Thu | Feb 22, 2018

The Diabetic Diet

Published:Thursday | April 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMKrysta Anderson
FILE Fresh vegetable salad arranged inside half of an avocado pear.
Crab stuffed fish fillet

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) diabetes affects nearly one in 11 adults, with cases having quadrupled to 422 million in 2014, up from 108 million in 1980. In recognition of this year's International World Health Day being observed today, Food has focused on diabetes, particularly on meals that are ideal for diabetics.

According to Sharmaine Edwards, director of the Nutrition Unit at the Ministry of Health, when it comes to persons with diabetes, making the right food choices is crucial. "Generally, we advocate for a healthy diet. Our recommendations: 30 per cent total fat per day, less than 10 per cent of free sugars per day and for salt, less than one teaspoon per day."

Consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes, she said, is important because these provide fibre which helps you to eat less because they leave you feeling fuller. So, she suggested five portions, equivalent to 400 grammes per day, which basically amounts to three servings of vegetables and two fruits daily. Also, for simple sugars, 50 grammes or 12 teaspoons per day is the recommended amount.


Fats, notably unsaturated fats, which include fish oil, avocado and nuts should make up 30 per cent or less of daily intake, while saturated fats, found in cheese, fatty meats and butter should be moderated, and trans fat, industrialised processed foods, salted snacks, cookies, fast foods, fried foods, and muffins should be avoided completely if possible.

"Fat tastes good (and) we can't cut it out of our diet, as it is essential to our nervous system. So, we do need fat but we need to limit and select the healthier ones," said Edwards.

She highlighted that cooking with coconut oil offers some benefits. "It is a saturated fat but because it has a medium chain, it is on the fence and isn't as ineffective as other oils." She stressed however, that whichever oil you choose to cook with, use it in moderation.


Simple carbohydrates such as honey, jam, syrup and sugary drinks such as soda, and even fruit drinks, should be avoided because these sugars reach the blood stream quickly and instantly begin wreaking havoc on your body.

Complex carbs such as starchy foods including yam, sweet potato and red peas are good for the body because they take longer to break down in the system and the glucose takes at least 20 minutes to reach the system.


Protein provides energy so it is critical that the lean portions of the meat are consumed. "Food has to be broken down, but what it is broken down into is important."

Edwards advised: "Read your labels so you can know what exactly you are eating. Reduce your salt and intake of sugary food, drinks and alcohol. Don't add sugar to your stew peas or rice and peas. Find natural alternatives through seasonings."

When it comes to days when you just can't resist, this is what Edwards had to say: "If, for instance, you want a little ice cream, there has to be a trade off. It must form part of the daily contribution and build into the meal plan for the day. But, of course, we say don't make a habit out of it."

Exercise, she said is critical as it helps the body to use up sugar in the blood.

"If all of us eat like we have a chronic illness then we would have no problem," she said.

Additional source: The Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute's Meal Planning for Diabetes: