Your Diet Adviser

The balanced diet for Her

Find out how much carbohydrate, protein and fat you should be eating and when. Choose wisely for a healthy diet that keeps you full around the clock…

A selection of food including fruit, vegetables, eggs, wholegrain bread, oils, meat and fish

Women have different daily nutritional requirements to men and, below, our nutritionist has offered guidance and recipe ideas for women seeking a balanced diet for good health. But what exactly is meant by a ‘balanced diet’?

The Eatwell Guide defines different types of foods we should be eating and in what proportions. These include some simple rules to follow like getting a minimum of five fruit and veg a day, including wholegrains and choosing more fish, poultry, beans and pulses, less red meat and opting for lower fat, lower sugar dairy foods. But that’s not the whole story. How much should you be eating and is there an ideal time to eat protein, carbs or fats?

Reference Intakes (RI)

Nutritional needs vary depending on sex, size, age and activity levels so use this chart as a general guide only. The chart shows the Reference Intakes (RI) or daily amounts recommended for an average, moderately active adult to achieve a healthy, balanced diet for maintaining rather than losing or gaining weight.

The RIs for fat, saturates, sugars and salt are all maximum amounts, while those for carbs and protein are figures you should aim to meet each day. There is no RI for fibre, although health experts suggest we have 30g a day.

Reference intakes (RI)
Men Women
Energy (kcal) 2500 2000
Protein (g) 55 50
Carbohydrates (g) 300 260
Sugar (g) 120 90
Fat (g) 95 70
Saturates (g) 30 20
Salt (g) 6 6

Perfect portions

Numbers and figures are all very well but how does this relate to you? Keeping the Eatwell Guide in mind, you can personalise your portion sizes with our handy guide.

Foods Portion size
Carbs like cereal/rice/pasta/potato (include 1 portion at each main meal and ensure it fills no more than ¼ of your plate) Your clenched fist
Protein like meat/poultry/fish/tofu/pulses (aim to have a portion at each meal) Palm of your hand
Cheese (as a snack or part of a meal) 2 of your thumbs
Nuts/seeds (as a snack or part of a meal) 1 of your cupped hands
Butter/spreads/nut butter (no more than 2 or 3 times a day) The tip of your thumb
Savouries like popcorn/crisps (as a snack/treat) 2 of your cupped hands
Bakes like brownies/flapjacks (as an occasional treat) 2 of your fingers

 

Breakfast

A stack of spinach protein pancakes topped with a poached egg

Kick-start your metabolism by including protein at breakfast, choose from eggs, salmon, lean ham or dairy. We burn more calories digesting protein rather than carbs so, by making your breakfast a protein one, you’ll be revving up your metabolism and because protein keeps you fuller for longer, you’ll eat fewer calories the rest of the day.

A protein breakfast needn’t take any longer to prepare. Top your morning toast with a scrambled egg, a slice of smoked salmon or some lean ham and when you do have a little more time, enjoy an omelette or frittata.

Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast as this sets your blood sugar off on a roller-coaster that means you’ll end up choosing the wrong foods later in the day. Remember breakfast makes an important contribution towards your daily intake and it plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight.

Mid-morning snack

Many people find eating little and often helps them manage their blood sugar levels. This doesn’t mean they eat more but instead spread their day’s intake evenly throughout the day. Make every snack count with nourishing options that supply both the ‘pick me up’ you need while topping up your five-a-day.

Swap your morning biscuits for oatcakes spread with peanut or almond nut butter and a banana, or have a tasty dip with veggie sticks.

Lunch

A wholewheat noodle dish with vegetables in a glass jar

Make lunch a mix of lean protein and starchy carbs. Carb-rich foods supply energy and without them you’re more likely to suffer that classic mid-afternoon slump. The key is to choose carbs that produce a steady rise in blood sugar, which means passing on the sugary ‘white’ foods and going for high-fibre wholegrains that help you manage those afternoon munchies.

Opt for an open rye-bread sandwich topped with salmon, chicken or lower fat dairy as well as plenty of salad, or choose wholegrain toast topped with baked beans.

Mid-afternoon

Satisfy that sweet craving and the need for energy with fruit. A handful of dried fruit combined with unsalted nuts or seeds provides protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied till supper.

