Keeping Type 2 Diabetes In Check

by Lauren Nugent on October 18, 2016

Each day 280 Australians develop diabetes!

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia and type 2 diabetes represents about 90% of all diabetes.   But a diabetes diagnosis does not mean that the scary complications often associated with the disease, such as kidney disease, blindness and foot ulcers are inevitable.   You CAN significantly reduce your risk of complications by managing your blood glucose levels through diet, physical activity and medication.

With planning and help from your Dietitian, eating to keep your diabetes in check can be easy.  So, what is a good diet for type 2 diabetes? These are our Dietitians top 5 tips to get you started.

1. Spread your carbohydrate across the day.

The first step with this tip is to make sure you are not skipping meals.  Eat regularly and include a little carbohydrate at each meal, avoiding too much at any one meal.

 2. Choose high fibre and low GI carbs.

These foods tend to need less insulin and won’t produce big ups and downs in your blood glucose levels.  They also keep you fuller for longer – good for combating overeating and maintaining your concentration and energy levels throughout the day.

 3. If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the risk of complications.

Your dietitian can help you with an individualised plan to help you lose weight.  If you are taking insulin, weight loss can be hard, but it is not impossible.  Losing weight while on insulin injections often requires specialised advice to ensure your diet is both effective and safe.  If you are taking insulin and struggling to lose weight, chat to your GP and make an appointment with an Accredited Practising Dietitian for advice and support.

 4. Variety. Have lean protein, healthy fats and plenty of vegetables.

Foods containing protein and healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet.  Include a protein source such as lean meat, lean skinless chicken, fish, eggs or dairy at all of your meals.  Don’t forget your 5 serves of vegetables a day either!  Veggies are great for your bowel and heart health.  A good intake can help ward off diabetes complications.

 5. Beware alternative sweeteners.

Alternative intense sweeteners (both artificial and those marketed as “natural”) are often used in place of sugar. But foods and drinks that have been sweetened with alternative sweeteners, such as diet soft drinks and cordials and jelly tend to have little nutritional benefit and may often take the place of more nutritious foods and drinks.  They may also maintain your desire to have sweet foods and drinks rather than learning to enjoy the other tastes in foods.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body has difficulty maintaining healthy blood glucose levels.  This is a result of the body becoming resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually losing the capacity to produce enough insulin.  High blood glucose levels can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Passing more urine
  • Tiredness
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts and grazes heal slower
  • Leg cramps
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness.

If you are concerned about symptoms visit your GP to discuss your symptoms.

When do you need to see a Dietitian?

An Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you with diabetes control plan, which may include a weight loss plan and/ or a carbohydrate distribution plan.

It is a great idea to see a dietitian if:

  • you are a newly diagnosed diabetic.
  • you are struggling to lose weight.
  • you have just started on insulin.
  • you have big fluctuations in your blood glucose levels.
  • you regularly have blood glucose levels above 10mmol/L.
  • your HbA1c is above 8%.

Written by our Eat Smart Dietitian Amelia Webster, Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD), Accredited Sports Dietitian


In previous blog pieces, we have looked at individual nutrients, but this edition, we are going to look at the effect of nutrients on what very important part of our body – our bones.

In a perfect world, we would all pay particular attention to building strong bones as children and adolescents and in our early adulthood, as this is the time we have the most capacity to build up our peak bone mass. This is our best defence against developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a nasty disease as it literally can “creep” up on the sufferer without any real warning signs of what can be devastating bone loss until the condition is well advanced. X-rays are not always an adequate way of determining depletion of bone mass as they tend to miss 25-30% of losses. Bone mineral density scans are a good monitoring tool, however unless these are routinely done, the usual way the condition is unfortunately diagnosed is following a bone break or fracture, often of the hip, wrist or spine, as a result of a fall. Recovery from these breaks and fractures are slow and can often make day to day living very difficult, affecting small tasks which require the use of these important bones, and in the case of spine and hip fractures, can also severely affect mobility. Osteoporosis is often responsible for pack pain, rounded shoulders, and shrinking (literally), as vertebrae start to compress as bones weaken.

Women tend to be at higher risk of osteoporosis, however both men and women from the age of about 40 years do start to see calcium losses from bones. Women in particular, post menopause, lose calcium more quickly than men due to decrease in the hormone  oestrogen which has a protective effect on maintaining bone mass. Petite women are more at risk due to having less dense bones. Alcohol intake, even relatively small amounts, can significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis.

It is recommended that women prior to menopause consume between 800-1000mcg of calcium and post menopause 1000mg+. This requirement is increased only by pregnant and breastfeeding women who require 1100-1200mcg calcium per day.

Almost all (99%) of the body’s calcium content is stored in bones and teeth with the remaining circulating in body fluids and tissues. Calcium plays a very important role in the proper functioning of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, blood clotting and even blood pressure regulation. The body is very clever at keeping the levels of calcium in blood constant, by continual balance between blood and bones. If calcium is not available from food, the stored calcium in bones will eventually become depleted as they try to make up the deficit.

Calcium intake is typically well below the recommended amount in women for a range of reasons, but often due to a common misconception, that milk is “fattening”. This is actually not the case, as recent evidence suggests that those who consume adequate calcium tend to more successful at maintaining a healthy weight. In addition, in weight reduction studies where calorie intakes of two groups have been controlled, those whose calorie quota included the intake of adequate dairy serves actually were more successful in reducing their weight and a reduction in body fat over the course of the study.

To achieve the required amount of calcium, the best sources are dairy foods. Not only are dairy foods rich in calcium, but the naturally occurring sugar in milk products, lactose, assists with calcium’s absorption. The table below gives an idea of the calcium content of a range of foods. 

Food source Approx calcium content/serve Serve Size
Excellent sources

Milk (regular or reduced fat)



Soy alternative drink






Yoghurt – plain, flavoured, regular or low fat



Good sources

Cottage cheese



Processed cheese



Ice cream






Salmon (edible bones)



Moderate Sources




Sesame Seeds



Soy drink (not fortified with calcium



Spinnach, Broccoli, cabbage


½ Cup

Dried Figs


2 whole




Dairy foods are an excellent source of protein, calcium and low GI carbohydrates, however, some women may avoid dairy due to underlying conditions such as milk protein allergies (not common in adults) or lactose intolerance. For those with allergies and intolerances, calcium fortified milk substitutes are a good option and supplementation may be necessary.

There are a number of factors that can interfere with calcium absorption or increase losses including;

  • Salt – A high salt diet accelerates bone loss. As the kidneys undertake the task of removing sodium, along with it goes, calcium.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine acts as a diuretic and can flush more calcium through the kidneys.
  • Soft drinks – Soft drinks have been shown in a range of studies to accelerate calcium losses from bones.

Aim to minimise the intake of the above to make the most of your calcium intake.

Exercise is also important for maintaining good bone health. Weight bearing exercise such as walking and running and strength training both stimulate bone growth by putting load onto the skeleton which adapts and strengthens bones.

If you are concerned about your risk of osteoporosis, talk to your doctor and if you need assistance with including more calcium in your diet, contact an Accredited Practising Dietitian or Accredited Sports Dietitian from Eat Smart Nutrition Consultants Brisbane and Gold Coast.

Written by our Eat Smart Dietitian Kellie Hogan, Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD), Advanced Sports Dietitian



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