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.

Continue Watching

Check-Up: How Sickness Affects Diabetes (Claudia Hanely, RN, CDE)

Claudia Hanley, RN, CDE, explains how being sick can affect your stress level and blood sugar level.

Check-Up: Safe Blood Sugar Levels (Michael Rushlow, RN, CDE)

Michael Rushlow, RN, outlines how diabetes educators use target ranges to help patients gauge their blood sugar levels at various points in the day.

Check-Up: Gestational Diabetes & How to Control It (Benjamin Wood, DO)

BellaNoval Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Ben Wood, DO, explains how Gestational Diabetes impacts a pregnancy, and how diabetes educators can help women create a balanced diet to control their blood sugar level.

Check-Up: Meal Planning for Diabetics (Jessica Heckman, RD)

Lakeland Health Diabetes Educator, Jessica Heckman, RD, CDE, shares tips for meal planning for diabetics.

Physician Video Profile: Amena Iqbal, MD (Endocrinology)

Endocrinologist, Amena Iqbal, MD, specializes in diagnosing and managing a wide range of endocrine disorders.

Check-Up: New Diabetes Technology (Amena Iqbal, MD)

Endocrinologist, Amena Iqbal shares advancements that have been made for diabetes care including continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pumps.

Check-Up: Understanding Diabetes Complications (Amena Iqbal, MD)

Endocrinologist, Amena Iqbal discusses the impact diabetes has on the major organs of the body and the complications it can cause if not properly controlled.

Managing Diabetes - It's Not Easy, But It's Worth It

Endocrinologist, Amanda Morris, DO, and our team of certified diabetes educators host an interactive discussion about complications affecting uncontrolled diabetes and how to better manage the disease.

Physician Video Profile: Amena Iqbal, MD (Endocrinology)

Endocrinologist, Amena Iqbal, MD, specializes in diagnosing and managing a wide range of endocrine disorders.

Check-Up: New Diabetes Technology (Amena Iqbal, MD)

Endocrinologist, Amena Iqbal shares advancements that have been made for diabetes care including continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pumps.

© Spectrum Health Lakeland 2019