Healthy Eating

General Guidelines for Healthy Eating                                      

We believe a diet for people with diabetes should be no different to a healthy diet eaten by ALL New Zealanders. You don't need to buy, eat or cook special meals. By ensuring the whole family eats healthily, you can reduce or slow down the risk of of diabetes complications. Eatiing a healthy balanced diet does not always work and rates of disordered eating are increasing. Click here to find out more. 

Eat real food and avoid processed food


  • half of each meal or snack as coloured vegetables & some fruit. These can be fresh or frozen
  • Some whole grain bread & high fibre cereals but be aware that carbohydrate found in bread/cereal is responsible for raising blood glucose
  • Include lean meat, poultry, fish (especiallly oily fish tuna, deep sea dory, warehou, salmon, sardines) & eggs
  • Soy, dried peas, beans(legumes) & lentils
  • Milk & milk/yoghurt products, preferably reduced or low fat options
  • A handful of unsalted mixed raw nuts & seeds daily
  • Use small amounts of oils (Cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil is our preference although flaxseed, grapeseed, sunflower, almond, and rice bran are acceptable). A scrape of butter on toast is OK
  • Drink 6 - 8 cups of water (tap, soda, mineral) each day
Try to Avoid:
  • Too much butter, cream & sour cream (unless just a scrape of butter on toast!)
  • Whole milk products unless for a child under 2
  • Meat fat & fatty meat
  • Deep fried foods, pies & pastries
  • Ice-cream & high fat cheese
  • Biscuits, cakes, sweets & chocolate
  • Chips & high fat crackers
  • Hardened vegetable fats used in bakery products like chocolate & yoghurt coatings
  • Salty foods, animal fats and coconut fats
  • Sugar sweetened drinks and alcohol

Remember, an important part of managing your diabetes is to eat healthy balanced diet – there's no such thing as a
diabetic diet or diabetic recipes.

Cooking from scratch gives you control over what you eat. Follow these recipes from Diabetes UK and you’ll know the exact amount of carbs, sugar, fat and calories in what you’re eating. From starters and mains to desserts they've got it covered.  So, whatever kind of diabetes you have – or if cook for someone that does have diabetes – you can search by ingredient, meal type or special dietary requirement, such as low sugar, gluten free or low fat, to get started. These recipes are also good for people without diabetes. Happy cooking!

Eat three regular meals a day, include 'breakfast' as the most important!

Snacks -  Most people don't need to snack unless they are taking medication/insulin that means glucose levels are likely to drop at some point during the day.  Some people choose to spread three meals throughout the day & use part of these meals as a snack. This is particularly useful if you are trying to lose weight.  

Healthy snacks include a small piece of fruit (1 small bobby banana, small apple, 10 grapes, 8 dried apricots, 15gm raisins), a pottle of unsweetened low-fat yoghurt, handful of unsalted raw nuts ( brazil, pine nuts, almond, hazlenuts, cashew, macadamia, pistachio), 1 slice of whole grain toast with hummus or low fat peanut butter. 

Sugary drinks – includes soft drinks, fruit juices & added sugar in hot drinks, lollies & sweets, takeaways, pies, pastries, and most biscuits and cakes.

If you are overweight then consider:
  • Am I eating foods high in sugar & fat?
  • Am I following the healthy eating guidelines?
  • How big are my portion sizes?
  • How much exercise do I get?
To reduce body weight you need to eat fewer kilojoules or calories - the energy found in food. Eating more kilojoules than your body needs can lead to weight gain.   How much food you need to maintain a healthy weight & control your diabetes depends on age, weight, height, gender & level of physical activity; this is something you can dicuss with your usual health care provider or visit

If you have Type 1 Diabetes & are not overweight then:

  • Eat to appetite, keeping the healthy guidelines in mind
  • Try to avoid sugary drinks & lollies because of their effect on general health/teeth etc
  • Use the healthy fats eg oils, nuts & avocado as calorie boosters.
  • Match food intake with your insulin requirements 
Carbohydate Counting

Check out our Diabetes UK Guide to Carb Counting - an introductory guide to carbohydrate counting and insulin dose adjustments. This brief guide gives readers insight into how insulin works, and how insulin can be adjusted according to what you eat and drink and the amount of physical activity you do. Although there are examples to follow,  please be aware this download is from Diabetes UK and the basal and bolus insulins they use have different names to those we use here in New Zealand (ie our rapid acting insulins are Novorapid, Humalog and Apidra). Please always consult with your Diabetes Nurse or Dietitien if you have any concerns about Carb Counting! Our Diabetes Nurse Educator is able to assist you with carb counting ring our INFOline for more details

Diets - Confused?

It is difficult for health professionals, let alone the public, to accurately estimate their daily consumption of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, and protein) and micronutrients (e.g. vitamins and minerals). Dietary advice based on eating patterns and actual foods may therefore be more practically useful than recommending targets for specific nutrients.

