This whole section is based on the Diabetes UK, Diabetes.co.uk recommendations, as well as the Eatwell Guide, developed by the UK Foods Standard Agency.
Healthy living recommendations
Sweeteners, sugar and diabetes
Glycaemic load table
Healthy living recommendation
This whole section is based on the Diabetes UK and Diabetes.co.uk recommendations as well as the Eatwell Guide developed by the UK Foods Standard Agency.
Healthy diet – general principles
Top tips to keep a healthy diet on track
Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Include some beans, pulses, eggs, meat, and other non-dairy proteins in the diet, which are also packed with vitamins and minerals. Beans, peas, and lentils are good alternatives to meat as they are naturally low in fat and high in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Limit the intake to no more than 150mL of fruit juices and smoothies a day.
Adults should not be consuming more than 6g of salt a day.
All types of fish are good protein sources, and oily fish (such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon) is excellent and helps protect against heart disease. People with diabetes should aim for at least two portions of oily fish a week (more than the recommended amount for those without diabetes).
Cut down on saturated fat to help reduce cholesterol levels. Choose unsaturated fat such as vegetable oil, rapeseed oil or olive oil instead. Remember, all types of fat are high in energy and should be limited in the diet.
Try lower-fat and lower-sugar options for the 3 daily portions of dairy foods. When buying dairy alternatives, go for unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.
Opt for high-fibre, wholegrain varieties of starchy carbs where possible.
Stick to 30g of sugar a day or less (seven sugar cubes, including those dissolved, for example, in sweet yoghurt or sodas). Jaggery, brown sugar, honey are all sugars to be avoided in the same manner.
Foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar like sodas, crisps, sweets, and cakes should be eaten less often and in small amounts.
Each day, try and drink 6–8 glasses of fluid such as water, lower-fat milk and unsweetened tea or coffee.
Sugar, sweeteners and diabetes
If living with diabetes, sweet foods might be a barrier to a healthy and balanced diet. As a rule, everyone should be eating less sugar – but sometimes, only something sweet will do. In such a case, it is possible to use sweeteners to enhance the dishes sweetness. However, which one to take?
One of the most valuable ways of grouping sweeteners is to look at those with nutritive value, i.e., nutritive sweeteners, and those without nutritive value, i.e., non-nutritive or ‘low-calorie sweeteners.
There are different types of nutritive sweeteners, but they all contain carbohydrates and provide calories.
‘sugars’ or ‘added sugar’: they can also appear in the ingredient list of food packaging as glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, honey and syrup.
Polyols: They contain carbohydrates and calories, but they have fewer calories and a more negligible effect on blood glucose levels than sugar. They include erythritol, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. The number of calories provided by polyols varies as the number of carbohydrates digested or absorbed by the body changes. For this reason, patients with diabetes should receive personalised advice and follow-up.
Non-nutritive and artificial sweeteners
These are sometimes called ‘artificial sweeteners’ and are usually found in ‘sugar-free’ or ‘diet’ foods and drinks. They include aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K) and cyclamate.
They can reduce the overall carbohydrate and calorie intake by substituting them for nutritive sweeteners like sugar.
Non-nutritive and natural sweeteners
A relatively new group of non-nutritive sweeteners include naturally sourced, calorie-free sweeteners made from the stevia plant.
They are 200–300 times sweeter than sucrose (sugar) and are heat stable in cooking and baking.
Keeping active is an integral part of one’s lifestyle, and particularly for those who have diabetes.
An extra activity can have a lot of benefits, such as improving insulin sensitivity, improving your feeling of well-being, controlling your weight, reducing risks of cancer and heart problems, and helping strengthen bones, as well as muscles.
How much activity should I be doing?
Any extra activity you can fit into your day is a plus. The minimum recommended level of activity is 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.
What counts as activity?
Activity counts as anything that will increase your heart rate a little. This could include any of the following:
- a brisk walk
- climbing flights of stairs
- shopping (not internet shopping though!)
- yoga, pilates, tai chi
- active sports
Motivation towards being more active
Sometimes is difficult to commit to being more active, citing not having enough time as one of the reasons.
Whilst activity does involve some investment of time, in the longer run, a little activity or exercise can help to free up time as well as providing you with more vitality.
Some activities do not involve an investment of time (zero-minute fitness), such as going up the stairs rather than taking lift to the second or third floor, walking rather than waiting for the bus for short distances.
Activity allows the brain to function better and can help to compulsive behaviours, which can lead to your time being better spent. The term healthy body, healthy mind rings true.
Activity and heart problems
People with existing heart problems may need to avoid particularly strenuous activities such as press-ups, lifting weights and strenuous aerobic exercise such as running.
Any activity that involves getting up quickly may also need to be avoided. If you have cardiovascular problems, your healthcare team can offer advice on which activities will be most suitable.
Do you know the glycaemic load?
Glycemic load is a measure that takes into account the amount of carbohydrate in a portion of food together with how quickly it raises blood glucose levels.
To help you better visualize how impactful various foods can be, you will find below their Glycaemic Load, expressed as a number of equivalent sugar spoons:
|Food items||Serve size (g)||teaspoon||How does each serving of food affect blood glucose compared with one teaspoon (4g) of table sugar?|
|Couscous, boiled 5 min||150||8|
|Rice, white, boiled||150||8|
|Rice, brown, boiled||150||6|
|Wheat, whole kernels||50(dry)||5|
|Oat bran, raw||10||1|
|Porridge made from rolled oats||250||6|
|Classic French white baguette||30||5|
|Barley flour bread, 100% barley flour||30||3|
|Wholemeal wheat flour bread||30||3|
|Apple juice, unsweetened||250(ml)||4|
|Orange juice, reconstituted from frozen concentrate||250(ml)||5|
|Chickpeas, dried, boiled||150||3|
|Lentils, green, dried, boiled||150||1|
|Spaghetti, white, boiled 5 min||180||7|
|Green peas, frozen, boiled||80||1|
|Cassava, boiled, with salt||100||4|
|Potato, peeled, quartered, boiled 15 min in salted water||150||6|
|Potato, white, baked in skin||150||7|
|Sweet potato, peeled, cubed, boiled in salted water 15 min||150||7|
|Yam, peeled, boiled||150||3|