Meal planning is a tool that can help you manage your diabetes, weight, blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and ensure that you get the nutrients that you need for overall good health. Use this eating plan for diabetes as a guide to help you get started, then work with a dietitian or diabetes educator to develop a meal plan that is right for you.
Building a Better Plate
Whether you’re new to diabetes or have had it for many years and need to get back on track, the Plate Method is an easy way to get started with meal planning and ensure that you and your family eat a variety of foods. The Diabetes Plate Method (see image above) is similar to the USDA MyPlate and is a tool that you and your family can use to plan healthy meals. Think of your plate divided into three sections—non-starchy vegetables, protein, and carbohydrate foods (grains and starchy vegetables). Be sure to use a 9” plate when building your plate.
- Fill one section with non-starchy vegetables: lettuce, broccoli, green beans, spinach, carrots or peppers.
- Fill one section with protein: chicken, turkey, fish, lean meat, eggs or tofu.
- Fill one section with a nutritious carbohydrate food: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, peas or corn. Controlling carbs helps you control your blood glucose.
- Include a small piece of fruit and/or a serving of low-fat milk or yogurt with each meal.
Healthy Eating Tips:
- Eat meals at about the same times each day. Try not to skip meals, especially if you take diabetes medicine that puts you at risk for low blood glucose.
- Eat about the same amount of carbohydrate foods (potatoes, pasta, cereal, bread, fruit, milk) at your meals each day.
- Choose foods that contain fiber more often, like whole-grain bread, beans, vegetables and fruit.
- Use unsaturated fats like olive and canola oil and cut back on saturated and trans fats.
- Compare food labels for sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals, and choose foods with less sodium.
Carbohydrate or “carb” counting is a way to plan meals and snacks to manage your diabetes. All carb foods affect your blood glucose, and there are carbs in many types of foods. Eating about the same amount of carb at each of your meals and snacks can help keep your blood glucose steady.
Each of the foods below is one carb choice and contains 15 grams of carb.
1 carb choice = 15 grams of carb
- 1 slice of bread or small roll ¾ cup dry cereal
- 1/3 cup cooked rice or pasta ½ cup beans, peas or corn 6 whole wheat crackers
- 1 small fruit
- 1/2 cup canned fruit or juice
- 1 cup nonfat or low-fat milk
- 3/4 cup light yogurt
- 1/2 cup light ice cream
- 2 small cookies
- 1 Tbsp. jam, honey or sugar
Reading a Food Label
- Find the serving size.
- Find the total carbohydrate grams per serving (1 carb choice = 15 grams of carbohydrate)
- Decide how many servings you’ll eat.
- Multiply the number of servings you’ll eat by the total carbohydrate grams per serving.
- Dietary fiber and sugars are part of “total carbohydrate.”
How Many Carbs Should I Eat?
Until you see a dietitian to create your own “custom” meal plan, aim to keep the amount of carb you eat about the same at each meal.
- Make an appointment with a dietitian to create you own “custom” meal plan.
- Aim to keep the amount of carb you eat about the same at each meal.
- Be sure to read food labels for serving size and total grams of carbohydrate.
- Breakfast: Aim for 30–45 grams of carb. Include a healthy protein food like an egg.
- Lunch and Dinner: Eat 3–4 carb choices (45–60 grams of carb). Include fruit and non-starchy vegetables. Choose small portions of healthy protein foods.
- Snack: If needed, eat 1-2 carb choices (15-30 grams of carb).
Losing a small amount of weight, if you need to, can lead to big health benefits, such as lowering your risk of getting type 2 diabetes or heart disease. And if you have diabetes, losing weight can help you better manage your blood glucose.
Tips for Getting Started with Weight Loss
- Be ready to start. Success is linked with your feeling confident and having a clear plan. Set realistic goals.
- Get support. Meet with a dietitian, join a support group or sign up for a local weight-loss program in your community.
- Focus on forming healthy eating habits. Eat regular meals and snacks.
- Find ways to fit activity into your day.
- Check your progress by keeping food records, wearing a pedometer and weighing yourself regularly.
Dining Out With Diabetes
You can still dine out when you have diabetes. Use these tips to make better choices when eating away from home.
- Do your homework. Check out the menu ahead of time and decide what you’ll order. Look for nutrition information on the restaurant’s website.
- Share an entrée with your spouse or friend.
- Ask that sauces and dressings be served on the side.
- Order broiled, roasted, grilled or poached foods instead of fried.
- If you drink alcohol, check with a dietitian or diabetes educator to learn how to fit alcohol safely into your eating plan.
Five Ways to Boost Your Fiber Intake
Fiber is good for you in more ways than one. Higher fiber foods take longer to chew, giving your body time to realize it’s full. Also, higher fiber foods tend to be more filling—so that you might end up eating less! If you’re a woman, aim for at least 25 grams per day; if you’re a man, aim for at least 38 grams per day. Here are tips to increase fiber:
- Kick off your day by eating a bowl of high-fiber cereal for breakfast.
- Stir fresh or frozen berries into low-fat yogurt for a tasty snack.
- Choose breads, cereals and crackers with a whole grain listed as the first ingredient.
- Try a meatless meal at least once a week, such as lentil soup, bean burritos, or vegetarian chili.
- Include a fruit and/or vegetable with each of your meals.
Think Smaller Servings
Simply put, people need to be portion aware, and most need to eat less. Use your hand as a guide. The palm of your hand is equal to about 3-4 ounces of protein. A fist is about 1 cup. Your whole thumb is about 1 tablespoon, and the tip of your thumb to the first joint is 1 teaspoon.
Your Next Steps
Often, the hardest part about eating healthfully is getting started. To keep things easy, try not to make too many changes at once. Use the checklist below to get you started on your way to healthy eating with diabetes!
- Try planning your meals ahead of time.
- Shop from a list to make it easier to remember to buy healthier foods.
- Shop the perimeter, or outer sections, of the store, where produce, dairy and meat/poultry/fish are located.
- Involve your family in preparing—and eating—healthy meals together.
- Keep your fridge and cupboard stocked with healthy snacks, like fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, yogurt, and whole-grain crackers.
Try out this Savory Firecracker Chicken Stir-Fry recipe for a low-calorie main dish that provides vegetables, grain and protein all in one, and red pepper that provides a good source of vitamin C.
You Can Still Have Great Taste and Eat Well!
The Healthy Living Center offers recipes developed jointly by food experts and registered dietitians in the Kraft Heinz Kitchens. Find recipes for everyday enjoyment as well as special occasions, along with helpful information and tips. Refer to the nutrition facts listed for each recipe to see how it can fit into your eating plan.