Swap your chocolate or cereal bar for a handful of dried apple rings with a few almonds or walnuts. Dried fruit is four times as sweet as its fresh equivalent, which is great if you’ve got an exercise class or a gym session planned for the afternoon. Combining dried fruit with nuts helps stabilise the release of their sugars keeping you energised for longer. Alternatively stock your fridge with plenty of low-calorie nibbles like cherry tomatoes, apples and vegetable crudités that will prevent you reaching for the biscuit tin when you fancy something sweet or crunchy.

Dinner

A dish of wild salmon and vegetables in a bowl on a blue table

Don’t curfew carbs. They’re low in fat, fibre-rich and help you relax in the evening. Combine them with some healthy essential fats, the ones you find in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines as well as nuts, seeds and their oils. Your body can use these healthy fats along with protein overnight for regeneration and repair, important for maintaining healthy skin and hair.

Fill half your plate with a colourful variety of vegetables or salad, drizzle with a dressing made from linseed or rapeseed oil and add meat, fish or beans with brown rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta.

All health content on onlinedietlovers.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider.

The balanced diet for Him

Find out how much carbohydrate, protein and fat you should be eating and when. Choose wisely for a healthy diet that keeps you full around the clock.

A selection of foods in a wire shopping basket

Men have different daily nutritional requirements to women and, below, our nutritionist has offered guidance and recipe ideas for men seeking a balanced diet for good health. But what exactly is a ‘balanced diet’?

The Eatwell Guide defines the different types of foods we should be eating and in what proportions. The guide explains some simple rules to follow like getting a minimum five-a-day of fruit and veg, including wholegrains and choosing more fish, poultry, beans and pulses, less red meat and lower fat, lower sugar dairy foods. But that’s not the whole story. How much should you be eating and is there an ideal time to eat protein, carbs or fats? Read on for our guide to healthy eating around the clock.

Reference Intakes (RI)

Nutritional needs vary depending on sex, size, age and activity levels so use this chart as a general guide only. The chart shows the Reference Intakes (RI) or daily amounts recommended for an average, moderately active adult to achieve a healthy, balanced diet for maintaining rather than losing or gaining weight. The RIs for fat, saturates, sugars and salt are all maximum amounts, while those for carbs and protein are figures you should aim to meet each day. There is no RI for fibre although health experts suggest we have 30g a day.

Reference intakes (RI)
Men Women
Energy (kcal) 2500 2000
Protein (g) 55 50
Carbohydrates (g) 300 260
Sugar (g) 120 90
Fat (g) 95 70
Saturates (g) 30 20
Salt (g) 6 6

Perfect portions

Numbers and figures are all very well, but how does this relate to you? Keeping the Eatwell Guide in mind, you can personalise your portion sizes with our handy guide.

Foods Portion size
Carbs like cereal/rice/pasta/potato (include 1 portion at each main meal and ensure it fills no more than ¼ of your plate) Your clenched fist
Protein like meat/poultry/fish/tofu/pulses (aim to have a portion at each meal) Palm of your hand
Cheese (as a snack or part of a meal) 2 of your thumbs
Nuts/seeds (as a snack or part of a meal) 1 of your cupped hands
Butter/spreads/nut butter (no more than 2 or 3 times a day) The tip of your thumb
Savouries like popcorn/crisps (as a snack/treat) 2 of your cupped hands
Bakes like brownies/flapjacks (as an occasional treat) 2 of your fingers

Don’t forget, as set out in the Eatwell Guide, we should all be aiming for a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Discover what counts as one portion using our five-a-day infographic.

Breakfast

Whether your first stop is the office or the gym, adding protein to your breakfast is a great way to rev up your metabolism. If you do exercise first thing, a protein breakfast helps promote muscle recovery and repair. Eggs are an ideal choice because they provide a good balance of quality protein and fat. Other options include lean ham, fish like salmon or haddock, as well as lower fat dairy foods. Protein foods slow stomach emptying, which means you stay fuller for longer so you’ll tend to eat fewer calories the rest of the day.

Mid-morning snack

Eating well in the morning is vital for balancing energy levels. The ideal is to eat little and often, but you need to make every snack work for you. This means choosing snacks that satisfy your energy needs plus supply extra benefits like topping up your five-a-day.

Try peanut butter and banana on crackers, or opt for creamy avocado with slices of turkey.

