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Managing Type 2 Diabetes with Diet & Lifestyle

Being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes can be a worrying time. It often comes an array of advice and medication to help control the disease and although there’s no outright cure for it, it is possible for people to reverse it through dietary changes, weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

The foods we eat affect blood sugar levels so overhauling your diet and switching to healthier foods is a great way to get your Type 2 Diabetes under control. And if you’re overweight, dialing back those digits on the scales can improve your body’s response to insulin, helping to restore blood sugar to a normal level.

Nutritionist Ruth Tongue says: “Type 2 Diabetes can be a tough condition to accept but there is a lot you can do to control it, starting with your diet. Take a look at what’s in your pantry and get clued up on food labels. Convenience foods often contain high levels of added sugar so making healthy swaps to low sugar, lighter, lower carb alternatives is a simple and effective place to start.” 

Ruth's tips

  • Focus on whole foods such as vegetables, wholegrains, fruit, beans and lentils.
  • Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates such as sugar, cakes, biscuits, white bread, bagels and instead choose starchy unrefined carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, oats, brown rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes.
  • Eat plenty of fiber. This means lots of plant based foods! Vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and nuts and seeds should make up a key part of your diet. Fiber helps to balance blood sugar and keeps you feeling full so it's a win-win.
  • Limit your intake of highly processed foods (think ready meals, tinned foods and takeaways) as these tend to have higher levels of salt, saturated fat and sugar. Try to prepare from scratch or use healthy and convenient options with no added sugar, salt and preservatives.
  • Add flavour to your food with herbs, spices, lemon or lime, balsamic vinegar and olive oil rather than salt and sugar. It'll take a while to wean your taste buds off the sweet stuff so start but cutting back on salt and sugar gradually.
  • As type 2 diabetics need to control their blood sugar levels throughout the day, eat small amounts regularly rather than huge meals infrequently. Snack on healthier options such as almonds, mixed seeds, veggies, fruit, oat cakes with a little nut butter or hummus and a little dark chocolate if you fancy a sweet treat.
  • Make simple food swaps that are less likely to spike your blood sugar. For example, switching white rice for cauliflower rice, having nut butter instead of jam on your toast and whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
  • Consider following a diet that is lower in carbohydrates as this has been shown to be beneficial for those who are obese or have type 2 diabetes and need to lose weight. Choosing lower carbohydrate fruits and vegetables and plenty of lean protein and healthy fats will ensure that you stay feeling full and satisfied. Just remember though that low-carb doesn’t equal no-carb and we still need to get the benefits of the nutrients from foods containing carbohydrates such as wholegrains, fruits and vegetables. And before starting any new meal plan it’s essential to speak to your GP or health practitioner if you’re taking any medication to control your diabetes.

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