What is a Healthy Balanced Diet for Diabetes?


Whether you are living with diabetes or not, eating well is important. The foods you choose to eat in your daily diet make a difference not only to managing diabetes, but also to how well you feel and how much energy you have every day.


How much you need to eat and drink is based on your age, gender, how active you are and the goals you are looking to achieve.


Portion sizes have grown in recent years, as the plates and bowls we use have got bigger. Use smaller crockery to cut back on your portion sizes, while making the food on your plate look bigger.


No single food contains all the essential nutrients you need in the right proportion. That’s why you need to consume foods from each of the main food groups to eat well.


Fruit and vegetables

Naturally low in fat and calories and packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and vegetables add flavor and variety to every meal. They may also help protect against stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.


How often?

Everyone should eat at least five portions a day. Fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit in juice and canned vegetables in water all count. Go for a rainbow of colors to get as wide a range of vitamins and minerals as possible.



Adding an apple, banana, pear, or orange to your child’s lunchbox

Sliced melon or grapefruit topped with low-fat yogurt, or a handful of berries, or fresh dates, apricots or prunes for breakfast

Carrots, peas and green beans mixed up in a pasta bake

Adding an extra handful of vegetables to your dishes when cooking – peas to rice, spinach to lamb or onions to chicken.


Starchy foods

Potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, chapattis, naan and plantain all contain carbohydrate, which is broken down into glucose and used by your cells as fuel. Better options of starchy foods – such as wholegrain bread, whole-wheat pasta and basmati, brown or wild rice – contain more fibre, which helps to keep your digestive system working well. They are generally more slowly absorbed (that is, they have a lower glycemic index, or GI), keeping you feeling fuller for longer.


How often?

Try to include some starchy foods every day.



Two slices of multigrain toast with a scraping of spread and Marmite or peanut butter

Rice, pasta or noodles in risottos, salads or stir-fries

Potatoes any way you like – but don’t fry them – with the skin left on for valuable fibre. Choose low-fat toppings, such as cottage cheese or beans

Baked sweet potato, with the skin left on for added fibre

Boiled cassava, flavored with chilly and lemon

Chapatti made with brown or whole meal Atta.


Meat, fish eggs, pulses, beans and nuts

These foods are high in protein, which helps with building and replacing muscles. They contain minerals, such as iron, which are vital for producing red blood cells.


Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, also provide omega-3, which can help protect the heart. Beans, pulses, soya and tofu are also good sources of protein.


How often?

Aim to have some food from this group every day, with at least 1–2 portions of oily fish a week.



Serving meat, poultry or a vegetarian alternative grilled, roasted or stir-fried

A small handful of raw nuts and seeds as a snack or chopped with a green salad 

Using beans and pulses in a casserole to replace some – or all – of the meat

Grilled fish with masala, fish pie, or make your own fish cakes

Eggs scrambled, poached, dry fried or boiled – the choice is yours!


Dairy foods

Milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium, which is vital for growing children as it keeps their bones and teeth strong. They’re good sources of protein, too. Some dairy foods are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, so choose lower-fat alternatives (check for added sugar, though). Semi-skimmed milk actually contains more calcium than whole milk, but children under 2 should have whole milk because they may not get the calories or essential vitamins they need from lower-fat milks. Don’t give children skimmed milk until they’re at least 5.


How often?


Aim to have some dairy every day, but don’t overdo it.



Milk straight in a glass, flavored with a little cinnamon, or added to breakfast porridge

Yogurt with fruit or on curry

Cottage cheese scooped on carrot sticks

A bowl of breakfast cereal in the morning, with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk

A cheese sandwich at lunchtime, packed with salad

A refreshing lassie or some plain yogurt with your evening meal.


Foods high in fat and sugar

You can enjoy food from this group as an occasional treat in a balanced diet, but remember that sugary foods and drinks will add extra calories – and sugary drinks will raise blood glucose – so opt for diet/light or low-calorie alternatives.

Or choose water – its calorie free! Fat is high in calories, so try to reduce the amount of oil or butter you use in cooking. Remember to use unsaturated oils, such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil, as these types are better for your heart.


How often?

The less often, the better.



Too much salt can make you more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Processed foods can be very high in salt. Try cooking more meals from scratch at home, where you can control the amount of salt you use – when there are so many delicious spices in your kitchen, you really can enjoy your favorite recipes with less salt.


How often?

Adults should have no more than 1 teaspoon (6g) of salt a day, while children have even lower targets.



Banishing the salt cellar from the table, but keeping the black pepper.

Seasoning food with herbs and spices, instead of salt. Try ginger, lime and coriander in stir-fries.

Making fresh chutney using coriander leaves (dhaniya), fresh mint, chopped green chilies and lime juice.

Measuring added salt in cooking with a teaspoon and use less as time goes on.


Healthy dining out

Having diabetes is not a reason to stop enjoying dining out with family or friends. Even when eating out in a restaurant you can be in control of what you eat.


Here are some quick tips for dining out:

1. Choose not to eat the bread while you wait. Instead, eat a little snack before you go to dinner — like crunchy fresh vegetables, fresh fruit or unsalted nuts.

2. Be green — choose salads over “all you can eat buffets.”

3. Dress your salad smartly — have your salad dressing on the side, so you use only the amount you need, and stick to low-fat or vinaigrette dressings rather than creamy ones.

4. Replace foods – ask for steamed, grilled, broiled or baked foods instead of sautéed or fried options on the menu, and salads or steamed vegetables instead of heavy side dishes like French fries.

5. Watch portions. Ask for an appetizer-size portion or cut a large portion in half; share or take the rest home.

6. Be fruitful – select fruits as dessert, if possible. Avoid the heavy, sugar- rich desserts at the end of a meal.

7. Relax and enjoy your food and the dining experience. Remember to stop eating when you begin to feel full.

8. Eat before 8 pm and leave time to take a pleasant walk with your dinner companions after.


Featured image courtesy: top-channel.tv





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Dr. Das Partha Sakha

Dr. Das Partha Sakha is an MD in Internal medicine and a Cert. Diabetician.

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