The NDSS is administered by Diabetes Australia

Eating and drinking

There’s no such thing as a special diet for people with diabetes. You can enjoy the same food as everyone else!

Some young people say that living with diabetes makes them better at making good food choices. As a young person with type 1 diabetes, you will become an expert on eating a balanced meal plan, keeping fit, and looking after your health.

Build your skill

Become an eating and drinking expert

Get ready...
Fuel your fun
  • All the foods your body needs to keep you going everyday
  • Your everyday fuel foods.

Get set...
Boost your food choices
  • Quick tips to building healthy meals
  • Sometimes foods and everyday foods
  • Smart swaps
  • Rethink your drink.

On the go
  • Eating out and about tips
  • Reading food labels.

Fuel your fun

Choosing healthy foods is important for everyone, not just when you have diabetes. It helps you feel good and keeps your tummy happy too.

It’s a good idea to see a dietitian if you can, so they can help you with food plans designed especially for you.

Understanding the five food groups is a great place to start for planning a balanced eating style that keeps you strong, healthy, and full of energy.

Find out more

A dietitian can work with you to plan meals that fit your nutrition meals and food preferences. Call the NDSS Helpline 1800 637 700 and ask to speak to a dietitian or go to Dietitians Australia to find a dietitian near you.

The five food groups

Grains (cereals)

Grains give you the energy to play and learn. Choose whole grains like brown rice, wholemeal bread and wraps, crackers, pasta and noodles, or whole grain cereal for the most benefits.


These colourful foods give you essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. They can be fresh, frozen or canned. Try to eat a variety of different colours each day!


Fruits are sweet, juicy, and full of vitamins. They’re great for snacks or desserts. Just remember, fresh, canned (with juice drained) or frozen is best.

Dairy and alternatives

This group helps build strong bones and teeth. Pick things like reduced-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you don’t eat dairy, choose other options like plant-based milk such as soy or almond milk with added calcium exist.

Meat and alternatives (proteins)

Protein helps your body grow and repair itself. Choose lean protein foods like fish, chicken, eggs, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, and nuts.

Important nutrients in food


Carbohydrates (also known as carbs) is the name that we give to the group of foods that our body turns into glucose. Carbs are found in all kinds of foods, like bread, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. They are also found in drinks, like soft drinks, milk, and fruit juice.


Fibre is a part of food that doesn’t completely breakdown – think the skins on fruit or veg, or the stringy bit on celery. Fibre helps keep your digestive system healthy, and it slows down the release of glucose into your blood. This is important because it helps manage blood glucose levels.

Fats and oils

Healthy fats and oils are an important part of a balanced meal. It’s important to consider both the amount and the type of fat you eat. The main types of fat found in food are saturated and unsaturated fats.

Know your carbs

Carbs give you energy and you can find them in the five food groups.

Some carbs are longer-lasting and help your blood glucose and energy levels stay steady. Some carbs are fast-acting. They raise your blood glucose levels quickly and leave you feeling less satisfied.

Breads and cereals

Carbs are found in any type of bread. They are also found in cereal and grains.


The vegetables with the most carbs that will impact your blood glucose levels are potato, sweet potato, taro, and corn. You may know them as “starchy vegetables”. 

These vegetables contain carbs no matter how you cook them. Potatoes, for example, can be mashed, roasted, boiled, or fried. Even potato crisps contain carbs. You will also see a slow rise in your blood glucose levels with legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and pulses.

There are lots of vegetables (fresh or frozen) that contain little or no carbs they are sometimes called “free foods”. They include your green leaf vegetables or salads or non-starchy vegetables.

Did you know carrots, peas, and pumpkin fall into the “non-starchy” group as they contain only a very small amount of carbs.


All fruits contain carbs, including fresh fruit, tinned fruit, dried fruit, and fruit juice.

Did you know a serving of berries such as strawberries and blueberries contain very little carbs and will have little effect on your blood glucose levels?

Dairy and alternatives

Milks including full fat, reduced fat and skim milk all contain carbs. Foods that are made from these milks also contain carbs.

This is a tricky one! Cheese, butter and cream don’t contain carbs even though they are made from milk. The lactose is fermented off during the making of these foods. 
But they contain high amounts of saturated fat which will impact other important aspects of your health such as heart health.


Protein foods have very little carbs.
Did you know legumes can be a protein source for those that prefer to not eat animal sources of protein?

Sometimes foods

These all contain carbs. But they’re different to the ones found in the above five foods groups. They’re usually sweetened with added sugar. ‘Sometimes foods’ have no health benefits compared to the naturally sweetened and nutritious food in the five food groups, such as fruit.

Go. Grow. Glow. Slow.

If you have trouble remembering the five food groups, you can also think about how different types of food makes your body feel.


GO foods give you energy to run, play, think at school, and be alert and happy. GO foods are grain foods such as rice and oats. They’re also foods made from grains such as pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals.

GO foods affect your blood glucose levels in different ways. GO foods are carbs. Making sure you have a healthy amount of GO foods at each meal is important. They stop blood glucose levels getting too low or giving you a hypo (hypoglycaemia). They give us energy and helps your brain with thinking clearly.


GROW foods are needed to help you grow. GROW foods are foods from animals such as lean meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. They also include foods such as baked beans, chickpeas, nuts and tofu.


GLOW foods also give you energy and help stop you getting sick. GLOW foods are fruits and vegetables. They’re also carbs. They’re our most colourful foods, and they’re what keeps us glowing on the inside and out! 


SLOW foods are high in sugar, salt, and fat. Try to eat less of these foods an opt for foods from the grow, go or glow section. Some of these foods are useful to treat hypos when needed. 

Boost your food choices

Now that you know about the different food groups your body needs everyday, let’s build a balanced meal. 

