Healthy living plays a crucial role in managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Adjusting your diet and regularly exercising can help people living with diabetes achieve greater stability with their blood glucose levels, reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, support the management of a good body weight and maintain a good quality of life. 

Food matters in diabetes.
Three reasons why

  • What, when and how many carbohydrates you eat directly affects your blood glucose levels. This in turn impacts your long-term health, such as your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Eating well and having sensible portions can help you watch your weight. Keeping to a healthy weight can reduce your risks of developing serious problems with your heart, eyes and feet.
  • Food is your body’s fuel. Eating regular balanced meals means you are more likely to have a range of important nutrients as well as steady energy levels throughout the day.
Several large jars filled with different types of pasta

Carbs and your blood glucose

All carbohydrates turn into glucose (sugar). Some are broken down more quickly and can cause a spike in blood glucose (high glycaemic index (high GI) foods) and some are broken down more slowly (low GI foods). Low GI foods are sometimes called slow-release foods.

Making changes to your diet that help lower the overall GI of a meal or snack can help regulate blood glucose levels.

The type of fibre found in pulses such as beans and lentils, and grains like oats and barley, is more slowly digested. This helps you manage your blood glucose levels and provide a steadier source of energy.

Should you count carbs?

For people living with type 1 diabetes and people living with type 2 diabetes on insulin, matching quick-acting insulin to carbs is crucial for blood glucose management.

Knowing the carb content in your food and drink helps you adjust quick-acting insulin accurately. Your diabetes team can teach you how to do this and factor in other variables, like exercise. They can also inform you about local education programmes.

The tops of assorted fizzy drink cans.

Sugar and diabetes

Living with diabetes does not rule out any food. However, it is important to eat fewer higher-sugar foods as they can have a quick, direct impact on blood glucose levels.

Foods with lots of sugar are usually processed and might also be high in fat – like chocolate, cakes, biscuits and puddings. It is better to enjoy naturally sweet-tasting foods that are less processed. For example, dried fruits such as raisins, apricots and dates bring sweetness in baking and also provide fibre goodness.

Sugar in liquid form like juice or cola can make your blood glucose levels rise quickly. This can
be useful in certain circumstances where a small amount (equivalent to 15g carbohydrate) is recommended for treating a hypoglycaemic episode (low blood glucose level under 4mmol/l).

Your weight really matters!

Weight loss is fundamental if you have type 2 diabetes. Losing just 5% of your body weight can reap significant benefits to your long-term health, such as reducing your risks of heart disease. Keep healthier foods within easy reach, stay active, ask for support from friends and family, and get enough sleep. Keeping a record of your portion sizes can make you more aware of your eating habits.

Intermittent fasting may benefit people with type 2 diabetes. You will need to plan your diet
carefully to make sure you are eating balanced meals. If you find this approach leads to binge
eating, then try a different approach. Talk to a healthcare professional for guidance on medication adjustments and blood glucose monitoring before trying intermittent fasting.

If you are not overweight, it is important to eat a variety of healthy foods in the right amounts for
you. Ask for a referral to a dietitian for support if you are losing weight unintentionally. 

The key to healthy eating is the kind of foods you choose, how much you eat and
how often you eat them.

DRWF Healthy Eating For Diabetes 1

Healthy eating and diabetes

Use this leaflet as your dietary guide. It highlights three key messages to improve your diet and food choices: choose healthier carbohydrates, eat less sugar and cut down on ultra-processed foods.

This guide cannot give you a strict eating plan, as we are all different with unique medical
needs, cultural and food preferences.

Visit our information leaflets page

The benefits of exercise

Unlike medication, exercise is low cost and side-effect free. Those  with diabetes who don’t exercise are three times more likely to have  poor diabetes control and more likely to suffer related complications. Exercising regularly improves sensitivity to a range of metabolic hormones and the body becomes better at transporting glucose. This happens because exercise stimulates the body’s muscles.

Exercise also reduces the level of fat in the body, particularly round  about the tummy area. It is thought that it is this mobilisation of the  body’s fat stores, by exercising, that might improve blood glucose control. Less glucose in the blood, because it’s now stored in the body’s muscle, means the blood flows better and some of the blood vessel complications, associated with diabetes, may be avoided.

People who exercise have lower blood pressure, lower heart rates and improved circulation. They also have lower cholesterol and less body fat, as well as higher rates of metabolism and consequently better weight control. They sleep better, have more energy, are less stressed/anxious and tend to be happier and more confident.

A woman tying her shoelaces whilst exercising.

Diabetes Wellness Events

Sharing experiences with like-minded people is a great way to feel supported in your efforts to attain a healthy balanced lifestyle and manage your diabetes effectively.

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, newly diagnosed or ‘old hat’, parent or carer, attending a Diabetes Wellness Event is a great way to meet new friends, share stories of living with diabetes, learn about all aspects of the condition and related health from a host of clinicians and healthcare professionals, in a relaxed and friendly environment.

With 15 years experience of bringing people together through the Diabetes Wellness Event programme, we know that it provides a fabulous support network and something for everyone.

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How We Can Help at DRWF


Each year we run events for people living with diabetes, ranging from educational workshops and wellness events, to fundraising marathons and group skydives. To find out more about our events and how we support people living with diabetes, please visit our Events Page.


Since 1998 we have provided over £12 million of funding for medical research programmes, with the aim of finding a cure for all types of diabetes. In 2004, we made a significant commitment to Islet Cell Research and Transplant, a programme which focuses on the role of islet cells in diabetes. Read more about our commitment to research by visiting our Research Page.


We rely on our amazing donors who raise the funds that help support people living with diabetes across the UK, as well as funding our vital research programmes. There are lots of ways to raise money to support people living with all forms of diabetes, there’s something for everyone! To discover more about fundraising with us, please visit our Fundraising Page