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Other important info

The great news is that eating with diabetes is just the same as the way that everyone should be eating!

There are a couple of things that a person with diabetes has to make sure of with their meals that other people don’t have to worry about so much – but in reality people without diabetes tend to do these things anyway!

Eating with diabetes is just the same as regular healthy eating

You need to eat regular meals and snacks

You always need to include a carbohydrate food in your choices (see below)

These guidelines help you to maintain a nice stable blood glucose levels, avoid hypos and be a healthy weight.

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Carbohydrate foods are the most important foods when it comes to your diabetes. The amount and timing of carbohydrate foods that you eat will directly affect your blood glucose levels, and whether these are too high, normal or too low (hypo).

If you eat too much carbohydrate you will need more insulin to keep your blood glucose levels stable, or they will be too high and if this happens regularly you increase the risk of developing nasty diabetic complications.

If you eat too little carbohydrate you could have a hypo.

The best way to manage your carbohydrate intake is to have three regular meals (4-5 hours apart) that are made up of about half the foods below and about half with other foods like meats/veges/fruit.  In between meals you could also have 2-3 snacks that also have some carbohydrate in them depending on your insulin type, how much exercise you do / don’t do and how hungry you are (for example, if you are still growing or recovering from being newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes).

See the ‘carbohydrate snacks’ section for good snack ideas.

Carbohydrate containing foods:

  • Bread and bread rolls
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Dairy and soy milk, yoghurt, ice cream and custard
  • Fruit and fruit juice
  • Starchy vegetables like potato, sweet potato and corn
  • Rice, pasta and noodles
  • Baked beans and lentils
  • Snack foods like biscuits, chips, muesli bars
  • Sugars and sugary foods
  • Takeaway foods like pizza, fries and burgers


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Protein-containing foods should be about a quarter of your plate. This is like 1-2 palmfuls of the foods below per day. It doesn’t matter when you eat these foods in your day because unlike carbohydrates, these foods won’t affect your blood glucose levels.

Protein-containing foods:

  • Meat 
  • Fish 
  • Chicken 
  • Eggs 
  • Nuts 
  • Cheese

These foods are important for growth and repair in your body. You need protein foods to build muscle too!

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We need some fat in our food choices too, but not too much or it can lead to weight gain and other bad side effects like high blood lipids.

Fatty foods are:

  • Butter 
  • Margarine 
  • Oil 
  • Cream

BUT there are also lots of places in the diet where fat hides as well, such as:

  • Crisps, chips and fries
  • Biscuits
  • Chocolates
  • Cakes
  • Donuts
  • Takeaways
  • Fatty meats – chicken skin, meat fat, salami, bacon etc
  • Fried foods

SO it is a good idea to only eat from this group of foods as a treat.


  • low fat milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • vegetable oils/margarine for cooking
  • nuts/seeds
  • avocado
  • fish

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Depending on the insulin you’re on, you might need to eat a meal or a snack every 3 hours or so. If you forget to eat, skip meals or leave it too long until you eat, you might have a hypo. If you have an insulin pump, you can be a bit more flexible with the timing of your meals.


High glucose foods like fizzy drinks, cordials and lollies can make your blood glucose levels go too high. It is best to drink diet fizzy or cordials.

These foods can be used in small amounts to treat a hypo, which means they cause a quick rise in blood glucose so you know that means if you eat them when you’re not having a hypo they will make your blood glucose level rise quickly then too!


To treat a hypo, you need to quickly eat or drink something sweet, wait 10 minutes and then eat something else straight away to stop the hypo from coming back.

To treat a hypo, quickly eat or drink something sweet like:

  • Mentos or
  • Dextrotabs or Vita tabs or
  • 125 – 200ml fruit juice or 
  • 1/3 – ½ can regular soft drink (not diet) or 
  • Honey or jam (2 teaspoons) or
  • 2-3 tablespoons of glucose powder dissolved in half a glass of water

Then eat something else to stop the hypo from coming back, like:

  • A piece of fruit or 
  • A slice of bread or 
  • Two plain sweet biscuits or 
  • A glass of milk 
  • If it’s just before a meal, eat or drink something sweet then eat your meal

Don’t forget to always carry glucose and snacks with you. Make sure you don’t ignore a hypo even if you’re worried about what everyone else will say. No one likes to be embarrassed, but ignoring a hypo can make you feel worse and can be more embarrassing if you don’t treat it.


