You’ve just found out that you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But you don’t have it yet.

That’s the really good news. It means that you now have the chance to make changes that can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. On this page you will learn how to reduce your risk.

More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed

Take action now and it will make all the difference to your health in the years ahead.


Where to Start

You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by:

Simple, right? We know it’s not that simple and we’re here to help you get started. Most people know they need to make changes, but what can be difficult is knowing how to do it – especially long-lasting changes.

Remember, if you enjoy something, you’re more likely to stick to it.

Here are some tips to get you inspired:

“I’ve always felt diabetes was inevitable for me and I’m learning that I have a say in this by the lifestyle choices I make. My goal is to fundraise and help Diabetes UK help others realise the same, so I started by taking part in Swim22.”

Tracy, who has a family history of type 2 diabetes

Get support

Make the most of all the support and services available in your area. Ask your GP about:

  • a weight-loss programme or group – use our Know Your Risk tool to find out if you’re eligible for a place on the Diabetes Prevention Programme, Healthier You.
  • a registered dietitian or exercise specialist
  • a type 2 diabetes prevention programme
  • other local services to help you move more and eat better.

It can also help to talk to family and friends – ask them to get involved too. It will help if they understand what you’re doing and why it’s so important. Plus, eating better and moving more is good for everyone, so you can do this together.

Eating Well

Portion sizes and diabetes

It isn’t always easy to get portion sizes right, and it can make managing your weight and blood glucose levels more difficult. Whether you’ve got Type 1 or Type 2, it’s good to stay clued up on carb portion sizes. We’ve created a guide with some tips and tricks to help you along the way.

Getting your portion sizes right

Using everyday items and household utensils to get your portion sizes right can be really useful. It’s an easy way to visualise what a portion should look like.

We’ve produced portion-size guides for popular foods from the five food groups that help to make up a healthy, balanced diet.

Remember, everybody’s needs are different so the number of portion sizes you need is individual – and your weight, gender, body composition and activity levels all make a difference. Your dietitian will be able to advise you on the amount of portions that are right for you.

Starchy food

Includes rice, pasta, bread and chapattis for energy. Choose wholegrain where possible. One portion is:

  • Cooked rice = 2 heaped tablespoons
  • Half a jacket potato = 1 computer mouse
  • Breakfast cereal = 3 tablespoons
  • Boiled pasta or cooked noodles = 3 heaped tablespoons

Dairy food

Includes milk, cheese and yoghurt for calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth. One portion is:

  • Semi or skimmed milk = one medium glass (200ml or 1/3 pint)
  • Hard cheese = small matchbox (30g)
  • Reduced or low-fat cream cheese = two small matchboxes (60g)
  • Low-sugar, low-fat fromage frais/yoghurt = 125g pot

Meat, fish, eggs, pulses, beans and nuts

These foods are high in protein, essential to build and replace muscle. One portion is:

  • Cooked lean meat (eg chicken, beef or pork) = deck of playing cards (60–90g)
  • Beans and pulses (eg red kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas or lentils) = 4 tablespoons
  • Nuts or peanut butter (unsalted) = golf ball (2 level tablespoons)
  • Quorn, tofu or soya = snooker ball (120g)


Provides you with important vitamins, minerals and fibre that help protect you against stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers. Part of your five-a-day plan. One portion is:

  • One handful of grapes
  • One small glass (150ml) of fruit juice (limit to one portion a day)
  • Two small satsumas, clementines or tangerines
  • Two medium plums
  • Two tinned pineapple rings or 12 chunks in natural juice
  • One heaped tbsp raisins, sultanas, currants or dried cranberries
  • Seven strawberries


An important source of fibre, minerals and vitamins, and an important part of any five-a-day plan. One portion is:

  • Three heaped tablespoons cooked veg (eg carrots, peas, sweetcorn, mixed veg)
  • One medium onion
  • One large sweet potato
  • Two broccoli spears
  • One heaped tablespoon tomato purée
  • One piece of cucumber (5cm)
  • Four large mushrooms or 14 button mushrooms
  • Three heaped tablespoons beans or pulses (eg kidney beans, chickpeas or lentils)

Foods high in fat and sugar

You can enjoy foods from this group as an occasional treat, but they will add extra calories so it’s best to keep them to a minimum, especially if you are trying to lose weight. One portion is:

  • Butter/margarine = one dice (5g)
  • Low fat spread = two dice (10g)
  • Unsaturated oil (eg sunflower, rapeseed, olive oil) = 1 teaspoon
  • Chocolate = one fun size bar

Top tips for managing portion sizes

  • Use smaller plates and bowls to help make your portion sizes look bigger.
  • Weigh food if you find it hard to gauge portion sizes. Foods like muesli, pasta and rice can be difficult to get right at first, so try using the same container to measure out certain foods.
  • Be mindful of what you’re eating. It takes about 20 minutes before your brain registers that you’re full, so eat slowly, putting your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls.
  • Download My weight-loss planner (PDF, 534KB) as a way to monitor the food you’re eating, including portion size.

Moving more

Spending less time sitting down and more time being active is key to preventing type 2 diabetes.

It could be a brisk walk around the park, playing a sport in the garden, or doing an online exercise class. Or it could be getting up from your seat and doing more around the house, such as vacuuming and tidying. Even moving a little more makes a big difference.

Moving more each day will help you lose weight and help to maintain a healthy weight. This is so important as carrying extra weight is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Moving more will also help you to:

  • reduce your waist size
  • reduce blood pressure
  • improve your mood
  • manage stress and help you sleep.

