Practical tips and advice
People with diabetes are recommended to have regular meal times every day.
For persons on regular insulin treatment and certain oral diabetes medications (i.e., sulfonylureas such as glipizide, gliclazide, glimepiride, tolbutamide), it is especially important not to skip or delay meals. This is to prevent the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level).
You should consult your doctor if you have to fast or change your meal times for a prolonged period of time (e.g., religious reasons such as Ramadan), as your diabetic medications may have to be adjusted accordingly.
If your schedule does not allow you to take regular meals, do discuss with your healthcare team on a diabetes medication regimen that is more suited for your lifestyle.
If you are planning to substantially reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your meals, you may be at risk of hypoglycaemia if you are on insulin or certain oral medications (sulfonylureas such as glipizide, gliclazide, glimepiride, tolbutamide). Do discuss with your doctor on how your medication can be adjusted to match any change in your diet.
Here are some tips on how you can do this:
- Use healthier cooking methods (e.g., steaming, baking, boiling, grilling)
- Use healthier ingredients
- Choose wholegrains instead of refined grains. For example, replace white rice with brown rice
- Choose lean meat and remove all visible fat before cooking
- Reduce salt, instead use natural seasoning (e.g., herbs and spices). Use condiments and sauces in moderation
- Plan meals that incorporate vegetables as the main dish (together with fruits, they should make up 50% of your plate), rather than meat or carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet
How to cook healthy and yummy meals
Suggestions for local cuisine:
- Steam dumplings instead of frying
- Switch to brown rice
- Control the amount of sodium (e.g., salt and soy sauce)
- Use herbs and spices
- Choose Ikan Bakar or Ayam Panggang
- Use low-fat or skimmed milk in curries and gravies, instead of coconut milk
- Cook meat together with gravy instead of stir-frying separately
- Use leaner cuts of meat
- Use healthier oil options
- Grill, boil, steam & bake where possible
- Use low-fat plain yoghurt as a substitute
It can be challenging to eat healthy when eating out with the wide variety of food and drink options available in Singapore.
Some tips on how you can make healthier food choices when eating out:
Look out for food outlets that are part of the Healthier Dining Programme.
These outlets have healthier dishes which are lower in calories , prepared with wholegrains or healthier oil, or lower in sugar.
Ordering food when you are very hungry can cause you to order more than you intend to, and overeat. Look at the menu before arriving to better plan your meal.
Read the menu with care
Look for menu wordings to check how food is prepared. For example, foods that are described as 'steamed', 'boiled', 'baked' or 'poached' are healthier than foods that are 'fried in oil'.
Avoid foods that are also 'rich' and 'creamy' which tend to be high in fat.
Eat just enough
It is okay to not eat everything on your plate. Aim to eat until you are 80% full.
To prevent food wastage, request to take away any remaining food to eat later.
Do not leave cooked food standing at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Reheat stored cooked food at temperatures above 75°C and make sure it is served piping hot.
Choose healthier options when eating out
For main meals:
- Select a variety of items to make up a balanced meal – include one or two vegetable side dishes, and one or two protein-rich items such as tofu, fish, or lean meat
- Select foods that are prepared with healthier cooking methods (e.g., steamed, baked) rather than fried foods
- Rice, bread or pasta – choose wholegrain options (e.g., brown rice, multigrain bread)
- Choose fresh salads with non-cream based dressings
- Request for water. Ask for less ("siew dai") or no added sugar ("kosong“) options
- Choose drinks with reduced sugar or no sugar (e.g., drinks with Healthier Choice Symbol or Nutri-Grade mark A or B)
- Choose fresh fruits over fruit juice. Share desserts to control your intake
Suggestions when you visit hawker centres
When you eat economy rice
- Brown rice
- Steamed, stewed, braised or stir-fried dishes
- White, flavoured or fried rice
- Deep-fried dishes
- Order more non-starchy vegetables dishes (e.g., kailan, broccoli, eggplant)
- Limit the amount of gravy and sauce
Other eating occasions
When eating at a buffet
Don’t skip your meals before going for the buffet. Going to a buffet on an empty stomach will cause you to eat more than needed. You can eat a small snack before heading out.
Check which options are available before you pick up the plate. Choose healthier options and try new food in smaller portions. This will help you make the best choices for yourself.
Enjoy your meal slowly and don’t rush through it just so that you can eat more. Consuming more food doesn't necessarily mean a better dining experience!
Festive occasions and social gatherings
Food is often an integral part of social experiences, such as going to a buffet for celebrations, or catching up with friends over a meal in a restaurant.
However, these situations may encourage overconsumption, especially of less nutritious food.
Some tips on how to eat healthy during social occasions:
- Having a bottle of water on hand helps you stay hydrated and you will have a readily available alternative to sugary drinks
- If a meal portion served is too much or if there are leftovers, don't be afraid to ask to take it away to consume at a later time
- Avoid alcohol as it provides empty calories, i.e., provides energy with limited nutritional value. If you do drink, limit your intake and don't consume alcohol on an empty stomach as it can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) if consumed excessively
How to handle peer pressure at social gatherings?
Peer pressure during social situations is common, and it's okay to communicate your boundaries when you feel pressured to eat something you don't want to.
Have some phrases in mind to help practise them politely when a situation calls for it!
How to fast safely (for religious reasons)