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Simple Dietary Hacks to Help Manage Diabetes!

Medically reviewed by Dr. Lisa Angelica Kuhn · एंडोक्राइनोलॉजी · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hello Swasthya Medical Panel · Updated 29/11/2021

Simple Dietary Hacks to Help Manage Diabetes!

Effective and sustainable type 2 diabetes management depends largely on your ability to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes that make it easier to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Your diet is perhaps the most important starting point and here’s what you need to know before getting started.

Why your carb intake matters

For those dealing with type 2 diabetes, the body no longer responds effectively to the hormone insulin, As insulin is vital for the metabolism of carbohydrates, this can lead to an unpredictable rise in blood sugar levels. For this reason, people living with diabetes are typically advised to restrict their intake of carbs. This can be achieved by using two approaches for carbohydrate control – carbohydrate counting and the glycaemic index.

Carbohydrate counting

As the term implies, carb counting simply requires that you calculate and track the amount of carbohydrates you consume per meal and per day. On an average, people with type 2 diabetes should get roughly half of their caloric intake from carbohydrates1. To put this in perspective, an individual with a daily caloric requirement of about 1,500 calories, could get no more than 700 to 800 calories from carbohydrates. This would work out to 175 to 200 grams of carbohydrates (4 calories per gram) a day. Here’s a sample meal to give you some viewpoint on this:


1 whole wheat chapati

Carbs = 15 grams

2 rava idlis

Carbs = 47.4 grams

½ cup of oatmeal

Carbs = 27.4 grams

100 grams of low fat dahi (curd)

½ cup of chopped apples

Carbs = 15 grams

2 Ragi tawa parathas

Carbs = 34 grams

Total carbs for breakfast ideally should not exceed 60 grams

By maintaining a consistent intake, consuming roughly the same amount of carbohydrates for each meal, your body is better conditioned and this makes it significantly easier to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. 

Glycaemic index

Not all carbohydrates are equal, and this isn’t solely in the context of processed versus whole foods. When choosing from healthy whole foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s important that you opt for foods with a lower glycaemic value. 

The carbohydrates from such foods provide a slower and more sustained release of glucose into the bloodstream. On the other hand, foods with a higher glycaemic value release glucose rapidly, causing blood sugar levels to spike. The glycaemic index (GI) is a number assigned to each food, showing how quickly it causes an increase in blood glucose levels. Including more low GI foods in your diet can help you gain tighter control over your blood sugar levels2

Carb counting and selection of low GI foods are useful tools to support the management of blood sugar levels. Both methods can be combined to optimise blood glucose management via good dietary choices. 

Diet insights of Indians with type 2 diabetes

Hello Health Group conducted a regional survey for better insights into the general practices of people living with type 2 diabetes^. 

86% of the participants who are living with diabetes in India, rated diet as the single most important area of focus in diabetes management, but more than half had trouble making healthy dietary modifications or didn’t understand the importance of complex or slow digesting carbs^.

So how can you create and stick to a meal plan that works for you? 

Diabetes nutrition: Dos and don’ts 

Simple or fast-digesting carbs that can cause blood sugar levels to spike, invariably comes from processed foods such as white bread, pasta, noodles, biscuits, frozen desserts, and so on. While it would be best to limit your intake of these foods, you can also swap such processed foods with whole foods that contain complex or slow-digesting carbs. This would include almost all types of plant-based whole foods, such as leafy greens, low GI fruits, whole grains, pulses, and nuts and seeds. 

It’s important that your diet includes a variety of foods from different food groups as this will provide you with balanced nutrition. Here’s a snapshot of the recommended amount for these food groups3:

Fruits and vegetables

Include at least 2-3 servings of a variety of colorful fresh or cooked vegetables on a daily basis to provide you with a wide range of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.


Try to include at least 140-200 grams of protein from a variety of healthy protein rich foods on a daily basis. Some of the healthiest sources of dietary protein include unsalted nuts or seeds, seafood, beans, peas, lean meats, and eggs (1 ounce = 28 grams of meat, 1 egg, ¼ cooked peas or beans, or 1 tablespoon peanut butter).


