If you have type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes—eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is critical to controlling your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. By creating a meal plan tailored to your personal preferences and lifestyle, you'll be able to enjoy the foods you love while minimizing complications and reducing further risk.
Creating a Diabetes Meal Plan
There isn't a one-size-fits-all diabetes meal plan. It's important to work with your health care team to create a meal plan that fits with your schedule and eating habits, while effectively managing your diabetes. Some methods recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) include controlling portions and counting carbohydrates. The ADA recommends utilizing the Glycemic Index (GI) for "fine-tuning" carbohydrate counting.
The Plate Method
This method is fast and easy and doesn't require any special tools or counting. It focuses on portion sizes, more non-starchy vegetables and high-fiber foods, and less starchy foods and meats. To create your plate, follow these steps:
1. Draw an imaginary line down the middle of your plate.
Then divide your plate into three sections or use a plate or container with the sections already built in.
2. Fill the largest section of the plate with non-starchy vegetables.
- Bok choy
- Green beans
3. In one of the smaller sections, put starchy foods.
- Whole grain, high-fiber breads
- Cooked cereal (oatmeal, grits, hominy, and cream of wheat)
- Whole grains, such as whole wheat pasta, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and millet. Beans, potatoes, green peas, corn, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and winter squash
- Low-fat crackers, snack chips, pretzels, and fat-free popcorn
4. In the remaining (small) section, put your meat or meat substitute.
- Skinless chicken and turkey
- Fish, like tuna, salmon, cod, and catfish
- Other seafood, like shrimp, clams, oysters, crab, and mussels
- Lean cuts of beef and pork, such as sirloin and pork loin
- Low-fat cheese
5. Add an 8 oz. glass of non-fat or low-fat milk or a 6 oz. container of light yogurt.
6. Top off your meal with a piece of fruit or one-half cup of fruit salad.
It is the carbohydrates found in food that raise blood sugar. For people with diabetes, managing the amount of carbohydrates consumed at each meal can help to manage the rise in blood sugar levels. To manage carbohydrate portions, you can decide how many grams of carbohydrate you eat for meals and snacks. For example, women may decide to have 45 grams of carbohydrate at a meal; men might eat around 60 grams of carbohydrate. To decide how much is right for you, be sure to work with your dietitian or health care provider.
Using the Glycemic Index
Because different types of carbohydrates digest at different speeds, the Glycemic Index (GI) can be a helpful fine tuning tool. The GI measures the rate at which foods containing carbohydrates raise blood glucose. For instance, a food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI. Eating fat and fiber at the same time tend to lower the GI of a food. A good diabetes meal plan focuses on foods with low or medium GI.
Foods to Limit
Foods that are processed, enhanced, flavored, preserved, and packaged are typically less healthy than whole, unprocessed foods. These include:
- Foods made with white flour or white sugar, such as pasta, white rice, and white breads
- Refined carbohydrates like baked goods, candy, ice cream, and prepared breakfast cereals (unless they're whole grain)
- Soft drinks, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks, lemonade, and fruit juice
- Salt and high-salt foods and condiments, such as canned soup, lunch meat, soy sauce, gravy, ketchup, and mustard
Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day for men and one for women