Easy food swaps

Following a healthy diet doesn’t have to be boring – find ideas for getting the balance right and still enjoying your food


If you have recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes you may have also been advised to follow a healthier diet. It may feel hard to say goodbye to those favourite meals and find ideas for getting the balance right, but following a healthy diet doesn’t have to be boring.

When you have Type 2 diabetes, it is important to try to eat in a healthy way, but that doesn’t mean you have to wave farewell to fun food forever. We’ve put together a few ideas for food swaps that give you a little bit of what you fancy once in a while, but with a healthy twist.

The better-for-you bacon sandwich

bacon sandwich
  • Why it’s “better”: more fibre, less fat and more vitamins than the traditional version
  • How to make it: buy lean bacon and trim off visible fat, use whole grain bread, grill or oven-bake bacon rather than frying it (makes it crispier anyway), and fill the sandwich with twice as much veg as bacon – try lettuce, tomato, avocado, or slices of courgette

The cheeky chips

food swaps for diabetes
  • Why it’s “better”: less fat and more fibre than deep-fried chips
  • How to make it: Cut potatoes into chunky chip shapes, leaving the skins on. Or, try sweet potatoes as an alternative. Par-boil, then whack into a hot oven. A spritz of low-cal cooking spray can help crisp them up, and you can also sprinkle on a bit of paprika for a little extra kick, or rosemary for winter-warming flavour

The impatient person’s pizza

  • Why it’s “better”: more fibre than a slice of delivered pizza – and quicker
  • How to make it: Spread some tomato puree and dried herbs onto a wholemeal pitta bread. Top with slices of reduced-fat mozzarella and loads of veggies, then grill till brown and bubbling and eat with a big mixed salad

The beneficial burger

food swaps for diabetes
  • Why it’s “better”: more fibre and vitamins than the fast-food standard
  • How to make it: use a wholemeal burger bun or swap the bun for 2 grilled portobello mushrooms, grill your burger, use ketchup but hold the mayo and cheese, and pile up with slices of veg like chargrilled aubergine, beefsteak tomatoes, big flat grilled mushrooms, lettuce, rings of raw onion and/or gherkins and pickles. Choose cheeky chips as above instead of deep-fried ones, or have salad instead. Pro tip: try making your own burgers with very lean mince, turkey mince, or beans

The joyful juicy chicken wrap

Chicken Wrap
  • Why it’s “better”: more vitamins and less fat than the classic “unlucky fried chicken”
  • How to make it: grill strips of chicken rather than deep-frying (making sure each piece is cooked right through), roll up in a wholemeal wrap, chuck in chargrilled peppers, salad leaves, a few crunchy seeds and some Cajun seasoning. Pro tip: reduce leakage by folding the bottom of the wrap first

The health-conscious curry

Healthy Curry
  • Why it’s “better”: less fat than the average takeaway
  • How to make it: follow your favourite curry recipe but use lentils, chickpeas, mushrooms or vegetables instead of meat, fry ingredients in low-cal cooking spray, leave out ghee and oil, leave skins on potatoes, go for tomato-based sauces rather than cream, and serve with brown rice rather than white

The heart-healthy (and sheep-friendly) shepherd’s pie

Healthy Shepherds Pie
  • Why it’s “better”: more fibre than the meat version, but still plenty of protein – and cheaper too
  • How to make it: Replace mince with 1 can each of cannellini beans, flageolet beans and haricot beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes, add flavour with plenty of garlic, tomato puree, salt and pepper and mixed herbs, rake the mashed potato with a fork for crispiness and grill. Or you could do a half-and-half version with lean mince and lentils

The cheery chickpea crisp substitute

  • Why it’s “better”: more fibre more protein, and less fat than a family bag of standard crisps
  • How to make it: Drain a can of chickpeas, spread out over a roasting tray, sprinkle with curry powder and spritz with a low-cal cooking spray. Shake to cover all the chickpeas, then bake in a hot oven for a few minutes for a crispy, crunchy, tasty snack for 3-4 people

This article has been reviewed by Nicola Scott, registered Dietitian.

The splendid sugar swap-out

Sugar Swaps
  • Why it’s “better”: sweeten without blood sugar spikes
  • How to use it: Aim to reduce your taste for sweet things so you don’t need sugar OR sweetener – neither is a health food. While weaning off sugar, you can use granulated sweeteners instead of sugar in hot drinks, baking, cereals, sauces and pancakes, gradually using less and less

The fruity freeze

Frozen Berries
  • Why it’s “better”: more fibre and vitamins than traditional ice lollies
  • How to make it: Freeze whole small fruits like raspberries, grapes and blueberries, or chop larger fruit into chip-shapes and freeze on a tray so they don’t stick together. Eat like an ice lolly for an intense sweet hit with a bit of fibre thrown in, or use as ice cubes