3 Steps to Successful Diabetes Meal Planning

ByRebecca WojnoApr. 17, 2019
If you have diabetes, careful planning means you can enjoy your meals
There are many complexities and potential questions that come with a diabetes diagnosis. Among them? “So, what can I eat?” The good news is, the disease is manageable with the right tools and nutrients.

A person with type 1 diabetes doesn’t produce insulin at all, while a person with type 2 doesn’t make enough, so when you have the condition, you know that choosing foods that can either stabilize or lower your blood sugar is essential to maintaining a healthy body. Check out the following 3 steps to developing a successful diabetes meal plan. 

Step 1: Become Familiar With Which Foods to Eat and Those to Avoid

The items in your grocery cart may depend on which type of diabetes you have. If you’re type 1, you’ll want to include some form of healthy carbohydrates in your meal to help regulate insulin levels (fruits, vegetables, whole grains without added sugars or saturated fats). With a regular insulin regime, as long as you’re keeping up with a balanced diet, the eating ‘rules’ aren’t as strict as they once were. Just remember to adjust the amount of carbohydrates if you plan on indulging in junk food or a treat during the day. 

With type 2, pick items from all the food groups, focus on consuming fewer calories, aim for the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal, and choose healthy fats. Above all, aim for a diet filled with leafy greens, eggs, canned tuna in water, nuts, beans, legumes, and skinless chicken and turkey. If you need to lower your blood sugar quickly, opt for fruits, insoluble fiber, such as whole grains, and soluble fiber, which is found in dried peas, beans, and oats.

Step 2: Plan your Meals

Anyone could benefit from meal planning, though the weekly/monthly habit may feel especially helpful for those with diabetes. If you have a packed schedule and/or a family to take care, time for picking recipes and going grocery shopping is limited. 

Luckily, we don’t have to forgo health for convenience. You can choose a diabetic meal delivery plan to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients and sugars you need to feel your absolute best. 

Meal plans can also effectively and effortlessly manage your weight, allowing you to focus instead on other tasks. From Sun Basket to Plated, we looked into the top 10 diabetic meal delivery services to make healthy eating a no brainer.

Step 3: Plate Your Food 

Though a diabetic meal plan largely entails making sure you’re eating healthy proteins, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit, it’s also important to consider serving sizes. When preparing your meal, use the plate method to guide you on the correct servings and nutrients. The Mayo Clinic suggests diabetics divvy up your portions in the following way:

  • Dedicate half of the plate to non-starchy vegetables like tomatoes, leafy greens, spinach, or carrots.

  • Fill in a quarter portion with healthy protein (chicken, tuna, lean pork, etc).

  • The last section should consist of brown rice or other whole grain items.

  • Make sure you’re also including good fats like avocados or nuts. Just be mindful of the portion sizes and don’t overindulge.

  • Add in a serving of dairy or fruit to complete the meal and stick to either water or unsweetened coffee or tea to sip on.

The plate method is one of the most popular approaches to meal planning, but you could also maintain your diet by carbohydrate counting. First, it’s important to know which foods contain carbohydrates. Among them: grains, rice, fruits, milk, yogurt, peas, cakes, candy, sports drinks, potatoes, corn, peas, etc. 

Once you have a handle on the nutrient value of different foods, you’ll need to learn how to estimate the number of grams of carbohydrate, and then add up the number for each food to get your total amount for the day. 

Dietitians recommend spreading out your carbohydrates during the day, though the amount will vary depending on the person and how many calories they need to consume. As one gram of carbohydrate is about 4 calories, so divide the number of calories you want to get from carbohydrates by 4 to get the number of grams. 

If you want to consume 1,800 calories per day, with 45% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, you’d want to have around 200 grams of carbohydrate each day. Here’s the calculation:

0.45 x 1,800 calories = 810 calories

810 ÷ 4 = 202.5 grams of carbohydrate


What to Remember

One of the most important things to remember when following a diabetic diet plan is not to skip meals. For some people, eating 6 times a day is essential to regulate glucose, but for others, it leads to elevated levels and does more harm than good. 

Choose plenty of greens, healthy proteins, and whole grains, also giving yourself enough flexibility with counting your carbohydrates if you indulge in a sweet during the day. With some practice and dedication, anyone with diabetes can live a well-balanced, full life.