Eating well with type 1 diabetes


People who have just learned that they have diabetes often think that they will no longer be able to eat carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals, cakes, etc.). In fact, it is not: this misconception dates back to the days when insulin was not available and the survival of diabetics depended on the almost total elimination of carbohydrates from their diet. The main rules of diet for patients with type 1 diabetes are not fundamentally different from those that each of us should follow.

These rules aim to ensure a balanced, diversified diet adapted to the patient’s physical activity, to contribute to the control of blood sugar, to avoid excessive weight gain and to prevent cardiovascular complications. In children and adolescents, they also aim to ensure their growth. These rules are adapted to the particularities of each patient: dosage and rate of insulin intake, physical activity, weight, food habits and preferences, etc. For this reason, regular consultation with a dietician is an important part of medical follow-up in case of type 1 diabetes.


The main objective of controlling carbohydrate (sugar) intake is to avoid excessive fluctuations in blood sugar, whether due to the consumption of foods that are too rich in sugars or an insufficient intake of carbohydrates with meals or during physical exertion (exposing to the risk of hypoglycaemia). For this reason, carbohydrate intake should be spread over three meals, with no snacking between meals or skipping a meal. Only diabetics who have intense physical activity can reserve part of their main meals (fruit, dairy, for example) for one or two snacks taken between main meals.

For people with diabetes, it is better to prefer the carbohydrates naturally contained in whole grains and pulses, rather those found in cakes, sweets, jams, breakfast cereals, etc. This measure is particularly important in diabetic children in order to prevent nocturnal hypoglycaemia.

For each patient, the maximum quantity of carbohydrates to consume each day is determined by the dietician according to the sex, age, weight and activity of the patient, but also the rhythm and nature of insulin injections (fast insulin , slow, intermediate, etc.).

Synthetic sweeteners are “sweetening” products that are not part of carbohydrates. These are food additives that are used to impart a sweet taste to food. A distinction is made between sugar substitutes (polyols) and intense sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and cyclamates). The use of these sweeteners is not recommended for people with diabetes, as they maintain the taste for sweet foods.


To help prevent obesity and the cardiovascular complications of type 1 diabetes, it is best to reduce your consumption of fatty foods (especially those containing fats of animal origin such as butter, cheeses, red meats, mayonnaise, etc.) and eat fish at least twice a week. The use of vegetable oils (olive, walnut, sunflower, rapeseed, for example) or soft sunflower margarines is preferable to that of butter or lard.


For people with diabetes, consuming foods rich in fiber (fruits and vegetables, compotes with no added sugar) at each meal slows down the absorption of sugars by the digestive system and facilitates the control of blood sugar levels. The fiber content of the diet can also be increased by consuming oat bran, flax seeds, psyllium, buckwheat, etc.


People with diabetes who wish to consume alcoholic beverages should limit themselves to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Please note that alcohol increases the risk of hypoglycaemia during insulin treatment.


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