Everyday food and “sometimes“ food

There is no “one-size fits all” special meal plan for people with diabetes. Just like everyone else you need to make smart choices about foods you eat everyday, and foods you eat sometimes, and in small amounts.

"Sometimes” foods are those that have been changed a lot from their natural state. 

When this happens, they have higher kilojoules, saturated fat, added sugars, or added salts. It’s ok to eat these only sometimes and in small amounts.

"Everyday" foods are full of vitamins and low in added sugars and unhealthy fats. 

These include:

  • vegetables and fruits
  • whole grains (e.g., brown rice, whole wheat bread)
  • lean proteins (e.g., chicken, fish, tofu)
  • reduced-fat dairy products (e.g., milk, yogurt)
  • nuts and seeds
  • healthy fats (e.g., avocado, olive oil).

Rethink your drink

Remember, it’s essential to drink plenty of water! Beware of sweetened drinks because they have a lot of added sugar which can make it hard to manage your blood glucose levels.

Guess how many teaspoons of sugar?


0 tsp

ndss-iced tea
Iced tea 500ml
ndss-8-10 tsp

8-10 tsp

Lemonade 375ml
ndss-8-10 tsp

8-10 tsp

ndss-apple drink
Apple drink 350ml
ndss-8-10 tsp

8-10 tsp

ndss-chocolate or iced coffee
Chocolate or iced coffee 600mL
ndss-13-15 tsp

13-15 tsp

ndss-energy drink
Energy drink
ndss-13-15 tsp

13-15 tsp

ndss-orange drink
Orange drink
ndss-16-20 tsp

16-20 tsp

ndss-soft drink
Soft drink
ndss-16-20 tsp

16-20 tsp

ndss-fruit smoothie
Fruit smoothie 610mL
ndss-16-20 tsp

16-20 tsp

ndss-mega slushie
Mega slushie
ndss-16-20 tsp

16-20 tsp

1 teaspoon (tsp) = 4 gram (g)

These examples are providing approximate teaspoons of sugar and they're to be used as a guide only. For more detail refer to the nutrition panel on all foods and drinks.

Reading the labels on food

Labels on packaged foods give information that can help you make better food choices. This can help you manage your diabetes.

Boosting your food choices

Sometimes the packaging makes foods seem healthier or more nutritious than they really are. This can make shopping very confusing. The good news is that you can check them using nutrition labels.

On the go

You know the foods that keep your body going and the tips to a balanced eating style. Now let’s put your knowledge into practice in the real world.

When you have type 1 diabetes, deciding what to eat can be a challenge when out with friends, or needing food in a hurry, but you can still enjoy eating out. The key is to plan ahead and knowing what to look for in menus.

  • Just like everyone else, people with type 1 diabetes should limit foods high in added sugars, saturated fat, and salt (sodium).
  • Limit these three nutrients to maintain steady blood glucose levels, manage your diabetes and to stay healthy now and in the future.

Out and about - fast food tips

If you’re going through a fast food chain drive-through, in a cafe or restaurant, or ordering home delivery, here’s the best tips for eating well and feeling well.  


  • Choose a whole grain or wholemeal roll if available.
  • Ask for no butter, margarine, creamy sauces or mayonnaise on the roll.
  • Ask for extra salad.
  • Avoid burgers with “the works” or “the lot”, and extras like bacon.
  • Choose lean meat, chicken, fish or a legume-based patty.


  • Ask for a thin and crispy base instead of a thick, pan-fried pizza base.
  • Choose vegetable and seafood toppings rather than processed meats.
  • Limit toppings high in saturated fat and salt like salami, pepperoni and extra cheese.
  • Avoid meat lovers pizzas and stuffed crusts.


  • Choose barbecued or grilled chicken rather than crumbed or fried.
  • Choose salads or vegetables instead of chips.
  • Look for olive oil or vinegar-based dressings.

Fish and chips

  • Ask for fish or seafood to be grilled (not fried).
  • Choose thick/straight-cut chips or wedges instead of French fries.  Ask for a small serve.
  • Add a serve of garden salad if available.
  • Ask for no salt to be added.


  • Choose dense grainy, seeded or sourdough bread.
  • Try hummus or avocado as a spread rather than butter.
  • Choose low-fat fillings like lean skinless turkey or chicken, tuna or salmon, baked beans, boiled egg or cottage or ricotta cheese.
  • Avoid processed meats.
  • Add lots of salad.


  • Make water your chosen drink.
  • Choose plain, sparkling mineral or soda water.
  • If you drink soft drinks, choose diet or no-sugar varieties.
  • Limit fruit juice. Choose only small serves of 100% juice.
  • Limit flavoured milk, smoothies or milkshakes. If you choose these, order a small serve.

Find out more about eating well

Check out the online Carb Counting program on You will learn what foods contain carbs, and different ways to count the carbs in the foods you eat. You can access the online Carb Counting program anytime and anywhere, and you can even download it as an app for use on your device. Talk to a dietitian for more information on eating well, carb counting and reading nutrition labels.

NDSS online carb counting program

Check out the online Carb Counting program on You will learn what foods contain carbs, and different ways to count the carbs in the foods you eat. You can access the online Carb counting program anytime and anywhere.

Download an app

The Carb Counting app will help you count carbs in your food.

FoodSwitch (Android) (iOS) is an Australian-based app helps you find healthier alternative to a packaged food. It can be a quick way to compare the nutrition content of packaged foods when at the supermarket.

Find a dietitian

Talk to a dietitian for more information on eating well, carb counting and reading nutrition labels. To find a dietitian near you go to the Dietitians Australia website.


Call the NDSS Helpline 1800 637 700 and ask to speak with a dietitian.