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Can Diabetics Eat Jamaican Food?

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jamaican_jerk_chicken_meal.jpgCan Diabetics Eat Jamaican Food?

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

The leading cause of illnesses in Jamaica is non-communicable diseases, one of which is Diabetes.

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How common is diabetes in Jamaica?

In every 8 people, it is a possibility that at least one has diabetes in Jamaica. Approximately 11.9% of Jamaicans most of which are women suffer from Diabetes due to lifestyle choices. While it is often seen in older Jamaicans, the average age range for diabetics in Jamaica starts at 15.

For anyone travelling and has health issues, it is always necessary to figure out how easy it will be to navigate these concerns and how much preparation will be needed.

The good thing is, for most resorts, if you make it known that you are diabetic or have any other dietary concerns they will do their best to accommodate you if there isnโ€™t already something in place.

Most ask that you make this known before you vacation just in case additional preparation is needed on their end.

If you are travelling with children who are diabetics, the Franklyn D. Resort is a great ally. They do an excellent job of catering to large families and guests with special needs, whatever those needs might be.

If you decide to stay at a villa or Airbnb, you would hold the reigns over what is prepared as you would be the one to make the purchases. If it is a staffed villa, which often includes someone doing the shop for you, they would still ask for a quite detailed list of items you need.

Simply put, you would already know exactly what to purchase and it is somewhat easy to find diabetic-friendly ingredients or alternatives here, even if it isnโ€™t always the brands you are used to.

Can Diabetics Eat Jamaican Food?

You can try some dishes from our cuisine, but some might be best avoided. You wonโ€™t feel left out though as many of our dishes are either already diabetic-friendly or can be altered to fit the diabetic diet.

Grilled meats are always a plus and in Jamaica today, we put just about anything on a Jerk pan. From Jerk pork and chicken to seafood and vegetables you are in for a delicious quarter or pound wrapped in foil or a clamshell box.

I would say, you may have to avoid the spicy Jerk sauce though as it can often have hidden sugars.

The Jamaican diet is heavy on starch so portion control is important. What we call ground provision or โ€œfoodโ€, is a meal made up of green bananas, yam, sweet potatoes, cassava, other tubers and boiled dumplings. Again, you might be able to try some of these but I cannot overemphasize the importance of portion control.

Maybe a full plate of the go-to rice and peas with fried chicken, oxtail or curried goat is not the best option for you.

But, if you switch the rice and peas for a mix of green leafy vegetables and reduce the portions of meat then you are likely to be ok.

I mentioned portion moderation before, this is a simple method you can apply when plating your meals:

  • Divide your plate into three parts (a half and two quarters)
  • Fill half the plate with non-starchy vegetables
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with protein
  • Fill the last quarter with starchy food items such as brown rice, yam and banana;
  • Include healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil
  • Add a serving of fruit or low-fat dairy


Diabetics can drink rum, but it is not advised to drink excessively; just like we all should, moderation must be practised. It is common especially at resorts to have brightly coloured, heavily inebriated cocktails, but you may also need to be careful here.

Jamaican cocktails are almost always fruit based and even though it is most likely natural fruit juice, fruits still have sugars which may affect persons with certain health conditions like diabetes. Be sure to tell your bartender that you may need an altered cocktail.

Pre-packaged and Processed Foods

Pre-packaged and processed foods are usually the culprits for unhealthy fats including saturated fat, trans fats, sodium and added sugars. These should be avoided as much as possible and if you are in Jamaica, there is a healthier alternative somewhere.

Ital Foods

Rastafarian cuisine is always a safe bet if you plan on being on the road a lot. Due to Religious convictions, Rastafarians do not use processed foods including salt nor meat or any by-products of it. You will experience some of the most delicious food, and the taste wonโ€™t be a constant reminder that you are eating healthily.

Jamaican Dishes that are Diabetic Friendly

jamaican_escoveitched_fishJamaican Escovitch Fish
  • Green Vegetable Salads
  • Jerk Meats
  • Grilled Seafood
  • Ital Soups and other ital dishes
  • Escovitch Fish
  • Steamed Fish

You will have even more say-so on your steamed fish if it is done to order. Places like Little Ochi in St. Elizabeth allow you to choose everything right from the fish to how it is prepared.

Don't forget to pack whatever medication youโ€™ll need on vacation and remember to let your resort know your dietary concerns. That done, you should be in for a fantastic vacation.

Unsure of what else to bring? Here are the must-haves when heading to Jamaica.

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Return to Gluten Free Diet In Jamaica from Can Diabetics Eat Jamaican Food?
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References & Sources For Can Diabetics Eat Jamaican Food?

  1. The diabetic diet (2016) Food | Jamaica Gleaner. Available at: (Accessed: October 29, 2022).
  2. Katherine (2022) Traveling with diabetes: How to prepare and pack to enjoy your trip to the fullest, With Diabetes in Mind. Available at: (Accessed: October 29, 2022).
  3. Richards, A. (2021) Some foods to eat and avoid if diabetic: Loop Jamaica, Loop News. Loop News. Available at: (Accessed: October 29, 2022).
  4. Rose, S. (2021) Meal planning for diabetics, Jamaica Observer. Jamaica Observer. Available at: (Accessed: October 29, 2022).

Can Diabetics Eat Jamaican Food? | Written: October 29, 2022

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