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Eating & Meal Planning with Diabetes

As mentioned in our previous blog, yesterday was American Diabetes Association Diabetes Alert Day®. Having diabetes impacts all aspects of life, especially when it comes to food. Follow these tips, taken from the American Diabetes Association website, on eating patterns, meal planning, and food suggestions for diabetics:


Eating Patterns and Meal Planning

For people living with diabetes who want to learn more about how to make healthy food choices that fit their lifestyle and taste, it can be tough to make out fact from fiction with so much conflicting information in the media. The American Diabetes Association reviews the latest research looking at what is safe and works well for people at risk or living with diabetes. Studies show there are many different eating patterns that can be helpful in managing diabetes. In the long run, the eating pattern that you can follow and sustain that meets your own diabetes goals will be the best option for you.


What is a Meal Plan?

It is a guide to help you plan:

  • Timing of your meals

  • How much to eat 

  • What foods to choose

A meal plan should take into account your likes, dislikes and lifestyle. It should be a guide that will help you meet your personal weight and blood glucose goals.


What is an Eating Pattern? 

An eating pattern is a term used to describe the foods or groups of foods that a person chooses to eat on a daily basis over time. The following eating patterns may help people living with or at risk for diabetes:

Mediterranean - The Mediterranean style eating pattern focuses on mostly plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, cereals, nuts, seeds, and beans, seasonally fresh, and locally grown foods. Olive oil is the main source of fat.  This eating pattern also includes a small amount of dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, fish, and poultry. Red meat is limited. Wine can be consumed in small amounts (1-2 glasses of wine per day) with meals.

Vegetarian and Vegan - A vegetarian eating pattern is based on plant foods, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and meat substitutes with little or no animal products. The vegetarian diet is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. A vegan eating pattern includes many plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans. People following a vegan eating pattern avoid all meat, poultry, fish and seafood, eggs, and dairy products.

Low Carbohydrate - A low carbohydrate eating pattern focuses on non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, kale, salad greens and protein foods like meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds, fats (oils, butter, olives and avocado). Highly processed carbohydrate foods and grains are limited or avoided in this eating pattern.

Low Fat - A low-fat eating pattern includes vegetables, fruits, starches, lean protein, such as chicken and turkey without the skin, fish, and low-fat dairy products.

DASH - DASH is an acronym for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and was designed to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).  This eating pattern promotes eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lower fat or fat-free dairy products, poultry and fish. This eating pattern also limits foods high in sodium (salt) saturated fat, red meat, sweets, added sugars and sugar sweetened drinks.


Choose a plan that you are likely to follow long-term that fits your diabetes goals and personal needs. Think about your likes and dislikes and how a change to your eating will affect your day to day life with family and friends as well as your personal weight loss goals. Budget also plays a part in choosing the right healthy eating plan that will meet your needs. 

There is not a “one size fits all” eating pattern for people with diabetes. Many different eating patterns are reasonable for managing diabetes. Work with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator on a meal plan that is right for you.


Create Your Plate 

Create Your Plate is a simple and effective way to manage your blood glucose levels and lose weight. This method lets you still choose the foods you want, but changes the portion sizes so you are getting larger portions of non-starchy vegetables and a smaller portion of starchy foods. When you are ready, you can try new foods within each food category.

Try these seven steps to get started:

  1. Using your dinner plate, put a line down the middle of the plate. Then on one side, cut it again so you will have three sections on your plate.

  2. Fill the largest section with non-starchy vegetables. See this list of non-starchy vegetables.

  3. Now in one of the small sections, put grains and starchy foods. See this list of grains and starchy foods.

  4. And then in the other small section, put your protein. See this list of protein foods.

  5. Add a serving of fruit, a serving of dairy or both as your meal plan allows.

  6. Choose healthy fats in small amounts. For cooking, use oils. For salads, some healthy additions are nuts, seeds, avocado and vinaigrettes.

  7. To complete your meal, add a low-calorie drink like water, unsweetened tea or coffee.

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