Preventing type 2 diabetes is all about eating as healthy as you can and enjoying the great outdoors by looking and feeling a little healthier. In fact, did you know that around 60% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes1.
Our top tips
As Registered Nutritional Therapists here are our top tips to help prevent diabetes and to help you become summer fit:
1. Fruit and vegetables
You should try to eat a variety of vegetables and fruit (limit fruit to no more than 2 pieces per day due to sugar content, one piece is approximately the size of a clenched fist). A greater variety means more vitamins and minerals are available. You should include healthy vegetable snacks such as raw peppers, carrot or celery with houmous.
Make your own smoothie with handful of spinach and handful of frozen berries or grow your own fruit and vegetables which the kids love to eat too. Frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper but certainly not of lesser quality, frozen vegetables and fruit are often frozen at source so the goodness is locked in. Adding them to stir fries or smoothies creates a quick meal and there's no waste.
Oats will always be top of a nutritionists list, but in the summer months swap porridge for bircher muesli which can be made in advance and stored in the fridge so there's no preparation involved each morning. Well known cereals may seem like the quick option but check their sugar content as in most cereals sugar is the second item listed in the ingredients list!
Try wholegrain or seeded toast instead of white bread and peanut, almond or cashew butter instead of jam or marmalade. Low sugar muesli with natural yoghurt, or eggs are also perfect for weekends when you have more time.
For the mid-afternoon energy crash try these easy swaps:
- Instead of crisps try popcorn
- Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate
- Switch ice-cream for frozen yogurt
- Trade fizzy drinks for sparkling water with small amount of fruit juice added
A handful of nuts with a piece of fruit is also quite filling or you could try natural yoghurt with a piece of fruit.
4. Forget low fat
Research is now suggesting low fat is not necessarily the best option. Reducing the fat often means products have a higher sugar content. Preferably choose a natural yoghurt and add your own fruit. Greek yoghurts seem to be an exception where sugar has not been added to low fat options.
5. Counting carbohydrates
Carbohydrates should be the main source of fuel so it is important to include them as part of a balanced diet. They are also an essential source of fibre for bowel health and can help to reduce cholesterol. However often we tend to eat too much.
The NHS guidelines suggest at least 260g carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, cereals) per day for the average adult aged 19 to 64 years old2. The Eatwell Plate suggests one third of the plate should be fruit and vegetables plus one third of the plate potatoes, bread, rice, pasta (starchy carbohydrates).
As Registered Nutritional Therapists our preference is one quarter plate root vegetables and wholegrains, one quarter plate leafy greens and salads, and one quarter plate other vegetables (the other quarter is protein). In general try to switch white for wholegrain bread, white rice for basmati or quinoa, white potatoes for sweet potatoes. There is some evidence suggesting cooking pasta then cooling and reheating it again reduced the effect it has on blood sugar levels3.
Protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, helping to repair muscles after exercise, and essential for immunity. Good sources of protein include; meat, fish, dairy, eggs, soya, quinoa, or combining two of the following – nuts, seeds, peas, beans, lentils, grains.
Try to include protein with every meal and snack e.g. have a handful of nuts or a yogurt with a piece of fruit, add peanut butter to toast instead of jam or marmalade, add tuna to pasta and sauce. Shop wisely by buying a whole side of salmon and asking the fishmonger to cut it into portions (it's generally cheaper to buy a side of fish than individual fillets), or buy a whole chicken which costs the same as chicken breasts but will last you several meals.
Don't forget eggs which are very inexpensive, a great source of protein, and can be cooked in a variety of ways boiled, scrambled or as an omelette. Fish are also a great source of protein and can be inexpensive. Good options include: sardines, kipper, mackerel but whatever is on offer they are quick to cook and most are filleted.
Always a controversial subject because there is no conclusive evidence, and some people tolerate caffeine better than others. There is some evidence that caffeine can be beneficial to improve muscle strength and power4 and to give you an energy boost.
There is also evidence to suggest due to its stimulatory nature not to consume caffeine in the hours before sleep. Certainly, when consuming black tea or coffee on its own (without milk, sugar or sweetener) blood sugar levels rise, although we don't yet understand why this is.
Government guidelines suggest 19 to 64 year olds should do one of the following5:
- 50 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (cycling or a brisk walk) every week, plus strength exercises which work all the major muscles on 2 or more days per week
- 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (running) each week and strength exercises on 2 or more days per week
- Mix of moderate (brisk walk) and vigorous aerobic (running) activity each week plus strength exercises on 2 or more days per week
Diabetes risk factors
You're at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are over 40 years old and you're white
- Are over 25 years old and you're African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian
- Have a parent, brother, sister or child with diabetes
- Have ever had high blood pressure
- Are overweight, particularly around the middle
If you're unsure if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you may be eligible for a free NHS Health Check. NHS Health Checks are available to adults who live in England and are aged 40 to 74.
Written by: The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd
The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd was founded in 2006 by Anjanette Fraser whose previous career was in Corporate Finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers, London. With a previous career in finance and studying a MSc in Nutritional Medicine, Anjanette translates the latest scientific research into an easier to understand format to improve employee health, and making healthcare more accessible by bringing Nutrition health professionals into the workplace.