If you’re diabetic and vegetarian, you may be after better ways to get all the nutrients you need from food without impacting your health in the process. Unfortunately, having diabetes can restrict what you’re able to eat and sometimes make it trickier to create healthy meals which still taste great.
Maintaining a balanced diet when you’re diabetic will go a long way in ensuring your blood sugars at the correct level. With a little know-how and a few new recipes under your belt, you’ll be able to enjoy healthy and utterly delicious meals every day of the week!
What foods should you avoid if you’re diabetic?
Whether you’ve had diabetes for most of your life or you’ve only recently be diagnosed, it’s important that you follow a healthy diet which isn’t high in the following:1
Foods which are high in either added or natural sugars are a big no-no for diabetics as they can play havoc with your blood sugar levels. As well as obvious things like biscuits, cakes and chocolate, many products may have sugar added to them without you realising. Watch out for yoghurt, breakfast cereals and juices in particular.
Eating high amounts of trans fats (a form of unsaturated fats) can impact your health negatively – regardless of whether you’re diabetic or not. Nevertheless, some research has found that having high amounts of unsaturated fats in your diet may be linked to insulin resistance. What’s more, they increase your risk of having high cholesterol or developing things like heart disease.
Typically, you’ll find trans fats in food items like margarine, many cooking oils, ready meals and store-bought baked goods.
Eating large amounts of processed foods made from highly refined flour have been shown to increase blood sugar levels in those with diabetes. You should try to avoid eating lots of white bread and pasta or switch them up for a whole wheat or gluten-free product.
Remember that you should also always be aiming to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day. As some fruit can be high in natural sugars, it’s a good idea to make most of your five a day allocations vegetables if you’re diabetic.
Popular substitutes to use if you’re vegetarian and diabetic
If you’re keen to keep your diet healthy and free from the foods listed above, why not swap out:2
- White pasta for whole wheat, lentil or chickpea pasta
Whole wheat pasta typically contains three times as much fibre as white pasta, plus it has less risk of spiking your blood sugar levels. If you’re gluten-free, chickpea or lentil pastas are fantastic options which are high in both fibre and protein.3
- White bread for wholegrain
White bread can be highly processed and a poor match for people trying to follow a diabetic diet. Consider switching to wholegrain or wholemeal bread instead. You could even make your own using spelt, buckwheat or brown rice flour.
- Baked snacks instead of fried
If crisps and crackers are your favourite kind of snacks, make sure you’re choosing options which have been baked instead of fried. Snacks which are fried in oil tend to have a higher ratio of trans fats.
- Fresh fruit instead of juice
While freshly squeezed juice doesn’t normally have any added sugar in it, it has been stripped of all its fibre during the juicing process. Try consuming fruit whole instead of in liquid form to benefit from the fibre and nutrients found in its skin and pulp.
Four great diabetic vegetarian recipes to try
- Vegetarian black bean fajitas
Black beans are a great source of protein and the ideal ingredient to mix in with bell peppers, onions and mushrooms to create a fajita filling. Choose wholemeal, spinach or beetroot wraps.
- Roasted vegetable pizza
Try making your own whole wheat pizza bases from scratch and then topping them with vegetables like bell peppers, courgettes and onion. Make your own tomato base by blending fresh tomatoes into a sauce.
- Lentil or quinoa burgers
Lentils and quinoa make wonderful bases for healthy veggie burgers, plus the latter is a whole grain ideal for diabetics trying to avoid overly processed foods. Make them by pre-cooking quinoa or lentils and combining them with grated carrot, mashed cannellini beans, wholegrain breadcrumbs, spring onion, seasoning and one whisked egg. Shape into patties and lightly fry on both sides until golden brown.
- Moroccan-style stew
This is an easy one-pot meal that’s low fat and filled with vitamin-packed vegetables. Simply combine butternut squash, sweet potato, aubergine, chickpeas and tomatoes with some water and spices in a casserole dish and simmer until tender. Serve with wholemeal pitta bread for dunking.4
Last updated: 6 May 2020