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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Eating well with diabetes

Te kainga pai me te mate huka

diabetes healthy plate HIEating well is an important part of managing your diabetes. You do not need to eat different food from your family.

Tips for eating well

Base your meals on the Diabetes New Zealand healthy plate model.

Aim to follow the model shown in the picture for lunch and dinner. This includes filling half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with starchy carbohydrates, and a quarter with a protein-rich food like lean meat, fish, eggs, legumes (dried beans, split peas and lentils) tofu or Quorn.

Learn which foods contain carbohydrates

The carbohydrates you eat will directly affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels. You need to know how much carbohydrate, and what types of carbohydrates are in your food.

A low carbohydrate diet is not recommended if you have type 1 diabetes.

A low carbohydrate diet can work well for some people with type 2 diabetes in the short term. In the long term, this diet is no better for managing diabetes than a high carbohydrate or other restrictive diet.

If you want to follow a low carbohydrate diet and you're on diabetes medication, talk to your general practice team first. They can also refer you to a dietitian.

Have low-fat milk and milk products every day

Milk, yoghurt and cheese give you nutrients like protein, calcium and some B vitamins. These help to keep your body and bones healthy and strong. If you choose a plant-based milk such as soy, rice or almond, make sure it has added calcium. Choose natural yoghurts, as fruit yoghurts can contain lots of sugar and additives.

Choose healthy fats

Choose foods that contain healthy fats, such as fish, nuts, seeds and avocado. Look for plant-based oils such as olive, canola, soybean, sunflower and rice bran.

Drink plenty of fluids

Drink at least eight cups of fluid a day. Water is best. Low or reduced fat milk (light blue, green or yellow top) and tea and coffee with no sugar are also fine. If it's hard to drink tea and coffee without sugar, add a tiny bit of the natural sweetener stevia.

If you drink alcohol, follow national guidelines on how much to drink safely.

Prepare your own meals

Try to cook most of your meals at home. This can help you take charge of what you're eating and check exactly what goes into your meals. It can also help you eat fewer calories. If you do have takeaways, choose healthier options.

Learn to read food nutrition labels

Learning how to read and understand food labels can help you make healthier choices. You can also use this handy shopping guide.

Choose small changes you can stick with

Making healthy changes to what you eat is not always easy. It can be easier to make a few small changes rather than one or two big ones. This way you’ll be more likely to stick with them. Also, making sudden changes to what you eat may cause problems, such as hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels), tiredness and nausea.

Food and activity record

Your general practice team or dietitian may ask you to keep a food and activity record. This will help them to check that your food choices are right for you and your level of activity.

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On the next page: Shopping guide for eating well

Written by Christchurch Diabetes Centre dietitians. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2022. Last updated March 2023.


See also:

Finding out if I am a healthy weight

Healthy eating programmes

High cholesterol

Keeping active

Meal planning and healthy recipes

Page reference: 195345

Review key: HIDIA-21832