Diet for Type 1 Diabetes

Diet for Type 1 Diabetes

The dietary advice generally given to people with type 1 diabetes is not much different to the dietary advice for people without diabetes.

The main issues to consider are how sharply different foods are likely to impact on your blood glucose levels and how to balance the quantity of carbohydrate with the right amount of insulin.

Carbohydrate counting

Carbohydrate counting plays a key role in helping to balance insulin intake with the food you eat.

A number of carbohydrate counting courses are available including the DAFNE course (dose adjustment for normal eating) which is widely recommended by people who have been on it.

Another carbohydrate counting resource which is quickly growing in popularity is the Carbs and Cals book which shows, in pictorial form, how many carbohydrates are in a huge variety of different meals and portion sizes.

Healthy eating for type 1 diabetes

Eating healthily comes highly recommended and can play a part in helping to prevent the development of complications.

Eating a balanced diet, containing a variety of different vegetables, will help to provide many nutrients that the body needs.

Try to include foods containing unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocados and oily fish.

We recommend limiting the amount of processed foods you eat and try to include home prepared or freshly prepared food wherever possible.

Low carb diets and type 1 diabetes

Some people with type 1 diabetes may wish to adopt a reduced carbohydrate diet. Low carb diets can be helpful for people who are struggling to keep control on a carb centered diet or for those who are otherwise looking to tighten their control.


A healthy diet for type 1 diabetes is broadly similar to the guidelines for people without diabetes. The differences between a diet for type 1 diabetes and someone without diabetes are:

  • People with type 1 diabetes need to be more careful with intake of sweet foods
  • The amount of carbohydrate eaten should be balanced with an appropriate amount of insulin

The general guidelines for a healthy diet are:

  • Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day
  • Include fish and lean meats in preference to red meats
  • Include unsaturated fat in preference to saturated fat
  • Eat less sugar and salt

Key to controlling type 1 diabetes is matching carbohydrate intake with the correct amount of insulin. Blood glucose testing can help you to see how different foods affect your blood glucose levels and help you to balance your insulin doses. Testing your blood glucose before a meal and at intervals of 2 and 4 hours after eating is a great way to see how your blood sugar levels respond.

Some people with type 1 diabetes may wish to reduce their carbohydrate intake to help minimise swings in blood glucose levels. If you wish to carbohydrate intake discuss how to safely do this with your diabetes specialist who can help you to safely adjust your doses.

One of the benefits of reducing your intake of carbohydrate is in reducing the extent of post meal high blood sugar levels.

Lower carb diets will require a reduction in insulin and could result in hypoglycemia if doses are not changed correctly. It is recommended to speak to your doctor before going onto a significantly different diet.

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