Most of the burden of disease due to poor nutrition in Australia is associated with eating too much energy-dense and relatively nutrient-poor foods, and eating too few micronutrient-dense foods, including vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals.
Key dietary themes for people with type 2 diabetes are eating for cardiovascular protection, and glycaemic management and meal planning.
All patients should be offered and encouraged to seek advice on medical nutrition therapy by referral to an accredited practising dietitian (APD). An APD can help people address core issues around nutrition, such as achieving sustainable healthy eating patterns and, where appropriate, healthy body weight (loss) by reducing energy intake (portion control and type of food). They can also assist with recipe modification, changing cooking techniques, label reading, eating out and understanding of fad diets.
Glycaemic management and meal planning
To influence the glycaemic response after eating, meal plans need to consider both the amount and quality of carbohydrates eaten. The total amount of carbohydrate consumed (compared with other macronutrients or the glycaemic index of the meal) may be the major dietary factor that contributes to high postprandial BGLs.19 Eating low-glycaemic-load foods instead of higher glycaemic-load foods may modestly improve glycaemic control.20
Low glycaemic index (GI) foods include dense wholegrain breads, steel-cut oats, lower fat milk and yoghurt, minimally processed (eg wholegrain, low GI) breakfast cereals, pasta, Doongara rice, legumes and most fruits. Intake of high-carbohydrate, low-nutrient-dense foods such as soft drinks, cakes and lollies should be confined to infrequent, small amounts to reduce the risk of weight gain and a worsening cardiometabolic profile.20
There is evidence that nutrition education may be particularly important for the prevention of hypoglycaemia in people with type 2 diabetes on insulin or sulfonylureas. Consistent carbohydrate intake, and spaced, regular meal consumption, may help some patients manage BGLs and weight. Inclusion of snacks as part of a person’s meal plan should be individualised and should be balanced against the potential risk of weight gain and/or hypoglycaemia.6