Berries on bananas: Dietitians’ simple swaps to help prevent type 2 diabetes

The number of people with type 2 diabetes will rise from 529 million in 2021 to over 1.3 billion in 2050, according to two recent scientific papers.

Results published in The Lancet AND The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology newspapers on Thursday revealed the rising figures.

The increase, say the researchers, comes from a rise in obesity and health inequalities.

“These numbers are alarming as this will not only be physically and emotionally draining but also financially,” says Melanie Dsouza, a clinical dietitian at Aster Hospital Sharjah. “For our current generation, all kinds of food are just a click away, but we don’t realize the harm it is doing to our bodies.

“While type 2 diabetes can be managed with a balanced lifestyle, choosing to make changes early on can help prevent it altogether,” she adds.

Small changes, big impact

Dsouza offers four healthy exchanges that can lead to a better lifestyle.

1. Choose drinks like probiotics or homemade lemonades rather than sugary drinks from a can. Not only does this mean fewer calories, but it also helps improve gut health, which is important for better weight management and reducing or preventing insulin resistance.

2. Choose brown pizza over white pizza by using a whole-grain base topped with more veggies and protein sources like lean meat or tofu and minimal cheese.

3. Instead of adding heavy mayonnaise or excessive amounts of cheese to salads, opt for a lighter dressing like lemon and chili or lime, olives and balsamic vinegar.

4. Make a veggie frittata rather than a plain one, adding chopped bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach for extra fiber and antioxidants that are good for gut health and support immunity.

Better choices for better health

Replace the cheese sauce with guacamole.  Photo: Luis Cortes and Tessa Rampersad on Unsplash

Meanwhile, clinical dietitian Mitun de Sarkar, founder of Simply Healthy, a meal plan company in Dubai, offers the following breakfast, snack and main course replacement options.


  • Choose eggs instead of sugary cereals.
  • Put cinnamon instead of honey on your porridge.
  • If you can avoid fruit, replace it with nuts and seeds. Or take chia seeds or flax seeds instead of plain fruit. Of fruits, prefer berries to bananas and apples to mangoes. Greek yogurt is also better than fruit yogurt.
  • Choose steel cut oats instead of instant oats.


  • Munch on figs and prunes instead of biscuits.
  • Creamy, starchy soups can be substituted for a salad or crunchy stir-fried vegetables.
  • Vegetable sticks also go well with salsa and can replace unhealthy tortilla chips. When it comes to dips, go for guacamole over a cheesy option.

Main meals

  • Lean chicken breast instead of processed sausages, deli meats and bacon.
  • Brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Mashed beans and lentils instead of mashed potatoes.
  • Cottage cheese instead of sliced ​​processed cheese.
  • Millet flour instead of refined white flour.
  • Quinoa instead of couscous.

Dsouza echoes De Sarkar’s carbohydrate substitutes, adding: ‘Carbohydrates are an important part of our daily meals. While it is beneficial to consume them, focusing on portion control and carbohydrate choice brown rice, whole wheat pasta, millet etc. can help prevent diabetes effectively.”

“Mindful eating is another tactic,” she adds. “While choosing the right types of food is an important part of adopting a better lifestyle, pausing and loving the food we eat is another way to have better control over portion sizes.”

Finally, she adds that walking or being active after a meal “helps the body use glucose effectively,” which in turn helps control insulin sensitivity and aids in digestion.

“This small change in our routine could benefit us in the long run,” she adds.

Updated: June 25, 2023, 04:57am

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