Managing your weight
In Australia, 50% of women and over 60% men are overweight. Choosing healthy foods and being active will help manage your blood glucose levels and your weight. Healthy eating recommendations for people with diabetes are similar to those for everyone, so there’s no need to prepare separate meals or buy special foods. Healthy eating can be enjoyed by your whole family.
If you’re overweight, the best way to lose weight (and keep it off) is through eating healthy, balanced meals with sensible portion sizes. It also helps to be physically active every day.
Healthy eating for diabetes includes selecting high fibre, lower Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrate foods and reducing fat, especially saturated fat. You’ll need to balance your food intake with exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
Guidelines and advice
The Dietary Guidelines for all Australians, produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council, are an excellent guide to help you make healthy food choices. In addition to following the Dietary Guidelines, there are a few extra considerations for people with diabetes:
- Eat regular meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. This provides your body with a regular supply of energy and can help to control blood glucose levels (BGLs). If you need to lose some weight, eat nutritious lower energy snacks, like fruit or diet yoghurt, or limit how often you snack.
- Include carbohydrate foods in each meal and snack. Carbohydrate foods are the best source of energy for your body and have a direct effect on your BGLs. They include:
- Breads and cereals
- Starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato and corn)
- Some dairy products (milk, yoghurt and dairy desserts)
- The type, as well as the amount, of carbohydrate you eat at a meal is important. The amount of carbohydrate you need depends on many factors, including your body weight and how active you are. Your healthcare team can help you create a personalised eating plan.
- The Glycaemic Index, or GI, is a ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI raise BGLs more slowly and steadily than foods with a high GI. If you have diabetes you can benefit from eating low GI foods throughout the day, ideally one at each meal. Low GI foods to enjoy include:
- Heavy grain breads and fruit loaves
- Rolled oats and muesli
- Sweet potato
- Low fat milk
- Yoghurt and ice-cream
- Most fruits
- Choose foods lower in total fat and in particular low in saturated fats. Eating too much fat in general, and saturated fat in particular, can lead to weight gain, which may lead to increased blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is found mainly in:
- Animal foods, like meat, cheese, butter and full-cream dairy products
- Takeaway foods
- Many pre-packaged foods like biscuits and chips
- To reduce your saturated fat intake, try to choose:
- Low fat dairy foods
- Lean meats
- Skinless chicken
- Margarine instead of butter
- Try to limit your intake of:
- Fried take away foods
- Processed meats
- Pre-packaged biscuits
- Other high fat packaged foods
- Include small amounts of the healthier fats. Some fat in the diet is important for good health. Using a variety of healthier fats will achieve a good balance. Healthier fats include:
- Poly- and mono-unsaturated margarines and oils, such as canola or olive
- All dietary fat in excess can contribute to weight gain, so consume an amount that is suitable for you.
- Choose high fibre foods. Fibre has many benefits for the body including:
- Keeping your bowels healthy
- Protecting against bowel cancer
- Lowering your BG and cholesterol levels
- A high fibre meal also leaves you feeling fuller, which can assist with weight loss. To improve your fibre intake, choose wholegrain or high fibre breads and cereals and plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit.
- A word on sugar. A myth that continues to surround diabetes is that the diet must be low-sugar or sugar-free. We now know that this is not the case. Studies of the Glycaemic Index have shown that some types of sugar, such as those found in fruit or milk, convert to glucose more slowly in the body. While it’s still important to limit foods that are concentrated sources of sugar, or high in added refined sugar, like soft drinks, lollies and syrups, small amounts of sugar can be included as part of a lower fat, high fibre meal for people with diabetes.
- Shopping tours. If you’re finding the information on selecting healthy food options overwhelming, you may want to attend one of our healthy shopping tours. The tours (in the Sydney metropolitan and some regional areas) teach you how to read food labels and help make selecting healthy foods easier. For more information call our Helpline on 1300 342 238.
With so much emphasis on making the right food choices, it is not uncommon for some people to feel anxious about what they eat. Be kind to yourself. It’s a struggle to continually make the right choices and you’re allowed the occasional treat!