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What is a healthy, balanced diet for diabetes?
Whether you are living with diabetes or not, eating well is important.
Fruit and vegetables
Naturally low in fat and calories and packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and vegetables add flavour and variety to every meal.They may also help protect against stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.
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 colours to get as wide a range of vitamins and minerals as possible.
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, wholewheat 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 glycaemic index, or GI), keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Try to include some starchy foods every day.
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.
Aim to have some food from this group every day, with at least 1–2 portions of oily fish a week.
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.
Aim to have some dairy every day, but don’t overdo it.
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 – it’s 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.
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 favourite recipes with less salt.
Adults should have no more than 1 tsp (6g) of salt a day, while children have even lower targets.
Source: Diabetes UK (https://www.diabetes.org.uk/)