Fact sheetDiet specifications

Published on 1 Oct 2016 ; Partial revision Apr 2021

Diabetes diet - diabetes

This document is part of the ACI Diet Specifications for Adult Inpatients. It is not to be used for patient education.


To provide a diet that optimises blood glucose and lipid levels in patients with diabetes where carbohydrate portion control is specified.


Ensures a set range of carbohydrate at each meal and mid-meal (30–75g per main meal; 15–30g per mid-meal). Reduced saturated fat (<7% energy from saturated fat), added sugar and sodium. Moderate fat. Includes one low glycaemic-index food (GI ≤55) at each meal.


Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and steroid induced Diabetes Mellitus. This diet is appropriate for patients on insulin pump therapy, however carbohydrate amounts of main meals and snacks can vary.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and diabetes in pregnancy – see separate specification, Diabetes in pregnancy.

Nutritional adequacy

Nutritionally inadequate.


It is appropriate to serve patients with diabetes from regular unrestricted menus, with consistent amounts of carbohydrate at meals and snacks. Special sugar-free and diabetic foods are not required.

The energy level and carbohydrate distribution will be individually determined by the dietitian, but a typical meal plan would include the following number of 15g carbohydrate portions per meal (and is inclusive of all meal items).

Meal15 portions per meal
Breakfast 2-5
Morning tea1-2
Afternoon tea1-2

Default mid-meals should provide one carbohydrate portion (e.g. half sandwich or two portion-control plain biscuits).


Suitable for use in paediatrics when combined with an age-appropriate diet.

Specific menu planning guidelines

 Allowed Not allowed
Hot main dishes

Main dishes ≤15g fat, ≤5g saturated fat, ≤45g carbohydrate and ≤15g added sugar per serve

Lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs

Soy products, e.g. tofu, textured vegetable protein (TVP)

Cooked legumes

Fatty meat (e.g. bacon, sausages, hamburger mince), offal

Deep-fried and shallow fried meals

Sauces, gravies

Sauces and gravies with <1.5g saturated fat and <15g carbohydrate per serve

Cranberry and mint sauces in small amounts

Cream-based sauces
Starchy vegetables / pasta / rice

Dishes with <1.5g saturated fat per serve

Dishes prepared with small amounts of mono or polyunsaturated oil (e.g. mashed and steamed potato, sweet potato)

Use low-GI rice (e.g. basmati or doongara) if possible (see GI website for full list)

Dishes with >1.5g saturated fat

<1.0g saturated fat per serve

Plain steamed or boiled vegetables

Vegetables prepared with small amounts of mono or polyunsaturated oil

Vegetables with >1.0g saturated fat per serve
Soups Low-fat soups (≤5g fat and ≤1.5g saturated fat per serve) Soups made with cream or full fat milk

≤15g fat and ≤5g saturated fat per serve

Preferably made with monounsaturated margarine, but polyunsaturated also allowed

Salads, dressings

All salads ≤15g fat and ≤5g saturated fat

Low-joule dressings, or dressings made with mono or polyunsaturated oils

Cream or full-fat dressings or mayonnaise
Breads, cereals

Wholegrain / wholemeal breads (preferably grainy low-GI breads) are default

White bread may also be available

Higher-fibre breakfast cereals only (e.g. rolled oats, muesli, bran cereals, Guardian®, wheat biscuits)

At least two low-GI cereal choices per breakfast (see GI website for full list)

Highly sugared breakfast cereals (>30% sugar, unless primarily from added fruit)

Sweet breads


Jam, yeast spread, honey, peanut butter (1 portion control unit per meal in addition to margarine)

Preferably monounsaturated margarines, oils or mayonnaise, but polyunsaturated also allowed

Saturated fats (e.g. butter, shortening, lard, cooking margarine)
Hot breakfast choices

Hot breakfast items with <3g saturated fat per serve for example boiled, poached or scrambled egg and omelettes

Mushrooms, baked beans, tomatoes

Fried egg, fatty bacon, sausages

Hash browns



Fresh, frozen or unsweetened canned fruit in natural juice or light syrup

Dried fruit <15g carbohydrate per serve

Fruit canned in syrup
Yoghurt Yoghurts with <5g saturated fat and <30g carbohydrate per serve All other yoghurts

Desserts with ≤2g/serve saturated fat and ≤30g carbohydrate per serve

Low-fat ice-cream and diet jelly

Low-fat custard and creamy rice

Tapioca, sago

Full-fat ice-cream

High-fat and sugar pastries and pies

Regular jelly and jellied fruit

Milk and cheese

All milks (unsweetened) for tea, coffee and cereal only

Low fat cheese (e.g. ricotta and cottage cheeses)

Hard cheese <5g fat per serve

Full-fat cheeses and cheese spreads

Full fat milk drinks


Water, low-fat milk, tea, coffee, low-joule soft drinks or cordial, plain mineral water

Fruit juice without added sugar (maximum 1 serve per day)

Regular soft drinks and cordial, flavoured mineral water, alcoholic drinks, full fat milk drinks

Plain low fat biscuits and crackers with ≤2g saturated fat per serve (e.g. Granita™, Shredded Wheatmeal™, Milk Coffee™, Milk Arrowroot™) – maximum 2 serves per day

Cream or chocolate biscuits

All herbs and spices; nuts

Artificial sweeteners

1 sugar sachet at breakfast

Salt (maximum 1 sachet per meal)



Potato crisps, chocolate

Celebratory Foods/
Special Occasions

20g chocolate easter eggs on Easter Sunday


  1. American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes – 2016 Abridged for Primary Care Providers. Clinical Diabetes. 2016;34(1):3-21.
  2. Glycemic Index Foundation, University of Sydney. The GI Index and GI database. [accessed 12 October 2015].
  3. Dietitians Association of Australia. Nutrition manual. 9th ed. Canberra: DAA; 2014

Change log

Change date Section updatedChange
April 2021 Title of Specification Title changed from Diabetic diet - diabetes in pregnancy to Diabetes diets - diabetes in pregnancy
September 2022 Specific menu planning guidelines Created a new food group row under Miscellaneous, titled Celebratory Foods / Special Occasions
September 2022 Specific menu planning guidelines -
Celebratory Foods / Special Occasions
In Allowed, added 20g chocolate easter eggs on Easter Sunday
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