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How to build balanced meals for diabetics

Do you know how to build a balanced meal? Many of our Diabetic South Africans told us they did not. Use this guide to build balanced meals for diabetics regardless of which dinner party, office function, restaurant or buffet you are eating at. This guide will help to manage your portion control, and your total intake of energy and carbohydrates.

balanced meals for diabetics

Balanced meals for diabetics: Know your food groups

To build a balanced meal for diabetics, choose one food from each of the following food groups:

1. 1/4 Plate of high fibre carbohydrates

A serving is usually about the size of your fist, or half to one cup.

Examples – baby potatoes, sweet potato, brown or wild rice, quinoa, wholewheat couscous, corn on the cob, wholewheat pasta, samp and beans, pearl barley or bulgur wheat.

2. 1/4 Plate of lean proteins

A serving is usually about the size of your palm.

Examples – smoked, fresh or frozen fish (not battered or fried), tinned fish (oil or brine drained), pickled fish, crab, oysters, mussels, shrimps, prawns, calamari (grilled not fried), skinless chicken or turkey, ostrich fillet, lean beef, lean pork, lean veal, extra lean minced meat, beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils (cooked/canned, brine drained and rinsed).

3. 1/2 Plate of vegetables

Try to have at least two handfuls of veggies or salad on your plate.

Examples – All fresh or frozen vegetables (served as raw salad, steamed, fast boiled, stir fried or roasted), tinned vegetables (brine drained).

You could also include a small serving of fruit, like one whole fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of fruit tinned in juice (not syrup) with excess juice drained or plain dried fruit in small quantities.

4. Small amount of healthy fats

A serving is usually one teaspoon to one tablespoon.

Examples – avocado, raw unsalted nuts, peanut butter (no added sugar), nut butter, olive oil, olives, canola oil, low oil dressings, low oil mayonnaise, sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds.

Pick n Pay is committed to promoting health and wellbeing among South Africans and employs the services of a registered dietician to provide food and nutrition related advice to the public. For your nutrition and health related queries, contact or toll free on 0800 11 22 88

What to read next?

Free Healthy Food Guide: how to eat healthy with diabetes or to lose weight: This Healthy Food Guide shows you exactly which foods to choose (and which to avoid), as well as sharing which portions to eat.

How to interpret food labels for diabetics: How do you know if a product is going to be good or bad for your blood sugar? Once you understand what to look for on food labels, you’ll be able to choose the right products to help control your blood sugar.

Eat healthy for diabetes: The one article you need to read about diabetes and diet.

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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.