Meal Planning for Diabetics

Image of person placing salad on plate

Balancing Food and Insulin

Just because you’re a diabetic doesn’t mean you have to buy special foods. Instead, the goal is simply to balance food and insulin (or other diabetes medications) so your blood sugars will be in your target range. By creating a flexible meal plan you can still include many foods that you enjoy.

“With my patients I focus on a general, healthy diet that can work for anyone,” said diabetes educator, Jessica Heckman, RD, CDE. “It’s all about balance and we just specify the amount of carbohydrates you should have. A simple way to meal plan would be to start with the plate method which includes a quarter plate protein, a quarter plate carbohydrates, and half plate of non-starchy vegetables.”

Other tips for eating healthy with diabetes include:

Watch serving sizes
Your meal plan will group foods by servings. To learn how much a serving is, start by measuring food portions at each meal. Soon you’ll know what a serving looks like on your plate.

Eat from all the food groups
The basis of a healthy meal plan is variety. Choose lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Eating a wide variety of foods provides the nutrients your body needs. It can also keep you from getting bored with your meal plan.

Learn about carbohydrates, fats, and protein
Carbohydrates are starches, sugars, and fiber. They are found in many foods, including fruit, bread, pasta, milk, and sweets. Of all the foods you eat, carbohydrates have the most effect on your blood sugar. Fats have the most calories. They also have the most effect on your weight and your risk of heart disease. Foods that are high in fat include whole milk, cheese, snack foods, and desserts. Protein is important for building and repairing muscles and bones. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, egg whites, and skinless chicken.

Reduce liquid sugars
Extra calories from sodas, sports drinks, and fruit drinks make it hard to keep blood sugar in range. Cut as many liquid sugars from your meal plan as you can. This includes most fruit juices, which are often high in natural or added sugar. Instead, drink plenty of water and other sugar-free beverages.

Eat less fat
If you need to lose weight, try to reduce the amount of fat in your diet. This can also help lower your cholesterol level to keep blood vessels healthier. Cut fat by using only small amounts of liquid oil for cooking. Read food labels carefully to avoid foods with unhealthy trans fats.

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