There are a number of different approaches which can be adopted, each with its pros and cons; and each with a line of people queueing up to advocate it or demonise it. In reality, one size does not fit all. That is to say, different people will be able to achieve their own health goals by following different approaches. This might be due to differences in their personal preferences, their lifestyles and in the way their body metabolises different food stuffs for example. Some approaches may also not be appropriate for people with certain medical conditions, so it is important to consult with your GP before adopting a new diet.

The bottom line is that any dietary approach that helps people to meet their health goals cannot be considered wrong, as long as it is sustainable and has enough of the nutrients our body needs to prevent any other complications.

Although they may come in a variety of different forms, with different names and variations in specific details, the main dietary approaches can be broadly grouped as:

Within these different approaches there are a number of common factors that most health professionals would agree on:

  • Where possible real foods rather than processed foods should be chosen (i.e. avoid food that has had something added or taken away).  
  • Limit fast foods, convenience foods and pre-packaged foods.  
  • Avoid or reduce snacking: Snacking can keep insulin levels raised which can lead to increased insulin resistance, body fat storage, and raised blood glucose levels.   
  • Enjoy your food: The French have the lowest rates of heart disease in Europe. One theory for this is their style of eating is more sociable and relaxed. This social element is suggested to be part of why the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for health. Taking time over food and enjoying every mouthful can leads to eating less and snacking less.

 Alcohol and Diabetes

Check out the ultimate-guide to alcohol and diabetes for some tips on how to manage alcohol and diabetes. Find out how much alcohol is in your favourite drink and how alcohol and drugs can affect your diabetes

Although alcohol does have an effect on blood sugar levels, with a few safety measures and careful management, people with diabetes can also enjoy a drink.

Does alcohol affect diabetes?

People with diabetes have to be extra careful with alcohol. Alcohol can affect diabetes in a few ways:

  • Alcohol increases your chances hypos (low blood sugar):
  • Drinking can cause low blood sugar for up to 24 hours after drinking
  • You need to be especially aware of this if you are taking certain medication such as insulin or sulphonylureas such as glicazide and glipizide
  • Drinking too much alcohol can also affect your ability to recognise or know when your blood sugar is too low:If you have nerve damage related to diabetes, drinking alcohol can make it worse and increase pain, numbness or the tingling sensation
  • Alcohol can often make you feel lightheaded, dizzy and drowsy, which are similar to the symptoms you may experience if your blood sugar is too low
  • Having low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) is often confused with being drunk 
  • Alcohol has a high-calorie content, so frequent intake may cause weight gain. 

Can I drink alcohol if I have diabetes?

undefinedIf you have diabetes, check with your doctor if you are allowed to drink alcohol. If your diabetes is poorly controlled and you have experienced hypoglycaemia often, your doctor may advise that you don't drink alcohol until your diabetes is better controlled.

Tips for drinking with diabetes

  • Limit the quantity of alcohol that you drink. Women should not have more than 2 standard drinks per day and men should limit their intake to not more than 3 standard drinks per day. One standard drink is 100 ml wine, 30 mls spirits or 300 mls beer. Avoid binge drinking where possible, to limit the effect that large amounts of alcohol can have.
  • Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Always ensure that you drink alcohol with a meal or snack. Food slows down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream and this helps to prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Try to avoid drinking alcohol following exercise. Doing so increases your chances of having low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) up to 24 hours after exercise, especially as exercise itself also lowers blood sugar.
  • If you do drink alcohol, remember to check your blood sugar levels before/after drinking and before you go to bed. Set your alarm to wake you during the night to check again or get someone else to check your levels
  • Choose drinks carefully. Select alcohol beverages that have less alcohol including light beer and light wine. If you are mixing your drink, use sugar-free mixers such as water, diet tonic or club soda. Avoid "ready to drink" premixed drinks.
  • Be prepared to manage hypoglycaemia – carry along glucose tablets, lollies or another source of sugar that you can take if you feel unwell and suspect that your blood sugar is too low.        
Learn more  Guidelines for low-risk drinking Diabetes NZ

Gluten free and diabetes?

Email us at for recipes that might just make life a little bit easier

Tips for making changes:

Making even the smallest of changes can be hard for many people. It's made harder by the fact that many foods contain 'secret sugar' and spotting secret sugar can be difficult.  The main thing to remember is not to try to make 'too many changes at once'. Work out ONE thing that you would like to change and make this your GOAL. Take small easy steps to achieve your goal, and once achieved try something else!  Talk to your GP or Practice Nurse about your goals. 

Have a look here for our healthy recipes full of nutritious,
healthy and budget conscious ideas


                                 Join us on a FREE supermarket tour -
                              ring 07 571 3422 for details of our next tour.

Click here to find our food diary. Complete this over one week, listing every meal & every snack.
We suggest you discuss the results with your GP, Practice Nurse or ring our INFOline (07) 571 3422