From our community: “Being newly diagnosed, I am learning about foods that I can and can’t use. I cannot find an article explaining what to look for. It’s all a bit confusing. Help would be greatly appreciated – what is a diabetic diet?” David Staff.
A diabetic diet rule
“Eat the right type of food, in the right amount, at the right time of the day”
There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’. But it is important to make dietary changes that are simple and progressive. First you need to learn what foods should be in your trolley, fridge and kitchen cupboards: that will make good eating decisions easier to choose.
One simple rule
I have one simple rule: eat food that is as close to its natural form as possible! This helps to reduce the amount of processed, high sugar, high-fat foods that cause problems with weight and blood sugar control. Try not to focus on what you can’t have (it is very depressing) and rather be adventurous in experimenting with healthy nutritious meals.
Once you know which foods are suitable, you need to get specific and work out how much to eat. Portion control is very important. The good news is that almost all foods are allowed in correct portions.
Some general rules
Starch: Use low GI, high fibre starches. Reduce foods made with lots of white flour and sugar (doughnuts, biscuits, cakes ). For your main meal, the portion size of starch should be the size of your fist (approximately 2 portions of starch).
Protein: Opt for low-fat protein. Remove visible fat from meat and skin from chicken. For your main meal, the portion of protein should be the size of the palm of your hand and the same thickness as your baby finger (less at other meals)
Dairy: Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy. Try for 2 portions of dairy a day.
Vegetables: Choose a variety of colours and serve raw, steamed and roasted. Eat lots – double portions where possible!
Fruit: Try to eat a variety of fruits. The size should be that of a tennis ball and you should aim for 2 servings of fruit a day.
Fat: Try to reduce the use of fats in your cooking. Rather grill, bake, boil, steam, microwave or stir-fry your food. The portion of fat should equal the size of the tip of your thumb.
Specific portion sizes:
Carb counting is an important skill to master for a diabetic diet. One portion of carbohydrate = 15g. This is a guide to 1 carb portions of starch, and suggested portion sizes of protein and dairy.
- ½ cup wholewheat cereal / muesli
- ½ cup cooked, cooled and reheated mealie meal / oats porridge
- 1 slice seed loaf
- ½ wholegrain seed roll / low GI bread roll
- 3 Provita / 2 Ryvita
- ½ cup (2 Tbs) beans or whole corn
- 1 small mealie on the cob
- ½ cup cooked, cooled & then reheated samp
- ½ cup pasta / long grain rice / wild rice
- ⅓ cup white rice
- ½ cup brown rice with added lentils
- ½ medium sweet potato
- 2 – 3 baby potatoes
- ½ cup cooked lentils
- 1 egg
- 30g grilled chicken / ostrich / extra lean mince / grilled beef or pork
- ¼ cup tuna
- 30g steamed / poached / grilled / baked fish
- 2 tbs peanut butter
- 50g raw soya
- 90g tofu
- ½ cup cooked lentils / beans
- 1 cup low-fat / fat-free milk
- 100ml low-fat / fat-free sweetened yoghurt
- 30g low-fat cheese (Lichten Blanc, Dairybelle InShape, Elite Edam, Woolworths, Mozzarella)
- 50g low-fat feta cheese (Pick n Pay Choice Danish Style / Traditional, Simonsberg)
- 50g low-fat cottage cheese (Dairybelle, Lancewood, Parmalat, In Shape, Clover)
- Green pepper
- Baby marrow
- Bean sprouts
- Mixed vegetables
- Green beans
- 1 medium apple / peach / pear / grapefruit / orange
- 1 large naartjie
- 3 small apricots
- 10 – 12 grapes (only!)
- 1 small to medium nectarine
- 1 tablespoon dried fruit
- ½ cup fruit salad
- 2 teaspoons low-fat margarine / mayonnaise / dressing
- 4 olives
- ¼ avocado
- 80ml low-fat gravy / sauce
- 1 teaspoon olive / canola oil
What to read next?
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.
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