Here are some ideas for lunch:

  • Sandwiches

try different types of breads like rolls, grain bread, Turkish bread, bagels, lavash or pita bread
use fillings like salad, low fat cheese, vegemite, ham, chicken, tuna, salmon, egg, baked beans, spaghetti or banana

  • Pasta, potato or rice salad
  • Fresh pieces of fruit eg. apples, pears, mandarins, oranges
  • Chopped fruit eg. rockmelon, pineapple
  • Fruit in zip lock bags eg. grapes, cherries
  • Crispbreads, rice cakes or corn thins
  • Pikelets, scones or low fat muffins
  • Low fat yoghurt or dairy desserts
  • Dried fruit boxes eg. sultanas, apricots
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Low fat milk drinks
  • Rice crackers or rice crisps

If buying food from the canteen/ café / dairy look for sandwiches or rolls, corn on the cob, reduced fat mini pizzas, pasta, soup or rice dishes as healthy options.


For snacks between meals, choose your favourites, stock up on

  • Fruit  eg. apple, pear, banana, orange 
  • Chopped fruit – rockmelon, pineapple, honeydew 
  • Fresh fruit salad 
  • Grapes or cherries 
  • Canned fruit snack pack eg. two fruits, peaches, pears, fruit salad 
  • Dried fruit boxes eg. sultanas, fruit salad, sultanas and apricots 
  • Low fat yoghurt 
  • Low fat dairy desserts 
  • Low fat custard 
  • Corn on the cob (frozen, defrost in microwave)
  • Pikelets or scones 
  • Fruit loaf, fruit bun or hot cross buns 
  • Crispbread or rice cakes with low fat toppings e.g. tomato, low fat cheese 
  • Popcorn 
  • Crumpets or English muffins 
  • Rice crackers with low fat dip 
  • Rice crisps 
  • Low fat fruit bars


Exercise or sport uses up blood glucose extra quickly so it can mean that you need some extra carbohydrate to stop you from having a hypo. Eating an extra carbohydrate snack for every 30-40 minutes of sport is a good guide.  Hypos can happen for 12-16 hours after you stop exercising, so keep an eye on your blood glucose levels and top up your carbs if you need to.


  • A piece of fruit 
  • A small flavoured milk 
  • A muesli bar 
  • A fruit snack pack 
  • A crumpet or slice of raisin toast 
  • A ‘fun size’ chocolate bar


  • A 100% fruit juice 
  • A cup of sports drink 
  • A piece of fruit eg. banana, orange


You may find as you get older you start eating out and eating more takeaways. Once a week is a good amount to fit in with a healthy diet.

Some healthy takeaway options:

  • Meat or chicken salad roll / wrap 
  • Doner kebab with lots of salad 
  • Plain hamburger with lots of salad 
  • A grilled chicken burger with lots of salad 
  • Baked potato (skip the butter) 
  • Toasted sandwich 
  • Corn cob
  • Sushi roll 
  • Vegie pizza or gourmet pizza
  • Toasted sandwich or focaccia 
  • Bowl of pasta with tomato based sauce 
  • Stir fried vegetables with noodles or plain rice

Try and have a similar amount of carbohydrate when eating out as you would usually have at mealtimes, and try and choose the options that are lower in fat.

  • A piece of fruit or 
  • A slice of bread or 
  • Two plain sweet biscuits or 
  • A glass of milk 

If it’s just before a meal, eat or drink something sweet then eat your meal and have your insulin when you’re half way through the meal. Do NOT forget to take your insulin! You may decide to reduce the amount of rapid acting insulin slightly because of the low pre-meal.

try different types of breads like rolls, grain bread, Turkish bread, bagels, lavash or pita bread

use fillings like salad, low fat cheese, vegemite, ham, chicken, tuna, salmon, egg, baked beans, spaghetti or banana

Acknowledgement: Dietitians NZ

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