Getting Your Diabetic Diet Right: The Ultimate Guide to Foods for Diabetes

The Best Diet For Diabetes: Learn How Different Food Types Affect Blood Sugar Levels, Make Adjustments and Take Control of Your Diabetes!

Two key goals of diabetes management are to achieve and maintain blood glucose levels in the normal range (or as close to normal level as possible) and to prevent or slow the rate of development of diabetes-related complications.

Diet is a key aspect of diabetes management: a well-planned and balanced diet provides adequate nutrition and helps keep your blood glucose levels within your target range.

So What is the Best Diet For Patients with Diabetes?

The best diet for diabetes is one that you can stick to and which you enjoy while at the same time being healthy. It should have the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat with an emphasis on lower glycaemic index carbs, leaner cuts of meat and plenty of fibre. Diets which follow these principles have been shown to help with diabetes management.

In this post we summarise the the key principles to follow as a patient with diabetes, covering managing your carbohydrates, fibre, protein and fats and getting the balance right in your diet overall.

Learn what are some of the best and the worst foods for patients with diabetes and translate your learnings into better choices for your healthy diet for diabetes. And realise that healthy eating can still be tasty and fun!

Maintain a Balanced Macronutrient Ratio

My Healthy Plate - a useful tool to help you achieve balance in your diet

A balanced diet refers to getting the right amount of calories from carbohydrates, protein and fat - categories of food called macronutrients.

My Healthy Plate is a simple tool to help you create a healthy and balanced meal.  Aim to fill 1/2 your plate with fruit and vegetables, 1/4 with wholegrains and 1/4 with proteins.

A balanced diet should also have the right Macronutrient Ratio i.e. the % of your total calorie intake from carbohydrates, protein and fats.

In general, around 50-60% of your energy intake should come from carbohydrates, 15-20% from protein and less than 30% from fat.

Manage The Types of Carbohydrates You Consume

A graph showing how your blood sugar levels vary over time after a meal.  This highlights the different profiles of low and high Glycaemic Index foods.

In addition to controlling your overall Macronutrient Ratio, it is very important to also manage the type of carbohydrates you eat. These principles are well researched by bodies such as Harvard Health.

To prevent big spikes in blood sugar, you should choose carbohydrates that are lower in Glycaemic Index (GI).

High GI foods (>70) cause a faster rise in blood glucose than low GI (<55) ones, which provide more stable and sustained blood glucose levels and reduce blood glucose spikes.

Low GI foods are usually minimally processed foods like wholegrains or foods high in dietary fibre. Examples include wholegrain pasta, most vegetables, apples and whole milk. You should limit intake of high GI foods such as white rice, white bread and fine wheat flour.

Your glycemic response to a meal is also affected by portion sizes. Glycemic Load measures both quality (GI) and quantity (grams of carbohydrate per serving) and is a comprehensive indicator of your carbohydrate intake.

Avoid Added Sugar

A further consideration in controlling your carbs is Added Sugar i.e. sugar which is intentionally added during manufacturing for taste or other purposes. Added sugar is, of course, common in cakes, biscuits and sweets - which are some of the worst foods for patients with diabetes.

You should consume as little of such foods as possible as the calories they provide are usually “empty calories”, providing calories but little or no additional nutrients such as vitamins, minerals etc.

Take Enough Dietary Fibre

It is important to have enough dietary fibre in your diet in order to minimise spikes in blood glucose. This is because fibre helps to slow down digestion, resulting in a more stable blood glucose profile.  Fibre can also reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream.

Foods that contain higher amounts of fibre such as leafy vegetables, whole grains and brown rice tend to have a lower glycemic index than foods with less fibre and are some of the best foods to choose for a diabetic diet.

Certain foods like rolled oats for example can be especially beneficial since they are very high in fibre and quite low glycaemic index.  Brown rice is much better than white rice since it has much more fibre and a lower glycaemic index.

You should consume at least 25g of soluble fibre per day.

Eat Healthy Proteins

When choosing protein sources, choose cuts of meat with lower fat content e.g. pork shoulder vs belly pork.

You should minimise consumption of red meat, and choose leaner option like chicken breast.

Remove the skin prior to cooking and minimise any methods of cooking that require high amounts of oil such as deep frying.

Minimise Saturated Fats

Consumption of saturated fats raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol: prolonged high levels of LDL may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products and are usually solid at room temperature. One should aim to have not more than 10% of daily caloric intake from saturated fats.

On the other hand, you should consume more unsaturated fats (mono-unsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats) as these can help improve blood cholesterol, lowering risks of heart disease.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in plant sources, like nuts, avocado etc. while polyunsaturated fats can be found in fatty fish like salmon, or plant-based oils.In addition to controlling your overall Macronutrient Ratio, it is very important to also manage the type of carbohydrates you eat.

Summary - Getting Your Diabetes Diet Right with SugoSure

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet which contains the right mix of macronutients and minimises types of food which cause blood glucose spikes or increase risk of cardiac disease is one of the most important aspects of good diabetes self-management. You may also find this article useful.

For patients with diabetes, SugoSure helps you get your diet right by providing a tool to log meals and receive feedback so that you can then make adjustments. It helps you learn about the effects of specific foods on your blood glucose by relating your food intake to your blood glucose readings.

Feedback is both digital, based on the calorie count of the foods you log as well as other charts and indicators, and also personal from your nursing-registered health coach who communicates with you by messaging through the app. SugoSure's approach is clinically validated and consistent with the Singapore Ministry of Health's Clinical Practice Guidelines for Diabetes.

As a SugoSure patient, following the principles outlined in these 2 articles is a starting point which you can build on as you deepen your understanding.  When you are ready, ask your health coach about meal planning and post-meal monitoring: both approaches will build on your basic understanding to help you get your diabetes really well under control.

Take a look at our videos on How to Log Your Meals and Interpreting Your Blood Glucose Patterns with SugoSure.

Bon appetit!