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"Learning to eat regular meals, controlling the amount you eat and making healthy food choices can help you manage your diabetes better and help prevent other health complications." says Dr Daphne Gardner Su-Lyn, Consultant at the Department of Endocrinology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

The best person to advise you on nutrition matters remains a dietitian. Here is some advice from the Department of Dietetics at SGH.

Do I need a special diet if I have diabetes?

"The good news is that people with diabetes do not need to go on a special diet. You may have to modify your diet, rather than overhaul it," says Kala Adaikan, Principal Dietitian at SGH. What’s important is that you understand how different foods, especially carbohydrates, affect your blood sugar (glucose) levels. Then, you can modify your diet by choosing healthier alternatives.

What about fruits and vegetables?

Fruits do contain sugar, in the form of fructose, but they are also a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre so they ought to be included as part of your meal plan and part of your carbohydrate intake. In general, most vegetables are recommended as they provide fibre.

No food is off limits. The important thing is to watch the portions of carbohydrates you eat in a day and ensure that these are evenly distributed throughout the day, says Ms Adaikan. For instance, make sure you count starchy vegetables such as potatoes as part of your carbohydrate requirements for the day.

Carbohydrate requirements will vary from one person to the next, depending on weight, age, physical activity levels and other health-related conditions. A dietitian can calculate your individual requirements and teach you carbohydrate-counting techniques for more flexibility in your diet.

Can I eat more protein foods to fill up?

Protein foods like chicken and fish do not contain carbohydrates, so they will not raise blood sugar levels. However, some foods contain a combination of protein and carbohydrates. These include milk and dairy products and plant-based protein foods, such as beans, dhal and lentils. These should be counted as part of your carbohydrate intake and requirements.

Diet tips

  1. Distribute your carbohydrate intake evenly throughout the day.
  2. Do not skip meals, as this could cause dips in your blood sugar levels and you may be at risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
  3. Reduce your intake of sugars and sugary foods, and replace them with whole grain starches, such as whole grain bread, flour or pasta.

Ref: P16