Fact Sheet: Diabetes (Type II)

Written on the 21 January 2015 by Studio Pilates

Diabetes is a condition that causes a person's blood sugar levels to become too high. The type of sugar in the blood is called glucose, and glucose is the body's major source of energy. Our blood glucose level increases after eating carbohydrate containing foods.

The glucose is then taken up into the bloodstream and circulated around the body. A hormone called insulin helps to deliver the glucose from the blood to the different organs in our body where it can be used for energy. If there isn't enough insulin or it is not working properly, the amount of glucose in the blood builds up. Having a high blood glucose level is then diagnosed as diabetes.

There is no one cause of diabetes and both genetic and lifestyle factors play a part. If your blood glucose is not well controlled it may lead to conditions like heart disease, kidney failure, nerve problems and high blood pressure. In order to control your blood sugar, try to follow healthy eating and lifestyle guidelines that you will learn during the Thirty Day Challenge program.

Healthy eating guidelines for diabetes management

  • Eat regular meals throughout the day and manage your portion sizes. For weight loss, aim for no more than 400 calories per meal.
  • Include a food containing carbohydrates with each meal, especially wholegrain and high fibre carbohydrate varieties.
  • Aim to include at least one low glycemic index (GI) food per meal.
  • Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meat and low fat dairy products
  • Limit your intake of saturated fats.
  • Increase your intake of unsaturated fats.
  • Eat fibre-rich foods daily, particularly those containing soluble fibre.
  • Limit your salt intake.

Lifestyle guidelines for diabetes

  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Aim to follow the Thirty Day Challenge exercise programs based on your level of fitness. Regular physical activity will help manage diabetes and improve general well-being.
  • When in the supermarket check food labels.

Eating out and diabetes

  • Don't be afraid to ask the waiter questions about your dish.
  • Choose smaller meal sizes such as entree size.
  • Aim for a dish that contains lean protein and vegetables. The protein lowers the GI of your meal. E.g. fish and steamed vegetables, chicken and vegetables, soups containing legumes or salads containing egg.
  • Avoid breaded/crumbed and fried food and instead ask for your food to be roasted, grilled or boiled.

Visit the Diabetes Australia website for further information. www.diabetesaustralia.com.au

Diet and Diabetes

Losing weight is essential to improving blood glucose control. The Thirty Day Challenge program will help you to do that through your nutrition plans. However with diabetes there are a few key elements
that you should also keep in mind.


Aim to include a small amount of carbohydrate rich foods at each meal time to help ensure an even spread of carbohydrate-containing foods over the day. This helps with blood glucose control as there is less chance that there will be any one time during the day where the blood glucose will be very high or very low.

Carbohydrate foods include starchy foods like bread, potato, rice, pasta, and sugars like table sugar, as well as the sugars found naturally in fruit and milk. Try to include low glycaemic index carbohydrate choices in at least two meals per day and limit foods high in added sugars.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly carbohydrate-rich foods raise blood glucose levels after they are eaten. Foods are categorised as having a low, moderate or high glycaemic index. Carbohydrate rich foods that are digested quickly have a high glycaemic index. A lot of glucose enters the blood quickly which causes the blood glucose response to be fast and high.

Carbohydrate rich foods that are digested slowly have a low glycaemic index. This means the blood glucose level rises and falls gradually providing a longer lasting source of energy. Various factors, such as physical form of the food, type of starch, fibre, sugar and cooking methods, can influence the GI of foods. High G.I. foods do not need to be left out of your diet. When high GI foods are eaten in combination with low GI foods the overall meal has a moderate glycemic index rating.


Aim to reduce the amount of total fat that you eat, especially saturated fat. This will also help with weight loss and good heart health. A diet high in saturated fat can impair how the body uses and accesses glucose and can contribute to your body being less responsive to insulin. Aim to reduce both saturated fat and trans fats in the diet but be wary of what you replace these fats with. Aim to replace them with healthy mono- or polyunsaturated fats or low GI foods rather than eating more high GI foods. For example, replace butter as a spread with avocado or replace sweet biscuits with nuts.

Polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fats help to improve diabetes management, as well as heart health. Monounsaturated fats are great substitute for saturated fats in the diet. To achieve a healthy balance of fats in your diet:

  • Enjoy a small handful of unsalted nuts/seeds several times per week.
  • Enjoy at least 2 oily fish meals per week. 
  • Use low-fat dairy products
  • Take care with "hidden" saturated fats in fast food, fried takeaways, pies, pastries, quiche, creamy sauces and junk food.
  • Use healthy oils in moderation.
  • Using healthy alternatives to butter such as olive oil, avocado, and mono- or polyunsaturated margarines.
  • Use low-fat cooking methods. 


Good sources of fibre include wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruit. Foods that are high in fibre that are excellent inclusions in a diet for people with diabetes include:


Diabetes Australia recommend in general, the maximum amount of alcohol for a person with diabetes is two standard drinks per day for men and one standard drink per day for women with at least two alcohol-free days each week. Even better eliminate alcohol all together from the diet!

If you are on medication or insulin for your diabetes it is best to drink alcohol with a meal in order to minimise hypoglycaemic episodes.

Alcohol should not be consumed after exercise.

Label Reading

Knowledge of how to read food labels is an essential tool. When looking at the food label, you will mainly be looking at the nutrition information panel and the ingredient list. The nutrition information panel provides information on the amount of nutrients in the product and can be used to compare different brands of the same product. See the table for what you should be look for:

Ingredients in foods are listed from the highest to lowest amount present. Look out for a source of sugar or a source of fat early in the list of ingredients as this will indicate it is present in the food in higher amounts than if it is listed toward the end of the ingredient list.

The GI symbol is used on products to identify the glycemic index of the food. Companies are required to have their products independently tested to determine the GI rating of the food. The
symbol tells you whether the product has a low, medium or high glycemic index.

The Heart Foundation's Tick is used on products that comply with nutrition criteria set by the Heart Foundation. Generally, products with the Tick are lower in saturated fat, higher in fibre, lower in sodium and lower in added sugar than the usual products within their category. There may be products available without the Tick that have the same nutrition content and these will also be healthier choices within their category. 


Author: Studio Pilates