Lunch

Make lunch a mix of lean protein and starchy carbs. Carb-rich foods supply energy so you’ll suffer from mid-afternoon slumps if you cut them out. The key is to choose carbs that produce a steady rise in blood sugar, which means passing on sugary ‘white’ foods and going for high-fibre wholegrains, which help you manage those afternoon munchies. Wholegrains like rye, wholewheat and barley keep you satisfied for longer. In fact studies show rye bread keeps blood sugar stable for up to 10 hours – a sure way to dampen those mid-afternoon energy crashes.

Opt for an open sandwich topped with lean beef or pork, salmon, turkey or chicken with plenty of salad or toast some wholegrain bread and enjoy with baked beans.

Mid-afternoon

For many it’s not sugar so much as salty, savoury foods they crave in the afternoon. If this sounds like you, forget the crisps and opt instead for spiced nuts, seeds and savoury popcorn, or enjoy lower fat cream cheese on crackers.

Dinner

Don’t curfew carbs, they’re low in fat, fibre-rich and help you relax in the evening. Combine them with essential fats which your body can use overnight, along with protein, for regeneration and repair – this combination is especially important for healthy skin and hair. You can get these healthy fats from oily fish like salmon, trout and mackerel as well as nuts, seeds and their oils.

Fill half your plate with a colourful variety of vegetables or salad, drizzle with a dressing made from linseed or rapeseed oil and add meat, fish or beans with a serving of brown rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta.

All health content on onlinedietlovers.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider.

The 16 Best Foods to Control Diabetes

Figuring out the best foods to eat when you have diabetes can be tough.

The main goal is to keep blood sugar levels well-controlled.

However, it’s also important to eat foods that help prevent diabetes complications like heart disease.

Here are the 16 best foods for diabetics, both type 1 and type 2.

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel are great sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which have major benefits for heart health.

Getting enough of these fats on a regular basis is especially important for diabetics, who have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

DHA and EPA protect the cells that line your blood vessels, reduce markers of inflammation and improve the way your arteries function after eating.

A number of observational studies suggest that people who eat fatty fish regularly have a lower risk of heart failure and are less likely to die from heart disease.

In studies, older men and women who consumed fatty fish 5–7 days per week for 8 weeks had significant reductions in triglycerides and inflammatory markers .

Fish is also a great source of high-quality protein, which helps you feel full and increases your metabolic rate .

Bottom Line:

Fatty fish contain omega-3 fats that reduce inflammation and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

2. Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables are extremely nutritious and low in calories.

They’re also very low in digestible carbs, which raise your blood sugar levels.

Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are good sources of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C.

In one study, increasing vitamin C intake reduced inflammatory markers and fasting blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure .

In addition, leafy greens are good sources of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

These antioxidants protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts, which are common diabetes complications .

Bottom Line:

Leafy green vegetables are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that protect your heart and eye health.

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a delicious spice with potent antioxidant activity.

Several controlled studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity .

Long-term diabetes control is typically determined by measuring hemoglobin A1c, which reflects your average blood sugar level over 2–3 months.

In one study, type 2 diabetes patients who took cinnamon for 90 days had more than a double reduction in hemoglobin A1c, compared those who only received standard care .

A recent analysis of 10 studies found that cinnamon may also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

However, a few studies have failed to show that cinnamon benefits blood sugar or cholesterol levels, including one on adolescents with type 1 diabetes .

Furthermore, you should limit your intake of cassia cinnamon — the type found in most grocery stores — to less than 1 teaspoon per day.

It contains coumarin, which is linked to health problems at higher doses .

On the other hand, ceylon (“true”) cinnamon contains much less coumarin.

Bottom Line:

Cinnamon may improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in type 2 diabetics.

4. Eggs

Eggs provide amazing health benefits.

In fact, they’re one of the best foods for keeping you full for hours .

Regular egg consumption may also reduce your heart disease risk in several ways.

Eggs decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, increase your “good” HDL cholesterol levels and modify the size and shape of your “bad” LDL cholesterol .

In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who consumed 2 eggs daily as part of a high-protein diet had improvements in cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

In addition, eggs are one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect the eyes from disease .

Just be sure to eat whole eggs. The benefits of eggs are primarily due to nutrients found in the yolk rather than the white.

Bottom Line:

Eggs improve risk factors for heart disease, promote good blood sugar control, protect eye health and keep you feeling full.

5. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a wonderful food for people with diabetes.

They’re extremely high in fiber, yet low in digestible carbs.

In fact, 11 of the 12 grams of carbs in a 28-gram (1-oz) serving of chia seeds are fiber, which doesn’t raise blood sugar.

The viscous fiber in chia seeds can actually lower your blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which food moves through your gut and is absorbed .

Chia seeds may help you achieve a healthy weight because fiber reduces hunger and makes you feel full. In addition, fiber can decrease the amount of calories you absorb from other foods eaten at the same meal .

Additionally, chia seeds have been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammatory markers.

Bottom Line:

Chia seeds contain high amounts of fiber, are low in digestible carbs and may decrease blood pressure and inflammation.

6. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice with powerful health benefits.

Its active ingredient, curcumin, can lower inflammation and blood sugar levels, while reducing heart disease risk .

What’s more, curcumin appears to benefit kidney health in diabetics. This is important, as diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney disease.

Unfortunately, curcumin isn’t absorbed that well on its own. Be sure to consume turmeric with piperine (found in black pepper) in order to boost absorption by as much as 2,000% .

Bottom Line:

Turmeric contains curcumin, which may reduce blood sugar levels and inflammation, while protecting against heart and kidney disease.

7. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great dairy choice for diabetics.

It’s been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce heart disease risk, perhaps partly due to the probiotics it contains .

Studies have found that yogurt and other dairy foods may lead to weight loss and improved body composition in people with type 2 diabetes.

It’s believed that dairy’s high calcium and conjugated linolic acid (CLA) content may play a role .

What’s more, Greek yogurt contains only 6–8 grams of carbs per serving, which is lower than conventional yogurt. It’s also higher in protein, which promotes weight loss by reducing appetite and decreasing calorie intake.

Bottom Line:

Greek yogurt promotes healthy blood sugar levels, reduces risk factors for heart disease and may help with weight management.

8. Nuts

Nuts are delicious and nutritious.

All types of nuts contain fiber and are low in digestible carbs, although some have more than others.

Here are the amounts of digestible carbs per 1-oz (28-gram) serving of nuts:

  • Almonds: 2.6 grams
  • Brazil nuts: 1.4 grams
  • Cashews: 7.7 grams
  • Hazelnuts: 2 grams
  • Macadamia: 1.5 grams
  • Pecans: 1.2 grams
  • Pistachios: 5 grams
  • Walnuts: 2 grams

Research on a variety of different nuts has shown that regular consumption may reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar, HbA1c and LDL levels .

In one study, people with diabetes who included 30 grams of walnuts in their daily diet for one year lost weight, had improvements in body composition and experienced a significant reduction in insulin levels.

This finding is important because people with type 2 diabetes often have elevated levels of insulin, which are linked to obesity.

In addition, some researchers believe chronically high insulin levels increase the risk of other serious diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease .

Bottom Line:

Nuts are a healthy addition to a diabetic diet. They’re low in digestible carbs and help reduce blood sugar, insulin and LDL levels.

9. Broccoli

Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables around.

A half cup of cooked broccoli contains only 27 calories and 3 grams of digestible carbs, along with important nutrients like vitamin C and magnesium.

Studies in diabetics have found that broccoli may help lower insulin levels and protect cells from harmful free radicals produced during metabolism .

What’s more, broccoli is another good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These important antioxidants help prevent eye diseases.

Bottom Line:

Broccoli is a low-calorie, low-carb food with high nutrient value. It is loaded with healthy plant compounds that can protect against various diseases.

10. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is extremely beneficial for heart health.

It contains oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that has been shown to improve triglycerides and HDL, which are often at unhealthy levels in type 2 diabetes.

It may also increase the fullness hormone GLP-1.

In a large analysis of 32 studies looking at different types of fat, olive oil was the only one shown to reduce heart disease risk .

Olive oil also contains antioxidants called polyphenols. They reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels, keep your LDL cholesterol from becoming damaged by oxidation and decrease blood pressure.

Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined and retains the antioxidants and other properties that make it so healthy. Be sure to choose extra-virgin olive oil from a reputable source, since many olive oils are mixed with cheaper oils like corn and soy.

Bottom Line:

Extra-virgin olive oil contains healthy oleic acid. It has benefits for blood pressure and heart health.

11. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are an incredibly healthy food.

A portion of their insoluble fiber is made up of lignans, which can decrease heart disease risk and improve blood sugar control .

In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who took flaxseed lignans for 12 weeks had a significant improvement in hemoglobin A1c.

Another study suggested that flaxseeds may lower the risk of strokes and potentially reduce the dosage of medication needed to prevent blood clots .

Flaxseeds are very high in viscous fiber, which improves gut health, insulin sensitivity and feelings of fullness.

Your body can’t absorb whole flaxseeds, so purchase ground seeds or grind them yourself. It’s also important to keep flaxseeds tightly covered in the refrigerator to prevent them from going rancid.

Bottom Line:

Flaxseeds may reduce inflammation, lower heart disease risk, decrease blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

12. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits.

Although it’s made from apples, the sugar in the fruit is fermented into acetic acid, and the resulting product contains less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon.

Apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower fasting blood sugar levels. It may also reduce blood sugar response by as much as 20% when consumed with meals containing carbs.

In one study, people with poorly controlled diabetes had a 6% reduction in fasting blood sugar when they took 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed.

Apple cider vinegar may also slow stomach emptying and keep you feeling full.

However, this can be a problem for people who have gastroparesis, a condition of delayed stomach emptying that is common in diabetes, particularly type 1 .

To incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, begin with 1 teaspoon mixed in a glass of water each day. Increase to a maximum of 2 tablespoons per day.

Bottom Line:

Apple cider vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. It may also help you feel full for longer.

13. Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat.

They’re high in antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which give them their red color.

Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce cholesterol and insulin levels after a meal. They also improve blood sugar and heart disease risk factors in type 2 diabetes.

A one-cup serving of strawberries contains 49 calories and 11 grams of carbs, three of which are fiber.

This serving also provides more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin C, which provides additional anti-inflammatory benefits for heart health.

Bottom Line:

Strawberries are low-sugar fruits that have strong anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce heart disease risk.

14. Garlic

Garlic is a delicious herb with impressive health benefits.

Several studies have shown it can reduce inflammation, blood sugar and LDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

It may also be very effective at reducing blood pressure.

In one study, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure who took aged garlic for 12 weeks averaged a 10-point decrease in blood pressure.

One clove of raw garlic contains only 4 calories and 1 gram of carbs.

Bottom Line:

Garlic helps lower blood sugar, inflammation, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure in people with diabetes.

15. Squash

Squash is one of the healthiest vegetables around.

Winter varieties have a hard shell and include acorn, pumpkin and butternut.

Summer squash has a soft peel that can be eaten. The most common types are zucchini and Italian squash.

Like most vegetables, squash contains beneficial antioxidants. Many types of winter squash are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.

Animal studies using squash extract have also reported reductions in obesity and insulin levels .

Although there’s very little research on humans, one study found that people with type 2 diabetes who took an extract of the winter squash Cucurbita ficifolia experienced a significant decrease in blood sugar levels .

However, winter squash is higher in carbs than summer squash.

For example, 1 cup of cooked pumpkin contains 9 grams of digestible carbs, while 1 cup of cooked zucchini contains only 3 grams of digestible carbs.

Bottom Line:

Summer and winter squash contain beneficial antioxidants and may help lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

16. Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are wonderful for diabetes and weight control.

These noodles are high in the fiber glucomannan, which is extracted from konjac root.

This plant is grown in Japan and processed into the shape of noodles or rice known as shirataki.

Glucomannan is a type of viscous fiber, which makes you feel full and satisfied. It also lowers levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin.

What’s more, it’s been shown to reduce blood sugar levels after eating and improve heart disease risk factors in people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome .

A 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving of shirataki noodles also contains less than one gram of digestible carbs and just two calories per serving.

However, these noodles are typically packaged with a liquid that has a fishy odor and you need to rinse them very well before use. Then, to ensure a noodle-like texture, cook the noodles for several minutes in a skillet over high heat without added fat.

Bottom Line:

The glucomannan in shirataki noodles promotes feelings of fullness and can improve blood sugar control and cholesterol levels.

Uncontrolled diabetes increases your risk of several serious diseases.

However, eating foods that help keep blood sugar, insulin and inflammation under control can dramatically reduce your risk of developing complications.