Following a healthy diet is important for everyone – it is the key to maintaining a healthy weight, and minimising your risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet for people with type 1 diabetes is the same as what is recommended for everyone. Our healthy eating video clip shows you how to build a healthy diet.
For people with type 1 diabetes, diet and nutrition also play an important role in managing blood glucose levels.
The main nutrients in our diet that give us energy are: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Understanding how these nutrients and the foods they are in affect your blood glucose and your insulin needs will give you greater confidence when making food choices.
Carbohydrate is a vital source of energy for your body, especially the brain. When your body digests carbohydrate, it breaks it down into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes your blood glucose levels to rise.
Carbohydrate is found in lots of different foods, and these foods also provide us with other important nutrients like fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Which foods contain carbohydrate?
- Breads, cereals and other grain foods like rice and pasta
- Starchy vegetables like potato, legumes, and corn
- Dairy products like milk and yoghurt
- Sugary foods and drinks
The amount of carbohydrate that you eat in a meal has the biggest impact on your blood glucose level. Learning how to estimate how much carbohydrate there is in your meals is important to help you to decide how much insulin you need. Learn more about carbohydrate counting in the next tab.
Why are carbohydrates important?
Carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream at different rates. The Glycaemic Index ranks foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Read more about the Glycaemic Index in the tab above.
Protein is another source of energy in our diets and is the key nutrient that helps the body with growth and repair. Protein is broken down into amino acids in the gut so that they can be absorbed. Protein does not break down into glucose, so does not directly raise blood glucose levels.
The main protein foods are:
- Meats, chicken, fish, & tofu
- Nuts & seeds
Fats provide the body with energy, and they breakdown into fatty acids. Fatty acids are an essential part of all cells in the body, they also help you to store energy, and provide insulation. Fats also allow the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins. Like protein, fat does not breakdown into glucose, so does not directly raise blood glucose levels.
Fat is the most energy dense nutrient, so it is important not to eat more than you need. Eating a lot of fat may lead to weight gain, which can make your diabetes more difficult to manage.
The main fats in the diet are:
- Oils, margarine, butter*
- Nuts & seeds
- Fried foods* and pastry*
*Indicates sources of saturated fat. Saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol levels, so limit your intake of this type of fat.
An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is a key part of your diabetes team. Seeing an APD who has good knowledge of type 1 diabetes on a regular basis can help you to check that what you are eating is meeting all of your individual nutrition needs, and help you to monitor the impact of your meals on your blood glucose levels. Go to the Dietitians Association of Australia website to find a dietitian near you or contact our Helpline on 1300 136 588.
The importance of a dietitian
Read more information about nutrition and type 1 diabetes by clicking on the tabs at the top of this page, including carbohydrate counting, glycaemic index, and coeliac disease.
Also read our factsheets for more information on: