Information for the public

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

There is a lot you can do to keep your diabetes under control and reduce your risk of other complications developing.


If you have type 2 diabetes, having a healthy diet and lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do to manage your diabetes and minimise your risk of developing complications.

A healthy lifestyle involves being active, losing weight if you are overweight, getting enough exercise, having a healthy diet, not smoking and controlling your alcohol intake if you drink alcohol. Your doctor or nurse should give you more information about a healthy lifestyle and what you can do to help keep type 2 diabetes under control (for example, having a healthy diet, taking more exercise and losing weight).


Having a healthy diet is an important part of living with type 2 diabetes. Eating healthily and losing weight if you are overweight will help you to manage your diabetes better.

An expert such as a dietitian should give you advice about your diet. This should be designed to suit your lifestyle, culture, beliefs and preferences.

If you are overweight, you will be encouraged to lose weight and agree on a target weight loss. Your starting weight‑loss target should be to lose 5% to 10% of your weight. Any weight loss will help, although the nearer you get to a healthy body weight, the better it will be for your long‑term health.

Advice about your diet should also cover the best times to eat, how much carbohydrate per meal you should eat and, if you drink alcohol, how much alcohol to drink.

General healthy eating is also important, and you should:

  • eat carbohydrate from fruit, vegetables, whole grains and pulses

  • eat low-fat dairy products and oily fish

  • limit the amount of food that you eat that contains saturated fats and trans fatty acids.

There's no need to buy food sold specifically for people with diabetes because this tends to be expensive and is not necessarily any better for you. You can still enjoy some foods containing sugar as long as they form part of an overall healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle.

See NICE guidelines and information for the public on topics relating to diet and lifestyle.

Questions to ask about diet and lifestyle

  • Please explain more about how what I eat and drink affects my diabetes

  • What sorts of foods should I eat?

  • Do I have to avoid sugary foods?

  • Can I eat carbohydrates?

  • What are the effects of alcohol on my diabetes?

  • How will losing weight help?

  • What sorts of exercise are best? Are there any types of exercise I shouldn't do?

  • Where can I get advice and support about giving up smoking?

  • Are there any support groups in my local area?

  • What could happen if I do not change my lifestyle?

  • What information and support is available to help me make changes to my lifestyle?

  • Information Standard