Eating for good health
Healthy eating is an important part of diabetes prevention and management.
When diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, the first question people often ask is ‘what can I eat?’
Food plays an important role in our life and culture, and it plays a significant role in keeping us healthy, whether we have diabetes or not.
Step 1: Look at your discretionary food intake
The Australian Health Survey revealed that Australians consume more than a third of their food from discretionary foods (foods that have limited nutritional value and are high in added sugar, fats, salt or contain alcohol). This includes foods such as sweetened soft drinks, alcohol, pastries, cakes, confectionery and convenience foods. The first step to healthy eating is to reduce your intake of these discretionary foods, for example:
- limit foods high in saturated fats such as biscuits, cakes, pies, processed meats, fried foods, crisps and other savoury snacks
- choose foods that are low in salt, and do not add salt to home-cooked meals
- limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink
- limit sugary foods and drinks such as lollies, chocolates, soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks and other sweetened beverages.
Step 2: Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods
The Australian Dietary Guidelines (external site) can give you a picture of what you and your family should be eating and drinking every day.
The guidelines recommend that you eat across the food groups to ensure a nutritionally complete dietary intake. This includes:
- lots of vegetables of different types and colours (including legumes and beans)
- wholegrain (cereal) foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
- lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
- milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or dairy alternatives, mostly reduced fat (reduced fat milk is not suitable for children under the age of 2 years).
You should also drink plenty of water every day.
Step 3: Consider carbohydrate quantity
While these guidelines are a good starting point, they do not take into account the portion size of carbohydrate containing foods that needs to be considered for all people with diabetes. People living with diabetes need additional support to tailor carbohydrate intake to their personal circumstances.
Step 4: Consider whether you would benefit from losing weight
For overweight people with diabetes, weight loss is a vital part of diabetes self-management. The best approach is to work with a credentialled diabetes educator to develop a personalised plan. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and the approach you choose will depend on:
- personal circumstances
- ability to sustain eating behaviours
People with diabetes should be aware that commencing rapid weight loss interventions such as low carb eating, fasting or very low calorie diets can increase risk of hypoglycaemia. Physical activity should be considered as part of any weight loss therapy.
Diabetes WA runs a number of Workshops and Webinars designed to help you make and maintain healthy eating habits. Our DESMOND, CarbSmart, ShopSmart and DAFNE programs help people with diabetes to find an eating approach that suits their lifestyle. Credentialled diabetes educators are available for advice on our helpline, and rural Western Australians can consult a credentialled diabetes educator via Telehealth.
Speaking with a dietitian can also help get you started on the right path. Find an accredited practising dietitian at the Dietitians Australia.
Click here to view a collection of some of our favourite recipes that have featured in our newsletters and Diabetes Matters, our member magazine. All of these recipes have been approved by Diabetes WA’s team of dieticians and Credentialled Diabetes Educators. These recipes are also good for people without diabetes.
I am now just finishing up a week of recovery - I've never done such little exercise!! I've had 2 swims and that's about it!! See you at the HBF run!