Diabetes and Food


If you have type 1 diabetes, it is important to eat healthily, just as it is for people without diabetes. In doing so, you also need to regulate your blood glucose levels properly. For this, a good carbohydrate knowledge is needed. It is not necessary to follow a special diet, but it is important to eat healthy: but how do you eat healthy?

Healthy basic diet

For most people the 'Schijf van Vijf' of the Voedingscentrum is a good healthy basis. The 'Schijf van Vijf' shows how much and what you can eat every day to stay healthy.  If you eat according to the boxes of the 'Schijf van Vijf' you will get enough carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibres, vitamins and minerals every day.  On the site of the Voedingscentrum you can see how much you can eat each day, this differs per age and gender. There are also useful sample daily menus!

Basic rules:

  • Eat plenty from the boxes of the 'Schijf van Vijf', this means:
  • Eat lots of vegetables and fruit
  • Choose mainly whole-grain products such as wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice
  • Eat less meat and more vegetables. Vary daily with fish, meat, eggs, nuts and legumes
  • Have enough dairy, such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese
  • Have a handful of unsalted nuts every day
  • Use soft or liquid fats for preparing your food and spreading your sandwich
  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water, coffee and tea without sugar
  • Limit products outside the Disk of Five. For small children (<4 years and between 4-8 years) there is little room for something extra outside the Five-slice scale
  • Eat small portions, so don't eat too much
  • Do not eat too much salt, sugar and saturated fat
  • Eat a varied diet

Additional advice for type 1 diabetes

With type 1 diabetes, the main goal is to regulate your blood glucose levels properly. To do this, it is important to properly match your amount of insulin to the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Tips and advice on this can be found at ''carbohydrates and insulin and balance''. In addition to fine-tuning your insulin, there are some general dietary advice that can help regulate your blood glucose levels properly:

  • Eat enough fiber: fiber is found mainly in whole grain products such as whole grain bread and whole grain pasta but also in fruits and vegetables. Fiber reduces the rate of rise of blood glucose levels.
  • Limit the intake of processed carbohydrates: examples of processed carbohydrates are white pasta, white rice, white bread. Good substitutes are whole grain bread, brown rice and whole grain pasta.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and added sugars: these products can cause spikes and fluctuations in blood glucose levels. It is better to replace sugary drinks with water, tea or light soft drinks. If you do have a sugary drink, it is preferable to drink it with a meal.  Take cookies, candy in moderation, this is not diabetes dependent, but part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone.
  • If you are 18 years or older the advice is not to have more than 1 glass of alcohol a day. If you drink alcohol, you with diabetes should think about how best to handle this. Read more about type 1 diabetes and alcohol here. 

Would you like to get tailored advice on healthy eating?  Or do you already eat very healthy and continue to have many fluctuations/peaks in your blood glucose values? If you are being treated at Diabeter, a dietician specialised in type 1 diabetes is a standard member of your treatment team. So do not hesitate to put your questions to the dietician in your treatment team.  She can look at your situation and give you personal advice. 

Fats for a healthy heart and blood vessels

If you have type 1 diabetes it is wise to be extra careful with your heart and blood vessels. It is therefore important to pay attention to the fats in your diet. Fats can be roughly divided into two types:

  • Saturated fat (=less good fat): is mainly found in animal products such as fatty meat and full-fat cheese (48+). But also in hard margarines (with a wrapper), cookies, cakes and snacks. 
  • Unsaturated fat (= good fat): is mainly found in vegetable products such as nuts, vegetable oils (olive oil) and soft margarines. Fish (especially fatty fish) also contains a lot of unsaturated fats. 

If you eat according to the basic principles of the 'Schijf van Vijf' you already get a lot of good unsaturated fats. It is also good to pay attention to the following:

  • Limit your intake of saturated fats. Replace them with products with unsaturated fats. Practical tips can be found on the site of the Voedingscentrum: There is no evidence for people with type 1 diabetes to replace full fat dairy products, such as yoghurt and milk for a skimmed or semi-skimmed variety.
  • Eat fish at least once a week. Preferably fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, eel or sardines. It is not advisable to take a dietary supplement containing Omega-3 fatty acids.