How much activity?

he government recommends that adults should be active at moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week. You may find it easier to break this down to 30 minutes, five days a week. For vigorous activity, the recommendation is at least 75 minutes per week. This could be broken down to 15 minutes, five days per week if it helps.

  • Moderate activity means your breathing is increased, but you’re still able to talk. It’s things like walking quickly, cycling on flat ground a swim if you’re able or a gentle online exercise class. Join the Movement has a timetable of daily online classes to suit all levels.
  • Vigorous activity means your breathing is fast and you have difficulty talking. You might even work up a sweat! It’s things like running, HIIT workouts, cycling fast or up hills, or fast swimming.

We know this can be a big challenge. So, break the time into smaller chunks and build up to this amount. Walking can be a great way to start and it’s something you can build into your everyday routine – it’s also free.

Think about taking the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus a stop earlier, or join a walking group online.


Here’s some exercises you can do to get active:

Get active with moderate exercises

Get active with vigorous exercise

Improve muscle strength

Where to start?

Being more active doesn’t mean having to sign up for a gym membership and buying lots of expensive new gear. Being more active can involve making small changes that fit with your everyday life – as well as your budget.

Follow our three top tips to help make your life more active:

  1. Set yourself clear goals

Setting goals can help you break down what you need to do and how to do it. Keep an activity diary to see how active you are and use it to gradually increase your activity levels. Our action plan can help you set some goals. If you have a smart watch apps such as FitBit can help you stay motivated and in control of healthy habits.

  1. Plan ahead

We all have busy lives, so try to plan what activity you’re going to do this week and fit it around your social life. You could fit something in during your lunch hour or go for a walk to catch up with friends.

It’s a good idea to think about anything that might stop you from doing what you’ve planned, like bad weather, and having plan B ready just in case.

  1. Start by making small changes

It’s time to put your plan into action. Start small and do something you enjoy. Doing just a little bit more each day will still make a difference. It also means you’re more likely to stick to it and the change won’t be such a shock to your daily routine.

Each healthy choice you make is helping you to achieve your goal. If you find it hard, don’t give up – start again tomorrow.

Get support

You’re not alone in this. Ask at your GP surgery about local services to help you move more. Here are some handy tools to help you get moving:

  • Get running in no time with the Couch to 5K app.
  • Download the NHS’s Better Health app for a huge range of ideas and resources to get you moving more.
  • Don’t have much time? Even 10 minutes of brisk walking can make a big difference to your health – get started with Active 10.

Getting active with others, such as friends or family, can often give you that extra bit of motivation you need. Raising money for a brilliant cause can also help keep you going with your fitness goals. Why not combine both of these things by signing up for one of our fundraising events such as UK Wide Cycle Ride or Swim22?

Getting support to lose weight if you need to.

diabetes risk and waist measurement

You might be wondering what waist measurement has to do with your risk of type 2 diabetes. Or what a healthy waist size is.

Why is your waist size important?

Carrying extra weight around your middle means fat can build up around organs, like your liver and pancreas. This can cause something called insulin resistance as the insulin can’t get through the fat. This means the insulin your body produces doesn’t work properly, and that increases your chance of having high blood glucose (sugar).

You should make sure your overall weight and body mass index (BMI) are healthy, but even if they are, you may still be at risk of type 2 diabetes if you have a large waist measurement.

What is a healthy waist size?

This all depends on your gender and ethnicity. For a healthy measurement you need to aim to be less than:

  • 80cm (31.5in) for all women
  • 94cm (37in) for most men
  • 90cm (35in) for South Asian men.

This is because you have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you are of black or South Asian background. We have lots of information on your risk of diabetes, and what you can do to reduce it.

How to reduce your waist measurement

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes when it comes to reducing your waist size. It comes down to eating well and moving more. Start by setting some realistic, achievable changes to suit your lifestyle.

You can become more active by making small changes to your lifestyle. You can fit them around your daily life and in your budget. Here are three top tips to help make your life more active:

  1. Set clear goals to move more – setting goals can help you break down what you need to do and how to do it. This could be aiming to walk more, taking up a new activity or learning a new skill such as swimming or running.
  2. Plan ahead – we all have busy lives, so try to plan what you’re going to eat and what activity you’re going to do this week, fitting it around your social life. You can always squeeze in an activity during your lunch hour or go for walk instead of getting another form of transport.
  3. Start by making small changes – it’s time to put your plan into action. Start small and do something you enjoy. Doing just a little bit more each day will still make a difference. It also means you’re more likely to stick to it. Just remember, small changes to your routine won’t have such a big impact, so start small and grow.

Weight-loss planner

“I keep a daily diary and log my weight and activity. It keeps me accountable and focused.”

Edward Morrison, who lost over four stone – read his story.

You can download My weight-loss planner (PDF, 534KB) to set goals and track your progress. By putting a plan in place and noting down your progess, you’ll be able to see the positive changes you’re making.

We have lots more information on living a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk of diabetes, and you can always speak to us if you need some help.

You can also find out more about your risk of diabetes using our know your risk tool.

Get support

You’re not alone in this. We all need a helping hand from time to time and the good news is, there’s support out there.

Talk to your GP about local services to help you move more and eat well. And tell your family and friends about your action plan – you could even get them to join in. Doing it with someone else can help you both stay motivated.


We would like to acknowledge that in putting this information packs together we have used resources from Diabetes UK.