15 Easy Food Swaps for Diabetes
Forget strict diets, healthy eating for diabetes is all about making healthy choices that are sustainable. One of the best places to start is by making simple food swaps to your meals and in your favourite diabetes recipes. Here are 15 ideas below that will be sure to suit the whole family.
Swap: High sugar, rich fruit yoghurts for plain, natural low-fat Greek yoghurt with added fruit
Fruit yoghurts can have a lot of added sugar so tend to be high in calories and really no different to ice-cream! The yoghurt section can be a minefield so look for plain, natural, low-fat Greek style yoghurt. If you need a bit of natural sweetness, add some cinnamon, or some chopped fresh fruit.
Swap: Coconut milk for reduced fat coconut milk or evaporated skim milk with coconut essence
Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, however there are alternatives which taste just as good. Try reduced coconut milk or evaporated milk with coconut essence. You will still get the flavour without as much fat. Coconut milk alternatives work well in curries, soups and casseroles.
Swap: High fat, high sugar commercial ice-cream for homemade banana 'soft serve ice-cream'
There is nothing wrong with having an ice-cream as an occasional treat. Keeping it occasional will keep your saturated fat and sugar intake low. If you like a sweet treat more than occasionally, there are ways to satisfy a sweet tooth without compromising your health. Bananas make a great ice-cream base. Try banana 'soft serve Ice cream' - Blend 2 ripe frozen bananas in a food processor until it turns to a thick and creamy consistency. For a chocolate or nutty taste, add one teaspoon of cocoa or 100% peanut or almond butter. This healthy diabetes dessert is equal to one fruit serve and is low in calories, fat-free and contains no added sugars.
Swap: Creamy salad dressings for a homemade vinaigrette
Whilst it tastes good, mayonnaise is very high saturated fat. It is very easy to use large amounts in dishes including salad dressings. Try a yoghurt based dressing instead using just 4 ingredients – Greek style/natural yoghurt, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and a few sprigs of herbs such as chopped mint or parsley. Greek/natural yoghurt is full of flavour but significantly lower in calories plus it’s a good source of calcium and protein.
Swap: Coconut oil for olive oil
Swapping saturated fat sources such as coconut oil for more ‘good fats’ such as olive oil will reap health benefits. Studies show that a high saturated fat diet can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Olive oil is rich in the ‘good fat’, monounsaturated fat, and is the main feature of the Mediterranean diet.
Swap: Butter on toast for avocado
Replacing butter with avocado on bread or toast will reduce your saturated fat intake and increase your heart healthy monounsaturated fats, dietary fibre and vitamins and minerals. Avocado on toast tastes delicious with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and freshly ground black pepper.
Swap: Beef mince for turkey or chicken mince
Turkey and chicken mince are higher in protein and lower in saturated fat than beef mince. Turkey and chicken mince is a delicious and versatile beef mince alternative. Use in pasta dishes, nachos, burgers, koftas, meatballs and savoury mince.
Swap: Potato chips for raw tree nuts
Potato chips are very moreish so it is quite easy to clock up the fat and therefore calories with a few generous handfuls. Swap chips for tree nuts and you’ll be adding a healthy dose of ‘good fats’ and plant fibre to your diet. One portion of nuts is ¼ cup (30g) and includes walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios or cashews. You could even make your spicy nut mix - heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a pan and some spices such as ground cumin, coriander, chili salt or Moroccan spice mix. Stir until fragrant. Add 1 cup raw nuts and stir until well coated and starts to turn a brown colour. Careful not to burn - remove from the heat as soon as you start to smell the nuts roasting.
Swap: White bread for grain based, rye or sourdough bread
Choose dense, grain based bread, rye or authentic sourdough bread. All have a low GI value, meaning it digests more slowly helping you to feel fuller for longer. Research shows that following a low GI diet can help people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes improve their blood glucose levels.
Swap: Calrose or jasmine rice for basmati or ‘clever’ rice
Basmati, Doongara Clever rice®, SunRice Low GI Brown rice® and SunRice Low GI white rice® still looks and tastes like white rice so will suit the whole family. These varieties of rice have a lower GI value, providing slow release energy. Look out for a wide range of low GI foods in Australian supermarkets
Swap: White potato for Carisma™ potatoes
Carisma™ potatoes look and taste like the humble spud have a lower GI value. These potatoes make delicious healthy baked wedges. Low GI cookbooks have many delicious diabetes recipes to keep your diet varied and interesting.
Swap: Toasted muesli/Oven baked for natural, untoasted muesli
Natural, untoasted muesli uses less fat than the toasted or baked variety. Even better, make a batch of your own using traditional whole oats. You can still toast your muesli, but no need to add oil. You will surprised at how much money you will save making your own!
Swap: rice crackers for grain-based crackers
Rice crackers may be lower in calories but they are low in fibre, have a high GI so you are more likely to eat a larger portion to feel satisfied. Grain based crackers are higher in fibre, have a lower GI and will help you to feel fuller for longer. Try different toppings such as hummus, reduced fat cheese, sliced tomato, avocado, cottage cheese or 100% peanut or almond butter. Of course, if you have a gluten allergy, brown rice or corn crackers would be suitable option.
Swap: Quick oats for traditional whole rolled oats
Quick oats are highly processed and can digest quickly in the body. Choose traditional whole rolled oats and cook on the stove or microwave with milk or water. Add some fruit such as blueberries, mashed banana or grated apple or pear. Cinnamon also works well with fruit. Plain rolled oats are budget friendly too, costing as little as $1 for a packet which is convenient for the family budget.
Swap: Store/café muffin or banana bread for one slice of raisin toast
Sustainable, long-term Food Swaps
Healthy eating doesn't need to involve strict dieting or calorie counting for optimal diabetes management. Making simple food swaps is a positive first step to ensuring you have a healthy eating plan that is sustainable for the long term. If you want more inspiration, see our other Food Swap ideas for breakfasts, main meals and snacks.