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Diabetes health centre

Advice on healthy living

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Keeping your diabetes under control is important. If it isn't kept under control, you can get serious health problems. You could go blind or have kidney failure. So you need to keep your blood glucose (sugar) level as close to normal as possible. That doesn't just mean taking your medicine. Eating healthily and staying active can also help keep your blood glucose level near normal.

What you eat

Doctors used to tell people with diabetes to stop eating sugary foods. Now the advice is to eat a healthy, low-fat diet. This means eating regular, well-balanced meals, and sticking to a certain number of calories each day. Eating the right amounts of healthy foods and keeping your weight in the right range for your height will help you control your diabetes. [32]

There are six kinds of food that fit into what nutritionists call the food pyramid: [33]

  • Grains

  • Vegetables

  • Fruits

  • Milk (low fat is best)

  • Meat and beans

  • Oils.

Try to eat foods from each group every day. By doing this, you will make sure that your body has all the nourishment it needs.

You need to include lots of starchy foods, fruits and vegetables in your diet. And you need to eat fewer sweet foods, fats and proteins.

Below are some tips to help you eat healthily and keep your weight down.

Action points for healthy eating

Your GP or hospital doctor should refer you to a dietitian who can help you make a food plan that suits you. [34] A good meal plan should fit in with your schedule and eating habits. The right plan will also help you keep your weight in the healthy range.

  • Eat regular meals based on starchy foods such as bread, pasta, chapatis, potatoes, rice, and cereals. Choose whole-grain kinds when you can.

  • Cut down on the fat you eat. Choose low-fat dairy foods like skimmed milk and low-fat yoghurt. Grill, steam or bake foods instead of frying.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least five portions a day.

  • You can eat fatty foods and sweets, but try not to eat them too often. Look at biscuits, pastries, cakes, puddings, fizzy drinks, mayonnaise, salad dressings, butter, and oils as treats rather than everyday foods.

  • Every day try to eat two portions of meat, fish, or similar foods, such as eggs, pulses, beans, and nuts. Choose lower-fat kinds when you can. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, pilchards, trout and herring are especially good for you. Try to eat two portions of these types of fish each week.


If you haven't exercised much in the past, making exercise part of your life might seem hard. You might feel you're too old to change your habits. Getting started is probably the hardest part.

Last Updated: October 30, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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