Dining with Diabetes

The Gist of It:

  • People with diabetes can still enjoy meals, alcohol and desserts.
  • Sugar does not cause diabetes.
  • Tips on making the most of your morsel.
Source: diabetesclinicalslides.com
Source: diabetesclinicalslides.com


One of the many questions people have in their minds is “do I have to give up my favourite foods?”

Well it’s a yes and no; depending on what your favourite food is. You need to understand how various foods affect your blood glucose levels. People with diabetes will usually find that they can still enjoy a treat from time to time but not as often as they could before their diagnosis.

Dietary requirements vary from person to person. Because of this there is no one diabetic diet that will work for everyone in general and people should pick a diet that matches their individual needs. Your doctors or dieticians should guide you in this process. Do note that we won’t be endorsing any particular diets; we’ll leave that to your doc but here are some useful tips for making the most of your morsel.

Before we begin we would like to clear up one myth about diabetes – that sugar causes it.

Well it’s little complicated. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease while type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.

So being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and a diet high in sugar and calories contribute to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes [1].

“Eating less salt can substantially reduce the risk of health problems associated with high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke — a cause of death for more than 2 out of every 3 people with diabetes” claim the awesome people at the Persatuan Diabetes Malaysia.

Dining with Diabetes

Source: jillfit.com
Source: jillfit.com
  • You should have a balanced amount of nutrition in your daily meals. Nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
  • The amounts of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in your daily meal plan will depend on your overall health and your treatment goals i.e. whether it’s to control blood glucose, blood fat levels, and weight. Your doctor/dietician should help you set some goals. Also keep in mind that your nutrition needs change throughout life, as your body changes. As your needs change, so should your food choices.


Source: gtafitness.com
Source: gtafitness.com
  • For most people, a healthy diet includes 10 – 20% of daily calories from protein (poultry, fish, dairy, and vegetable sources). If you have kidney complications, consult your doctor about lowering your protein intake to around 10% of daily calories.
  • Always eat fresh fruit or vegetables.
  • Avoid pickles (acar), canned or marinated vegetables, cheeses, and salted seeds.
  • Avoid cured meats.
  • Protein is best broiled, grilled, or roasted. Avoid fried foods.
  • If you’re a fan of fast foods, try to cut down on the fries. You can remove pickles and cheese from your burgers and no condiments. Substituting soft drinks for water is the best option.


Source: quickmeme.com
Source: quickmeme.com
  • Diabetes puts you at an increased risk of getting heart complications. To reduce this risk, you need to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • A proper intake of fat is 30% or less of your daily calories. Less than 10% should come from saturated fats, and up to 10% should come from polyunsaturated fats [2].
  • Saturated fats – these are mostly meats, but some vegetable fat like coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter are also rich in it. They usually raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
  • Polyunsaturated fats – these are found mainly in vegetable sources and help to lower the body’s total cholesterol level. Corn oil, soya oil and safflower oil are some examples. Certain fish like sardines and mackerel are also rich in polyunsaturated fat.
  • Your daily cholesterol intake should be 300mg or less. That’s the equivalent of three plates of nasi lemak ayam [3].


foods with high carb content

  • Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy foods, and starchy foods such as breads.
  • Your body depends on the nutrients supplied in the foods you eat. Unless you have special health concerns or problems, you can follow the same guidelines for eating fibre and sodium as the general public. If you eat a variety of healthful foods, you don’t need to take extra vitamins and minerals unless specified by your doctor.
  • Some diabetics are put on a low-carb diet to shed some weight. This will depend on your goal and needs of your body.


Source: hoohaabar.files.wordpress.com
Source: hoohaabar.files.wordpress.com
  • Basically the same rules to the public also apply to you. If your diabetes is well controlled, you can have one or two drinks. Do not however, consume alcohol on an empty stomach. It can cause very low blood glucose.
  • If you take insulin or diabetes pills, you need to know how alcohol affects your blood glucose level by testing before and after drinking.
  • Check out our list of beer calories here.


  • Sugar is a type of carbohydrate. For many many years, people with diabetes were told to avoid sugar. It was assumed that sugar, which quickly changes into glucose, would raise blood glucose levels more. But as mentioned above, this is not true.
  • Sugary foods are often empty calories that provide no nutrients. Your doctor can suggest foods with sugar into your meals, depending on your tastes. But they can’t take the place of foods that supply vitamins and minerals.
  • Should diabetics consume artificial sweeteners? Read our findings here.
  • When your sweet tooth is knocking at the door of your mouth, try to go for fresh fruits, sherbet, gelatine, plain cakes, or a good old fashion teh tarik kurang manis.
  • Here are 10 ways to cut down on sugar.

Serving sizes

  • Servings at Western restaurants are often big enough to be separated into 2 small meals.
  • Separate the appropriate portion and ask for a takeaway container right away to prevent you from eating more than you should (best for the environment if you could bring your own container).
  • If you have the option, ask for half or smaller portions.
  • If you have dessert, share the joy! Here’s a list of 10 diabetic-friendly low-carb desserts.

Hawker hacks: You can try to request for food to be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Most soups will have some MSG already so tell them not to add anymore.

Source: diabeteswa.com.au
Source: diabeteswa.com.au

HealthWorks is currently running a series on diabetes, click here to read more on this silent killer.


 As a diabetic, how are you taking care of yourself nutritionally? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Persatuan Diabetes Malaysia (http://www.diabetes.org.my/section.php?sid=3&all=N)
Global Diabetes Community (http://www.diabetes.co.uk/diet-for-type2-diabetes.html)
Changi General Hospital, Singapore (http://www.cgh.com.sg/Health_Library/Health_Information/Pages/HealthLibraryDetails.aspx?DID=52)

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