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Diet For Diabetes Mellitus


Goals of Dietary Management

1)  To achieve and maintain :

  • Blood sugar level within normal range
Fasting 4.4 – 6.1 mmol/l
Non-fasting 4.4 – 8.0 mmol/l
HbA1c < 6.5 %
  • Blood lipid and cholesterol level in normal range
Triglycerides  1.7 mmol/L
HDL cholesterol  1.1 mmol/L
LDL cholesterol  2.6 mmol/L


  • Blood pressure ∼ 130/80mmHg.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) within 18.5 – 24.9 kg/m².

2)  To prevent or slower diabetes complication combined with regular medication intake, diet modification and exercise.


Dietary Guide


Carbohydrates are a source of energy and include foods composed of starches and sugars. Almost all carbohydrates are found in plants, with the exception of dairy products.

Most carbohydrates break down into glucose which can influence blood sugar levels. Eating the right amount of carbohydrates and the right type of carbohydrates is so important.

Carbohydrates can be divided into two groups as follows :

Simple Carbohydrates
(Foods to be avoided)
Complex Carbohydrates
(Foods to be consumed in restricted amounts)

  • Foods that will raise blood glucose level quickly.

  • Foods that will be digested and absorbed slowly into the blood stream.
  • Will not raise blood glucose level quickly.
  • These foods should be spread out throughout the day instead of loading at particular meals.
Example :

  • All types of sugar: white sugar, brown sugar, gula Melaka, rock sugar, honey.
  • Sweetened foods and drinks: carbonated drinks, soft drinks, cordial, syrup.
  • Spreads: jam, kaya, marmalade.
  • Confectionery: Sweets, sweet kuih, cakes, chocolate.
  • Ice-cream, condensed milk, sweet yogurts, sweet lassi.
  • Dessert: canned fruits in syrup, jelly.
Example :

1)  Cereals and grain product

  • Rice (white/brown rice), rice porridge
  • Bread/bun/biscuits/unsweetened kuih/oat
  • Pasta/macaroni/spaghetti
  • Mee/ mee hoon /suun/loh see fun/ kuew teow/laksa
  • Capati/roti canai/thosai/idli
  • Flour (atta/rice/wheat)

2)  Starchy vegetables

  • Carrot/ potato/sweet potato /tapioca /breadfruit/corn/pumpkin/mashed potato /yam bean

3)  Legumes and lentils

  • Peas/chickpeas/dhal
  • Green beans/red beans/black beans
  • Papadom
  • Baked beans

4)  Milk

  • Fresh milk/UHT/low fat milk.
  • Powdered milk (skim/full cream/low fat).
  • Evaporated (unsweetened).
  • Yogurt (plain/low fat).

5)  Fruits

  • Apple/pear/orange/starfruit/persimmon
  • Sapodilla/kiwi/ Mandarin orange
  • Papaya/pineapple/watermelon/honeydew
  • Guava/mango
  • Banana
  • Duku/langsat/longan/grapes
  • Prunes/dates/mangosteen
  • Jackfruit
  • Durian
  • Rambutan/lychee
  • Raisin


Foods which can be taken without limit

  • Green-leafy vegetables (spinach/ mustard leaves/ kale/ swamp cabbage), long beans, tomato, cucumber/parsley, etc.
  • All liquid and beverages without sugar : Chinese tea, plain water, barley, coffee and tea.
  • Herbs and spices : chilli powder, curry powder, cinnamon, clove, coriander seeds, ginger, lemon grass, cumin seeds, pepper, tamarind and turmeric.


Other nutrients in a balanced diet


  • Eat protein foods moderately such as 2-3 servings a day.
  • Choose protein foods that are low in fat, for example fish, poultry without skin and lean meat.


  • Excessive fat intake will increase your calorie intake and weight and you are prone to have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
  • Reduced total fat/oil intake especially saturated fat like ghee, coconut cream, cream, coconut oil, butter and mayonnaise.


  • Fibre from plant sources are difficult to digest. Fibre is important as it slows down glucose absorption into blood stream. Fibre also increases satiety level and prevents constipation.
  • There are 2 types of fibre :
    1. Soluble fibre : oats, legumes, vegetables, fruits.
    2. Insoluble fibre : whole meal products, brown rice, whole meal biscuits.

Diabetic Food Products

  • Diabetic food products such as diabetic jam and diabetic chocolate should be taken in caution. These products still contain carbohydrates. Please check with the dietitian/nutritionist regarding these food products.

Artificial Sweetener

  • Artificial sweeteners make food taste sweet and have no calorie. Artificial sweetener does not raise blood glucose level. Please check with dietitian/nutritionist on the amount and type you can take.



  • Hypoglycaemia is a condition where blood glucose level falls in the range of 2.2 – 4.4 mmol/L. However, it may vary between individuals.
  • Conditions that cause hypoglycaemia include no food intake, excessive exercise, excessive alcohol or insulin intake.
  • Signs of hypoglycaemia : excessive cold sweat, shivering, dizziness, excessive hunger, palpitation, blurred vision and easily angered.
  • Steps to overcome hypoglycaemia :
      1. Check your blood glucose level immediately
      2. If blood glucose is low (2.2 – 4.4mmol/L), immediately eat any one of the foods listed below :
        Type of food Measurement
        White glucose 1 table spoon
        Honey 2 table spoons
        Packet drinks/sweetened fruit juices ½ pack (125 ml)
        Sweets 3 pieces
      3. Continue monitoring your blood sugar after 15 minutes. If the blood glucose is still low, repeat the intake of one of the foods above (based on measurement). Whenever possible, have your meal immediately.
      4. Repeat your blood glucose measurement after 1 hour.
  • To prevent hypoglycaemia, diabetic patients should be consistent with meal times and the amount of carbohydrate intake at each meal.


Last reviewed : 5 January 2012
Writer : Norizan Mashttah bt. Mardan
    Mahnon Suria bt. Mokhy
    Siti Farrah Zaidah bt. Mohd Yazid
    Junidah bt. Raib