Diabetes is one of the most common health problems in the UK, affecting over 2.5 million people. And, as we age, the more likely we are to get it. But the good news is, by making some simple diet and lifestyle changes you can reduce your risk – without missing out on your favourite meals.

Diabetes is caused when your body stops being able to produce insulin – a natural chemical that helps glucose move from your blood into your body cells, which then convert it into energy. There are two different types, with Type 2 being the most common, particularly among older people. Fortunately, unlike Type 1 diabetes, which cannot be prevented (and usually affects children or young adults), Type 2 diabetes is tied to conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity, which may be avoided by following a healthy lifestyle.

You’re more likely to develop diabetes from the age of 40 if you’re from a Caucasian background, and from the age of 25 if you’re from an African-Caribbean, Chinese or South Asian background. It’s never too early (or too late) to look after your body – and everything you do adds up to lower your risk. Here are our three top tips for making small changes to reduce your chance of getting diabetes in later life.

1. A little exercise goes a long way

Many of us spend too much time sitting, and not enough time being active. This can lead to becoming overweight, which increases your chances of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. One of the simplest ways to see if your size means you’re at risk is to measure your waist. Diabetes UK advises that people with the following measurements should think about losing weight:

  • All women with a waist circumference of over 31.5 inches (80cm)
  • Caucasian men with a waist circumference of over 37 inches (94 cm)
  • African-Caribbean, Chinese and South Asian men with a waist circumference of over 35 inches (90 cm).

When it comes to exercise, any amount you do is better than none at all. If you can, try to walk short distances instead of driving, and take the stairs instead of the lift. You could also think about taking up low impact activities such as swimming, or finding stretches and exercises you can do at home. If you’re thinking of taking up a more intensive exercise like jogging or running, make sure you have training shoes that support your joints.

2. An apple a day...

Along with moving more, making sure your diet is full of healthy ingredients like fruit and vegetables, and low in saturated fat and sugar is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. A balanced diet should include at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, along with carbs such as bread, rice, pasta or potatoes for energy, and small amounts of cheese, milk, meat and fish. To really give your health a boost, try to swap high fat meats such as beef for leaner types such as poultry for some of your meals, and eat nutrient-rich oily fish such as mackerel or salmon twice a week.

3. Have a stock of easy to make, healthy meals to hand

One reason why diabetes is becoming more common is that it’s easy and tempting to fill up on tasty but unhealthy snacks like crisps and cakes. And you might choose unhealthy fast food over cooking from scratch. These choices tend to be high in sugar, which can lead to weight gain, or salt, which can cause high blood pressure – both of which make developing diabetes more likely.

Swap unhealthy snacks for fruit – whether fresh, tinned or dried – or nuts, which are packed with healthy fats, fibre and essential nutrients. And, if you don’t feel like, or feel up to, cooking every evening, keeping a stock of our home delivered ready meals in the freezer means you can enjoy a wholesome meal without the effort.

Thanks to our wide choice of high quality ready meals, following a nutritious diet needn’t be dull or difficult. Many of our recipes are low fat, low salt and low sugar – making it simpler to enjoy healthier options without giving up your favourites. Just look out for our dietary symbols as you browse our brochure, or use our Free From Lists to plan a menu of delicious meals, from British classics to world favourites.

If you’d like to know more about our dishes for special diets, or have any questions about our range, get in touch with us on 0333 370 6700. We’ll be happy to help.