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Weight Management 2019

What can you eat when you have Type 2 diabetes?


Emma Elvin

Senior Clinical Advisor, Diabetes UK

One of your first questions if diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is likely to be, ‘What can I eat?’ With so much to take in at once it can be hard to know what to do, you’ll probably hear myths about what foods you should and shouldn’t eat.

Here, we will try to dispel common myths about what people living with a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis can eat.

Myth no 1: the Type 2 diabetes diet

There are so many different types of diet out there and lots of people giving advice about nutrition, it can be really difficult to know what is best for your health. There is no such thing as a special diet exclusively for all people with Type 2 diabetes. No two people with diabetes are the same. So there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of eating for everyone with diabetes.

In the past, people with Type 2 diabetes were sent away after their diagnosis with a list of foods they weren’t allowed to eat, or often told to cut out sugar. But Diabetes UK’s advice is to make healthier choices more often, and only have treats occasionally and in small portions.

Myth no 2: all carbs are bad for you

It is true that all carbs affect blood glucose levels, so it’s important to know which foods contain carbohydrates. But the healthier foods that contain carbs also have important nutrients that are beneficial for health, such as fibre and vitamins. Being aware of portion sizes can also help with weight management and managing blood glucose levels.

Some healthy sources of carbohydrate include:

  • whole grains such as brown rice, buckwheat and whole oats
  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • pulses such as chickpeas, beans and lentils
  • dairy, such as unsweetened yoghurt and milk.

It’s also important to cut down on foods low in fibre, such as white bread, white rice and highly-processed cereals. Everyone needs a different amount of carbs each day, but this can depend on how active we are, what our weight management goals are, and our age.

Myth no 3: all fats are the same: bad

We all need fat in our diet because it gives us energy. Healthier fats are in foods such as unsalted nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish, olive oil, rapeseed oil and sunflower oil.

Some saturated fats can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart problems. These are mainly found in animal products and prepared food such as:

  • red and processed meat
  • ghee
  • butter
  • lard
  • biscuits, cakes, pies and pastries.

It’s still a good idea to cut down on using oils in general, so try to grill, steam or bake foods instead.

Myth no 4: you can’t eat fruit

Whole fruit is good for everyone, whether you have diabetes or not. Fruits do contain sugar, but it’s natural sugar. This is different to the added sugar (also known as free sugars) that are in things like chocolate, biscuits and cakes.

Products like fruit juices also count as added sugar, so go for whole fruit instead. This can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned (in juice, not in syrup). And it’s best to eat it throughout the day instead of a bigger portion all in one go.

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