The Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth Service provides free comprehensive access to personalised diabetes management advice and support from a Credentialed Diabetes Educator. Meet our educators as they share some of the common concerns they hear from our members.
Dietitian Priscilla Lee grew up in Hong Kong and moved to Perth for university to study her growing passion in nutrition. She joined Diabetes WA in 2019 to provide diabetes education to clients via the Telehealth Service, our Helpline and group education workshops. Priscilla speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Her areas of speciality include diabetes, weight management, bariatric surgery, nutrition, cardiovascular disease and IBS.
Here, she answers a question people often ask her when contacting our Helpline.
“My GP told me that I’ve got diabetes. What food can I eat? Give me a list please!”
This is one of the most common questions asked by my clients with diabetes. Then, my clients may mention, “I heard from other people, and they say that having bananas is not good for people with diabetes, is it true?”
Feeling frustration is a normal emotional response when people are told they’ve got diabetes. Some people may feel nervous to see a diabetes dietitian because they think that their favourite foods will be made off-limits. There is a deep misconception that dietitians act as the food police, instructing people to “eat this, not that”.
The truth is that diabetes educators or dietitians do not ask people to totally cut out their favourite foods or carbohydrates from their diet.
There are three reasons for this:
- Carbohydrates break down into glucose in our digestive system and glucose is our primary source of energy. It affects our blood glucose levels but the levels vary depending on the amount and type of carbohydrates.
- Food with carbohydrates provide dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals which are important to our health.
- Carbohydrates are found in a range of foods and drinks, meaning some essential nutrients would be lacking if we completely cut out carbohydrates from our diet.
As a diabetes dietitian, my motto is “eat healthily but enjoy the good stuff too”.
Generally, diabetes educators or dietitians suggest people choose lower GI foods in their diet because these foods cause blood glucose to rise more slowly.
Instead of asking for a list of foods TO HAVE and TO AVOID, it is better to focus on F.A.T.:
Frequency: How often we are having the food?
Amount: How much of it do we have?
Type: What type of foods do we have in our diet?
The best way to find out how foods impact on blood glucose levels is to keep a food record for 3-5 days and start self-blood glucose monitoring (doing finger prick checks) at certain times, for example fasting or before meals and two hours after the start of a meal.
Working with a diabetes educator or dietitian to develop a personalised plan is important as individuals can have different reactions to the amount and type of food and different target ranges of blood glucose levels. We all have different energy and nutrient requirements based on factors such as age, sex, medical conditions and activity levels. With a personalised plan, people can learn and adapt it to their lifestyle for successful diabetes management.
The Diabetes WA Helpline is available Mon-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm for all people in WA.
The Diabetes Telehealth Service is for country WA only.
Call 1300 001 880