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Guide to Diabetes

Diet and Lifestyle

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If you have been diagnosed with diabetes there are certain changes that you may need to make to help you successfully manage your diabetes.


When you are first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes you will be advised on how best to make some lifestyle changes including what you eat and these changes will form the basis for your treatment. In other words to begin with diabetes can be controlled by diet and lifestyle only. Although it is important to follow a balanced eating plan it is important to consider which foods influence your blood sugar levels and also how these foods impact your weight. Our diabetes team will help you decide on a plan to best suit you. Speak to your Diabetes Dietitian for more individual advice.

As time goes by you may need tablets and later on insulin injections to maintain your diabetes control. It’s up to you to take responsibility for your diabetes!


This can dramatically improve your general health and well being. Being knowledgeable about diabetes can help you through life and help you with difficult situations you may face, this website aims to do this.


For all people with Diabetes the main guidelines are:


1. 1st Line Advice: Eat Healthy People with Type 2 Diabetes


  • Eat regular meals with a starchy food at each meal e.g. bread, pasta, rice, cereal, chapattis, rice, crackers
  • Avoid sugary drinks
  • Cut down on fried and fatty foods, particularly saturated animal fats
  • Increase your fruit and vegetable Intake aim for 5 portions daily
  • Use less salt
  • If you drink keep to the recommended limits
  • If you smoke consider stopping or cutting down.

What you eat affects diabetes, so an important part of the treatment is to follow a healthy diet, making changes to the portions that you eat, introducing more fruit and vegetables and reducing the amount of starchy and fatty foods.

You may be given advice from members of the diabetes specialist dietitian team who will help you make the positive changes to suit you and your lifestyle.

Tip: Keep a food diary to help you keep track of what you are eating and drinking, you can use this as a basis to help with your diet only treatment.


2. Drink In Moderation

If you drink alcohol you will be advised to drink sensibly and in moderation. The government guidelines for sensible drinking are 14 units per week for women and 21 units per week for men. (One unit = 1 glass of wine, half a pint of beer or cider or one pub measure of spirits.)

Healthy Eating and Drinking Our section dedicated to eating healthy, managing your portion sizes, achieving a balanced diet, cooking tips and alternatives and some recipes catering for all palates. It explains in more details precautions you should take when drinking too.


3. If you smoke it will be better for you to try to stop smoking

Giving up smoking is not easy but there is help available to help you quit. Speak to your doctor or nurse for friendly advice and support. Do you want to stop smoking for your health and for the health of those around you? read more for help in Leicester and Leicestershire

NHS Stop Smoking Service Our smoking section is dedicated to help you quit smoking for good. With details about your local and national stop smoking service.


4. Exercise and Weight Control

If you are overweight especially around the tummy area, your body cannot use insulin as well as it should do. This is what is often referred to as insulin resistanceType 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. Many people develop resistance to insulin if they gain weight and become physically inactive. Insulin resistance is increased if you are in excess of your recommended weight for your height, particularly if you have put on weight centrally around your tummy. Therefore your diabetes control may not be as good as it could be. Reducing resistance to insulin can be achieved by losing weight and increasing your physical activity whether you are on medication or not.

If you are on medication it will help you make better use of your tablets/insulin.
Weight Management Our section talks about realistic goals and practical ways of losing weight. Losing weight involves making permanent changes to what you eat and drink and increasing your level of activity.


5. Be More Active - Exercise 

Exercise can improve your diabetes, help you lose weight, reduce the amount of tablets/insulin you take and help you feel more confident and good about yourself. Small changes can make a real difference. Remember that everyone is different and if you do wish to do exercise it is better to consult with your doctor or diabetes team.

Sports, Exercise and Activity This section gives more ideas and information about activities and sports.


6. Controlling Glucose

Learn how to control your glucose levels properly, aiming for a normal blood glucose level of between 4-7mmol/l 


Type 2 Diabetes is progressive: therefore if your diabetes is not being controlled by adjusting your eating patterns and habits and with lifestyle changes recommended to help you, then it may be necessary to prescribe tablets or insulin therapy in the future. These treatments are explained in more detailed in the subsections.

This will reduce your chances of being affected by future Diabetic Problems with your circulation, legs and feet, nerves, kidneys, heart and eyes.


7. Appointments

It is important that you take responsibility for looking after yourself by taking the advice given by your diabetes team to improve your lifestyle by making the necessary changes. 

Make sure you do attend your GP, clinic and hospital appointments regularly to ensure your diabetes is being controlled and or improving.

Record all your appointments and if you need to cancel do so in plenty of time. If you have any question or queries about your diabetes, have these prepared in advance so that you can make the most of your consultation.


8. Support Groups

You may want to share experiences and speak to others living with diabetes. There are many Support Groups to help you with managing your diabetes run by the Diabetes Specialist Team at the University Hospitals of Leicester and in Leicestershire. There are a number of Diabetes UK voluntary groups in your area also.


9. Everyday Life

Having diabetes can affect your everyday life in certain ways e.g. driving, travelling, and health benefits, family sexual health. 

Living with Diabetes This section covers most of the subject areas.