What should I consider when creating a diabetes meal plan?

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

The most important thing to consider is carbohydrate content of food that directly affects your blood glucose. Portion sizes and types of food are important to maintain a healthy weight and promote heart health. A registered dietitian can help you to create an individual diabetic meal plan prescribed to you based on your lifestyle, gender, age, height, goal weight, blood glucose and insulin goals and preferences.

Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

First consider creating a eating routine that includes small meals and snacks throughout the day. This is will help balance blood sugar levels. Second is to check in with your healthcare provider and registered dietitian about your weight status... if you need to lose weight, create a plan that will help you lose at least 10 percent of your body weight, the reduction in weight can help balance blood sugar levels out! And last but not least: work in exercise...which can help rev the metabolism to lose weight, all which will help your blood sugar control (check with your healthcare provider first)!

When creating a diabetes meal plan you should consider planning ahead. By planning ahead, people living with diabetes can provide healthy meals for friends and family without having to stress about what to fix for dinner.

Here are three simple meal-planning tips for people with diabetes:

  1. Plan to cook and eat at home often. While restaurants are becoming better at paying attention to nutritional information, people with diabetes have to be a little defensive when dining out, in particular due to the large portion sizes restaurants offer.
  2. Write down your meal plans. Think about your week ahead, your work schedule and the people you will share meals with. For example, if you're meeting friends on Tuesday evening, plan to cook a simple meal that night since you know you won't have much time. Or cook a little extra on Monday to have leftovers to eat on Tuesday.
  3. Prepare meals and ingredients ahead of time. Take some time on the weekend to prepare some meals and snacks for the week. Buy 3 to 5 pounds of chicken breasts at a time: a far greater quantity than you may need for one meal, but it eliminates multiple trips to the grocery store.

If you have diabetes, you are the most important person to consider when choosing a healthy meal plan. Your plan should reflect your goals, needs, tastes, and lifestyle. Your provider and dietitian may recommend certain goals, but you will be the one who chooses a meaningful and realistic plan.

Keep in mind that a healthy meal plan for you is a healthy meal plan for anyone—with or without diabetes. You don’t have to worry about following some strange diet involving weird foods that no one else in your family will want to touch. You can choose foods that will benefit everyone in your family. Often, family members will not even realize that they are eating a “diabetes meal plan.”

Your meal plan should make it easier—not harder—to manage your blood glucose: 

  • Include foods you like and that are important to you.
  • Take into account your daily activities and schedule.
  • Be flexible.
  • A plan should help you keep your blood glucose levels within your target range.
  • A plan should help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Choose foods that will help prevent diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.