Eating right for a diabetes diet

Learning to live with diabetes doesn’t have to be a daily struggle. Get your diet right, and you’ll find yourself facing fewer dips and spikes. Here’s a simple guide to getting all the good stuff you need and cutting out the bad.

Don’t skip your daily meals

As a first step, don’t skip meals and never eat on the go. Try to eat at least three meals a day at regular times. This will help regulate the insulin your body produces. Sit while you eat, take your time, and don’t overeat.

A spoonful of sugar?

We don’t know exactly what causes diabetes, but we do know that sugar builds up in the bloodstream because your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin.

Insulin regulates your blood sugar levels, but if you have a family history of diabetes, are heavily overweight or you’re eating a diet that’s very high in sugar, you could be at risk.

Sugar is okay in moderation, but it’s better to get it through natural sources like a piece of fruit, rather than from sugar-loaded sodas, sports drinks, and junk food.

We need sugar in our diet for fuel and energy. But too much sugar can tip you over the edge. Read the labels of everything you buy, both savoury and sweet, as there is hidden sugar in just about everything, including so-called ‘healthy’ foods like yoghurt.

Remember: 4g of sugar = 1 teaspoon. Use that to work out how much sugar is in your food – 40g of sugar means 10 teaspoons!

How to limit your sugar load

  • Eat smaller portions

  • Eat foods that are low in ‘bad’ or trans fats

  • Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks

  • Avoid processed foods i.e., pies, white bread, cheese, ready-made meals, etc.

  • Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, grains, and low-fat dairy

Not all fat is bad fat

There’s a strong link between diabetes and heart disease so you need to keep a check on the type of fat you’re eating. Avoid saturated (unhealthy) fats and choose unsaturated (healthy) fats instead.

Unsaturated fats are better for your body as they balance good cholesterol levels in the blood while lowering the bad. And avoid deep-fried food – steam, grill, bake or air fry instead.

Foods with the right fats

  • Olive, coconut, canola, and sunflower oil

  • Oily fish like mackerel, pilchards, tuna, salmon, trout, etc.

  • Avocado

  • Almonds, peanuts, and Brazil nuts

  • Pumpkin, flax, and sesame seeds

Fats to stay far away from

  • Palm and palm kernel oil

  • Sausage, bacon, ground beef, pork

  • Dairy products

  • Deep-fried fast foods like donuts, vetkoek, and fried chicken

No need to walk on eggshells

If you’re worried about cholesterol in eggs, don’t be. Eggs aren’t the big enemy they once were, and they can now be safely added to your diabetic diet.

But watch how you cook them – boiled, poached or scrambled is better than deep fried. Add avocado, tomatoes, and wholegrain toast for a good start to your day.

Healthy habits, happy life

As with any disease, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to stay healthier and happier for longer. Nothing is off limits but make sure that you pay attention to what your body needs.

Simple steps to stay ahead of diabetes

  • Eat healthily – plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, non-fat or low-fat dairy, and lean meat

  • Exercise regularly – you don’t need to start with a marathon, just a 10-min workout will do

  • Go for regular check-ups – Unu can help with that!

  • Manage your stress levels – try box breathing and meditation

  • Stop smoking and vaping – kick the habit with the help of Unu

  • Limit your alcohol intake – booze should be for special occasions only

Get expert help on the app

Questions or concerns about diabetes? Get all the answers you need straight from the experts. Log into the Unu app for a virtual consult with a medical pro and get peace of mind that you’re on the right diet.