It is important to eat healthy food if you have type 1 diabetes, but the general dietary advice is not particularly different for those without diabetes.

The main consideration is keeping good control of your blood glucose levels, and being aware of how the foods you eat will influence your readings.

Carbohydrate counting

Carbohydrates directly influence blood glucose levels, and people with type 1 diabetes will need to take into account quantity of carbohydrate and how quickly it is absorbed.

Carb counting involves balancing how many carbs you consume with the correct dose of insulin. This technique will help you maintain stability of your blood glucose levels.

When preparing meals, you should know how much carbohydrate is in the food you eat. For packaged foods, nutritional labels provide details on total carbs, while with foods such as pasta and rice, you will need to know the weight of the food to estimate the carb quantity.

You may be encouraged to take part in special courses with a healthcare professional to learn how to count carbs, or you may be educated during individual sessions.

Otherwise, books such as Carbs and Cals are growing in popularity as this shows, using pictures, how many carbohydrates are in different meals and portion sizes.

Being able to count carbohydrate will be useful when you eat out or eat at someone’s house and may be uncertain as to the quantity of carbs on your plate.

Eating healthily with type 1 diabetes

Balance is key in a diet for people with type 1 diabetes. Making the right food choices can help you maintain good glycemic control and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

Tips for achieving a healthy diet include:

  • Eat unsaturated fats, such as oily fish, nuts and avocados
  • Choosing whole grain versions of starchy foods, such as bread
  • Limiting the amount of processed food you eat
  • Freshly preparing food at home whenever possible
  • Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, as they are full of nutrients that the body needs

Low-carb diets and type 1 diabetes

Low-carb diets can be useful for people struggling to maintain good control of their blood glucose levels by eating a carb-centred diet.

By reducing the carbs you eat at meal times, you will lessen the chances of blood sugar spikes during the first couple of hours after your meal.

However, people with type 1 diabetes should see their diabetes consultant before making any major dietary changes. Following a low-carb diet may necessitate changes to your insulin dose, and these should be discussed beforehand.