The Diabetic Diet

“But you’re a diabetic, can you eat that?”

It’s a question I, as I’m sure many of have been asked, plenty of times.

I get it – with poor media coverage of the different types of diabetes including what the causes are, it’s difficult to get education out to the general public. Most people are familiar with diabetes through word-of-mouth or via television or newspaper articles.

That’s fine, if after a while it can become a little frustrating – the question can be easily answered. We can’t expect everyone to know the in’s and out’s of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

However, it’s when food companies and marketing teams start promoting diabetic diets and diabetic foods then an element of confusion can arise.

Diabetes UK are campaigning to end the use of the term “diabetic foods” and for a very good reason.

There is no such thing.

Within the general public there is already a huge amount of confusion about what makes a healthy and nutritious meal. Does it contain carbs? Should it contain fats? Dairy? Gluten? Nightshades? FODMAPS? Protein? Red meat? Egg yolks?

The list goes on and on and for a newly diagnosed diabetic it can be confusing about what they can and cannot eat.

So, what DOES make a diabetic diet?

The answer – your diet should be exactly the same as everyone elses.

Diabetes does not change what should go in your mouth, only how your body deals with the glucose that comes from the carbohydrates and, to an extent, the protein that you ingest.

There are no foods better suited to diabetics. Any food labelled “diabetic friendly” or similar is usually just more expensive and you might as well go for the real thing.

But the argument can be made that a diabetic should be more aware of what they’re eating.

Timing, carb counting, glycaemic index of foods, insulin management, glucose testing before and after you eat – these are all the things that diabetics should be mindful of around a meal time. But the guidelines of a diet should still remain the same.

70% should be quality, single ingredient stuff you enjoy. 10% should be healthy stuff that you don’t enjoy so much (for example this is beetroot for me), 10% should be snacks like trek bars or sugar free popcorn and the final 10% should be whatever you want (burgers, ice cream, pizza)! The most important thing is being aware of your calorie requirements based on your current wants and goals and factor the last 10% into it.

You should also be mindful of your BMR (basal metabolic rate) which determines how many calories you should be consuming daily whilst factoring in your activity levels throughout the week. With these two approaches as well as keeping your diabetes management in line, nutrition can be an incredibly powerful tool to help with your condition.

If you want to go down a certain diet approach, whether it be clean eating, paleo, low carb, low fat etc. or just to have a good solid diet plan then I’d recommend discussing this with either your registered dietitian or a good nutrition coach where they can discuss the pros and cons of certain approaches.

Remember, food is food and food is awesome!

Until next time.



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Dan has been a Type 1 Diabetic since November 2011 and writes about his experiences living with two autoimmune conditions (Type 1 Diabetes and Ulcerative Colitis), nutrition, exercise and living an overall healthier life on his blog and via his social media platforms.

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