more about your diet and managing your diabetes. Education courses are available across Worcestershire and you can also ask your GP or practice nurse to provide you with a login for Mapmydiabetes.