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10 FAQ about the diabetic diet: what to eat with diabetes

Diabetes diet FAQ

We asked dietician Cheryl Mayer to answer this diabetes diet FAQ and explain to people with diabetes what we should be eating. Here’s what the Diabetic South Africans community most wanted to know about diabetes and food.

Must I cut sugar out of my diet completely if I have diabetes?

Small amounts of sugar can be included in your diet, but too much sugar or sweet food is not recommended as part of a healthy eating pattern.

What can I eat when I feel like chocolate?

Treats like chocolate can fit into a healthy diet, as long as you keep these points in mind:

  • Try to have treats with a meal, e.g. as a dessert.
  • Watch your portion size: choose a small portion or share.
  • Put a healthy twist on treats – check out these great recipes for ideas 

Do I have to buy special sugar replacements because I have diabetes, or can I just use less sugar?

Small amounts of sugar, jam, and honey have little effect on blood glucose levels, so small amounts of sugar can be included in your diet, e.g. a scrape of jam on wholewheat bread.

How important is fibre in a diabetic’s diet?

Fibre keeps your digestive tract working well, can help lower your cholesterol level and can improve blood glucose control if eaten in large amounts. Another benefit of fibre is that it adds bulk to help make you feel full. Given these benefits, fibre is important to include in a diabetic’s daily diet – and in the diets of those who don’t have diabetes!

How many vegetables should a diabetic eat every day?

The amount of vegetables you need depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity. On average, an adult woman will need 2½ cups a day, while an adult man will need 3 cups, and children will need between 1 to 2 cups a day.

How much protein do diabetics need to balance out carbohydrate?

Protein should account for about 15 to 20% of the total calories you eat each day – roughly a fist-sized portion at each meal.

Is too much fruit bad for diabetics? And grapefruit?

Fruit (any kind, grapefruit included) can be included as part of your diet, but controlling portion size is vital. Limit your portions to a fist-sized or tennis-ball sized portion at a time. Here’s a Diabetes Food Guide that explains portion size.

How do I manage food for my diabetic child?

Provide structured, nutritious meals and snacks for your child and make healthy eating and lifestyle changes as a family (don’t single out one family member). Remember that they are a child first and a diabetic second. Work with your child’s diabetes health care team to help your little one grow up healthy and happy! Here are more tips on diabetes and children.

My blood sugar is always high – am I eating wrong?

Diabetes is managed with diet, exercise, tablets and/or injections. Check in with your doctor to make sure your food choices, exercise levels and medication are on track to keep your sugar within your target range. Do you know what normal blood sugar is?

How can a diabetic lose weight in a healthy way?

The best way to lose weight for good is to find an approach to eating that makes sense, doesn’t cut out whole food groups and has you eating regularly and feeling well.

Do you have any diabetes diet FAQ you’d like us to ask our dieticians?

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.