Your daily diet should ideally include at least 5 servings of whole grains such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat chapatis, or brown rice.


Consume 3 servings of low fat dairy foods and beverages.

For more healthy food options to include in a diabetes diet refer to the table below:

Fruits Vegetables Protein Grains Dairy
Whole fruits have a lower GI value as compared to fruit juices and dried fruits.

• All fresh fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, melon mango) 

• Fresh fruits like  pears, peaches, or/and a bowl of mixed fruit 

• Frozen fruit (peaches, guava, mangoes)

Vegetables have a complex nutritional profile and are essential in any balanced diet. 

• All fresh vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, radish

• Canned vegetables with low sodium content (green beans, corn, tomatoes) 

• Frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, mixed vegetables)

Cuts of meat with low content of saturated fats, such as skinless poultry products and lean cuts like tenderloin.

• Chicken breast 

• Canned tuna (in water) or fresh fish 

• Lean beef or pork 

• Eggs 

• Beans 

• Nuts

• Pumpkin Seeds 

Whole wheat or whole-grain options contain more fibre than refined grains. 

• Vegetable poha  

• Whole wheat chapatis 

• Rava idlis  

• Brown rice 

• Bajra or jowar roti

• Ragi tawa parathas

Low-fat options are preferable as they don’t contain excess calories or fat, which can interfere with the insulin response. 

• Low-fat milk 

• Low-fat paneer 

• Low-fat cheese 

• Low-fat dahi (curd)

Smart food choices with healthy portion sizes

There’s more to effectively controlling blood sugar levels than making the right food choices – your eating habits have a significant role to play. Controlling the portion sizes of meals also is an important dietary strategy that can help minimise spikes in blood sugar levels. 

Of course, this is best achieved with gradual changes as drastically reducing the size of your meals overnight will increase feelings of hunger and therefore not adding any value to your diet management. It can even increase the risk of bingeing on snacks if your meals are too small to satisfy your appetite. A simple way to enjoy a satisfying but portion-controlled meal is to include more high fibre foods such as whole grain rotis, oats, green peas, chickpeas or chana, beans, and fruits like berries, apples, and oranges in your meals.

Lentils, beans, green peas and apples are a few foods that have the highest fibre content and can be included in your daily meals. Protein increases satiety (your feeling of ‘fullness’) more than carbohydrate or fat as it takes more energy to digest and also keeps you feeling full for longer periods. 

To increase your protein intake, include grilled or baked fish, stir-fried skinless poultry or lean meats with no visible fat, and eggs in your meals. Make sure that every meal in your meal plan contains non-starchy vegetables (ie. spinach, methi or fenugreek, baby corn, bean sprouts), lean protein and healthy low GI carbohydrates. 

Meal prepping in the new normal 

The pandemic has made grocery shopping and meal planning a lot more complicated, but there are simple ways to get through it. With meal prepping and meal plans in place, one can also opt for home delivery of groceries with contactless shopping and payments. 

Preparing meals for the week ahead promotes better time management and structure, reducing the effort it takes to cook your daily meals. You’ll find it much easier to stay the course and resist the temptation to order takeaway even when you’re slightly rushed with work, family, or chores!

There’s no denying the hardships that many of us have had to endure on account of the pandemic, but it has also forced us to adapt, build resilience, and cultivate time management skills. Ultimately, this makes healthy eating easier and also a lot more fun. 

Take our fun quiz here to find out how your friends, family and a stress-free environment can help you manage type 2 diabetes!

^The survey was commissioned by Abbott and conducted by Hello Health Group from May to July 2021 across Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, India, and Taiwan with 771 respondents who live with type 2 diabetes.



Medically reviewed by

Dr. Lisa Angelica Kuhn

एंडोक्राइनोलॉजी · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hello Swasthya Medical Panel · Updated 29/11/2021

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