Nutrition, diet and diabetes

Controlling and monitoring nutrition are fundamental to a diabetic .
A good diet is as important as physical activity and medication, to limit the progression of your diabetes and prevent possible complications.

The general principles of diabetic nutrition

  • Eat a varied and balanced diet
  • Have 3 main meals a day and limit yourself to only 1 or 2 snacks
  • Ensure you start the day with a god breakfast
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Do not count calories obsessively
  • Drink at least 1.5 - 2 litres of water
  • Try to keep to the following proportions at every meal::
    • 40 to 50% carbohydrate
    • 15% protein
    • 30 to 45% fat
  • Monitor your weight
  • Follow the advice of a nutritionist or a dietician, as recommended by your GP or specialist

Preferable foods

  • Reduce consumption of ready meals
  • Avoid foods high in sugar
  • Choose lean meats
  • Eat fish at least 2 or 3 times a week
  • Fruits: 5 portions per day
  • Eat poultry as opposed to red meat
  • Use vegetable oils rather than butter or cream
  • Steam or grill dishes
  • It is still possible to eat desserts, but in a limited quantity and try to choose less creamy options

The glycaemic index

Carbohydrates in different foods are not absorbed at the same speed : In fact, each food has its own glycaemic index.
  • The glycaemic index measure how quickly carbohydrates are absorbed and so can be used to measure the hyperglycaemic effect of food
  • The more a certain food increases your blood sugar, the higher the glycaemic index
  • Foods with a low glycaemic index make glucose rise gradually
  • Food with a high glycaemic index cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar.
  • You must try to limit your consumption of foods with a high glycaemic index on a daily basis.
  • Your dietician or doctor can advise you further, but some examples are given below:
    • Foods with a high glycaemic index: sugar, bread, potatoes, couscous, carrots, honey, candy, jam, pastry ...
    • Foods with a moderate glycaemic index: fruits, pasta, fruits such as cherries, plums, apples, oranges
    • Food with a low glycaemic index : dairy, green vegetables, beans, lentils
  • For example, it is still possible to eat bread which has a high glycaemic index, but in reasonable quantities as the sugar produced from 50 g of bread is equivalent to that provided by 5 pieces of sugar.


You can eat fats but be careful as they have twice the amount of calories than carbohydrates. Some suggestions for your diet include:
  • Reducing cured meats
  • Eating leaner meat like white poultry
  • Choosing fish over meat
  • Increasing your intake in vegetables
  • Avoiding creamy or sweet sauces
  • Decreasing your cheese intake
  • Learning to cook without fat; so to try to steam, bake, grill, or microwave food


Protein intake should provide about 15% of overall calories.
  • Animal protein: meat, fish, dairy products ...
  • Plant Proteins : cereals, pasta, rice, bread
  • Some plants also contain proteins such as legumes, soy

Foods to avoid

  • Sugars with a high "glycaemic index": such as sugar, sweets, jam, honey, pastry, ice cream, sorbet, sugared fruit, fruit pulp, sweetened milk, fizzy drinks, syrup, artificial fruit juices
  • Animal fat: butter, heavy cream, lard, fatty meat, cheese, egg yolk
  • Foods high in salt: such as sausages, biscuits, aperitifs
  • Fried foods and sauces
  • Excess alcohol


When you're feeling peckish, it is advisable to choose these snacks:
  • 1 plain or reduced sugar yogurt
  • 1 slice of ham
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes, carrots, radishes
  • A piece of fruit

Some useful tips

  • Mushrooms contain little carbohydrate
  • Basmati rice which has a lower glycaemic index than white rice
  • Season dishes with lemon juice, which lowers the rate of glucose absorption (dishes and salads)
  • Remember to eat fibre as it reduces the speed of passage of sugar in the blood
  • Some "sugar free" products contain almost as much sugar as the normal version so you must try to study the labels on food.


  • Water: drink at least 1.5 litres per day. Increase consumption in hot conditions or during sporting activity
  • Choose "light" or "diet" versions of fizzy drinks
  • Avoid sugar in coffee or tea, or try to use sweetener

Diabetes and Alcohol

  • Alcohol contains sugar, which causes glucose levels to increase in your blood
  • It is still possible for you to consume alcohol with diabetes, by keeping to small quantities and some rules.
  • Drinking alcohol in the evening increases the risk of hypoglycaemia until noon the following day, especially if have not eaten.
  • Alcohol, even in small quantities, contains a significant number of calories, and hence contributes to weight gain.

  • Beer and liqueurs contain more sugar than whiskey or vodka.
  • A non-alcoholic beer contains more sugar than regular beer and is very rich in carbohydrates.
  • It is recommended to drink a maximum of 21 units a week if you are a healthy male and 14 units if you are female. This limit needs to be reduced if you are also diabetic.
  • A pint of normal strength beer or a large glass of wine contains 3 units each.

Contraindications to alcohol

If you are diabetic and have the following conditions, you need to abstain from alcohol if possible:
  • Pregnancy
  • If you are breastfeeding
  • History of alcoholism
  • History of severe hypoglycaemic episodes
  • History of pancreatitis
  • Neuropathy
  • High triglycerides (a type of cholesterol) in your blood
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