Diabetes Week - a healthy approach to sugar

Here’s some advice from our Dietician Philippa Spence for National Diabetes Week from July 14-21 – including a yummy recipe for the days when you need a sweet treat but don’t want to eat something that will put your sugar levels into overdrive.

The week is run by Diabetes Australia, which strives for a future where diabetes can do no harm. Over 5 per cent of the population in Australia has diabetes. People are born with Type 1 diabetes, but the challenge is to educate people on how to try to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes.

Philippa says both conditions are where sugars in the blood are no longer well controlled by the body. “It is important to remember that there is very different management for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes as well as a variety of different management plans depending on the individual,” explains Philippa. “This may include diet, exercise, medication and insulin injections.”

So where are hidden sugars commonly lurking? Philippa says there are sugars in carbohydrate-containing foods that cause rises in blood sugar. These include breads, cereals, rice, pasta and oats. If you are going to have carbs, opt for wholegrain bread. Fruits and dairy such as milk and yoghurt also contain sugars. Then there are the added sugars such as sugar, honey and syrups.

“All sugars should be carefully spaced out across the day, avoiding too many at once that will cause a large spike in blood sugar,” says Philippa. “Working with a dietitian can help you tailor your eating habits to manage your diabetes most effectively.”

In general, Philippa suggests older people return to the back-to-basics diet that their grandmothers’ advocated. “Think homespun common-sense served with lean meats, fruit and veggies, and good fats like nuts, olive oil and avocados,” says Philippa. “Processed foods and lollies offer limited nutritional value – opt for oats, whole grained foods and nutritional basics, just like Grandma did back in her day.”

She sounds a word of caution. “It’s important to enjoy food too. After all, a lovely meal is one of life’s great joys.”

Diet is one part of staying well and healthy. Exercise and regular appointments with health physicians help you to ensure everything is ticking along nicely. Being connected and doing things you enjoy helps with mental health which in terms impacts our overall wellbeing. There is also more to the equation than just diet.

Speak to a Uniting AgeWell Care Advisor to get more information on services in your area.

Uniting AgeWell offers a range of services for those with diabetes, including podiatry and foot care, dentistry, physiotherapy and exercise physiology to help with walking. She advises using occupational therapists to prescribe aids and equipment. Then there are also one-on-one health services available to people in their own homes or at an AgeWell services. These services are also available to those in residential care.

You can also adjust your government-funded home care package to include assisted shopping - so you can get the freshest fruit and veggies around!

Zucchini Chocolate Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 2 eggs


  1. Line a baking tray (30 x 18cm) with baking paper. Heat oven to 180 degrees or 160 fan forced
  2. Add sugars to mixer and beat with oil to combine.
  3. Add eggs and beat until creamy
  4. Stir in flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and fold through.
  5. Add zucchini and stir through
  6. Pour into tray and cook 25 mins
  7. Allow to cool then slice. Great to freeze in portions and take out a piece when needed.