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Eating healthy


Choose a healthy diet and learn how carbohydrates affect your blood glucose level.

You can eat everything if you have type 2 diabetes. But you will need to limit the amounts of certain foods.

Eat regular meals

Try to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Avoid skipping meals as it might cause you to snack more often or eat larger meals later in the evening.

Try to limit processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt

Some processed foods can have little nourishment and can be high in fat, sugar and salt. Choose fresh foods, frozen foods and healthier options of processed foods.

Eat a wide range of foods packed with nourishment.

These include:

  • vegetables, salad and fruit
  • milk, yogurt and cheese
  • fish - especially oily fish like salmon, sardines, herrings, mackerel, trout, pilchards, kippers
  • lean meat, chicken, turkey
  • eggs
  • pulses, such as peas, beans, kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas
  • small portions of nuts and seeds
  • healthy fats, spreads and oils - for example, reduced fat or light spreads and rapeseed, olive, canola, sunflower or corn oils

Choose wholegrain varieties of foods such as wholegrain breads, cereals and pasta. These provide the body with fibre, which is good for your health.

Learn about carbohydrates

Carbohydrate foods directly affect your blood glucose. The body breaks these down in the stomach and turns them into glucose in your bloodstream. Your body uses this glucose for energy. You may need to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you are eating to help lower your blood glucose.

It is important for people with type 2 diabetes to think about:

  • which of your foods and drinks contain carbohydrates
  • how much of them you eat and drink - your portion size at meals and snacks
  • the benefits of reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat and drink

You'll learn all about carbohydrates on a diabetes support course. Book your free place.

Carbohydrate foods include:

  • porridge and breakfast cereals
  • all breads - wholegrain, wholemeal, brown, white, sliced, soda, pitta, wraps, bread rolls, garlic bread
  • scones, crackers
  • potatoes and all potato products such as chips, wedges, instant mash and crisps
  • all types of rice, pasta, noodles and couscous
  • foods made with flour such as pizzas, quiches and pies
  • fruit, fruit juice, milk and yogurt - these contain natural carbohydrates or sugars
  • high sugar foods, such as sugar, jams, honey, marmalade, full sugar fizzy drinks and dilutable drinks
  • many desserts, such as jelly, ice cream, tarts, pies and buns
  • cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate
  • alcohol


Consider reducing the amount of carbohydrates you are eating in a meal or snack. For example, reduce the number of potatoes you eat with dinner. Eat more vegetables or salad instead.

Sugar-free alternatives

To help reduce the amount of carbohydrate you take in, consider sugar-free alternatives to high-sugar foods. Choose sugar-free alternatives to full-sugar fizzy drinks. For example, water or products labelled as diet, 0% or zero. The amount of carbohydrate stated on the food label should be almost zero.

Most foods labelled as ‘diabetic’ or ‘suitable for diabetes’ have no health benefit. These may still be high in fat or carbohydrates or salt. Special foods are not needed for people with diabetes.

Diabetic foods are not necessary

Most foods labelled as ‘diabetic’ or ‘suitable for diabetes’ have no health benefit. These may still be high in fat or carbohydrate or salt. Special foods are not needed for people with diabetes.

Get help with changing your diet

You can get help with changing your diet by attending a free support course for type 2 diabetes.

Book your place on a free diabetes support course

If you need to change your diet, it might be easier to make small changes every week. Eating healthily most of the time means you are taking good care of yourself. Asking for support from your family and friends can help make it easier.

Think about the reasons why you eat - it may not always be because you're hungry. You could be thirsty, tired, bored, celebrating or just eating because food is available. Sometimes people eat when they are upset and or eat to cope with other challenges.

Ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian for support if you are finding it hard to change your diet. Together you can work on a plan that suits you and your life.

Read more about healthy eating for people with type 2 diabetes (PDF, 2.8 MB, 34 pages)

Find this information in other languages

We have leaflets on healthy eating for people with type 2 diabetes. It is available in 13 languages.

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2020
Next review due: 1 August 2023