21 June 2023

Healthy low GI diet for diabetes

So, I have diabetes, what can I eat?

If are living with diabetes or have just been diagnosed, common questions you may ask are “what can you eat?” or even “what can’t you eat?”. Whilst there is a recommended way of eating for managing diabetes, the good news is that it is not about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. The problem is that it may be tricky to work out an ideal way of eating given the amount of information (and misinformation) available at our fingertips.

With the right knowledge and some planning, eating well with diabetes does not have to be complex or expensive. After all it is about taking control of your diabetes not diabetes controlling you.

Where do I start?

The best place to start is by understanding the role of macronutrients such as carbohydrates (carbs). Just as we need petrol for our cars – our bodies preferred fuel source is carbohydrates. Carbs come in two forms – starches and sugars.

Starches – grains such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, rice and other grains and foods made from these grains such as bread, breakfast cereal, pasta, and noodles. Also, starchy vegetables such as potato, sweet potato, corn and dried lentils, beans, and split peas.

Sugars – naturally occurring in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose) or added sugar found in many processed food and drinks e.g., confectionary, and soft drinks

Choosing the right amount and type of carbohydrate foods is an important part of managing your blood glucose levels. To get you started, try these 5 tips:


Including carbohydrates in the diet is all about balance. The amount of carbs you eat is different for everyone with diabetes and depends on your age, gender, weight and activity levels. Your diabetes health Professional can provide you with more tailored advice especially if you are on insulin or other glucose lowering medication. However, a good starting place is:


Carbohydrates (g) main meals
Women 30-45g
Men 45-60g


The type of carbohydrate we eat will also affect our blood glucose levels. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a tool that measures how different types of carbohydrates affect our blood glucose levels. It is a scientifically proven way to determine which carbohydrate foods are healthiest for us.

Carbohydrate foods that are tested are given a score on a scale of 1-100 with low GI being 55 or less.

Low GI Carbs provide a wide range of health benefits. Studies show that following a low GI diet significantly helps people with diabetes improve their blood glucose levels. It can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, research shows that type 2 diabetes can be prevented in up to 58% of cases in the high risk (pre-diabetes) population by eating well and exercising.


Going low GI does not mean giving up all your favourite carbs such as bread and potatoes! It is ‘this for that’ approach or swapping. For example, swap:

High GI white bread –> wholegrain bread such as Bürgen® Cholesterol Lowering Whole Grain & Oats

Wholegrain Oats White potato —> low GI Carisma potatoes.

The best place to start on a low GI healthy eating is in the supermarket! A few easy swaps and planning can make a difference to your blood glucose levels and the way you feel.

Tip: look out for foods carrying the low GI symbol. It is your guarantee that these foods have been scientifically tested and meet very strict nutrient criteria.


Some people with diabetes require a snack between meals and some do not. If you are including a snack between meals, choosing low GI options can give you sustained energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Low GI smart snack ideas


Sometimes it can be tricky to figure out what to eat when it comes time to planning a meal. However, meal planning and preparation does not have to be complicated or take a lot of time. You will be surprised at the money you can save from simple meal planning and meal portioning.

To achieve a balanced meal, aim for your plate to include:

  • A quarter low GI carbs
  • A quarter lean protein
  • A half vegetables or salad


Compliment the meal with a dash of ‘good fats’.

Try these low GI recipes:

Want to know more?

Download our comprehensive Diabetes Low GI Guide to Healthy Living for more information, practical advice and tips!



By Rebecca McPhee, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) & Health Coach Consultant.

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