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Diabetes and nutrition

A healthy meal plan is a cornerstone to successful diabetes management. By taking a thoughtful approach to what you put into your body, you can better manage your blood sugar and overall health.

What does a healthy meal plan look like?

Living with diabetes generally doesn’t mean giving up any foods. Incorporating a variety of healthy foods can help give you a well-rounded diet that tastes good and helps keep your blood sugars steady.

family making healthy meal

Try creating a meal plan with a variety of food groups including:

  • Grains: Whole grains like wheat, rice, oats, and quinoa should be about half of your daily grain intake. Wheat breads and pastas can be good sources of whole grains.1 1 slice or ½ cup of whole grains per meal is a great place to start.
  • Proteins: Lean proteins like skinless chicken are a good source of nutrition. Fish and eggs can also balance out your protein intake. If you like meatless proteins like beans or other legumes, be sure to consider the carbohydrate content in your meal planning. 4-6 oz. of lean protein per meal is recommended.
  • Fruits: Strawberries, bananas, oranges, and grapes all have a low glycemic index (GI), which can help moderate your blood sugar levels2. Most fruits are full of healthy fiber; just be sure to measure portions. About ½ cup of fruit with each meal is appropriate.
  • Vegetables: Leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli are rich in vitamins and minerals3. All vegetables have plenty of healthy fiber, so load up!
  • Dairy: Low-fat milk and yogurt can be excellent sources of vitamin D and calcium. Watch out for added sugars in flavored milks and yogurts.

Some foods to be mindful of

Some foods and beverages should be limited:

  • Saturated and trans fats: Eating fried and processed foods frequently can lead to unhealthy buildup of plaque in your body. Some examples include animal products like bacon, butter, sausage, and fatty beef, as well as baked goods and sugary snacks. Check the food labels on processed items to be sure.
  • Sodium-rich foods: Try to keep your daily salt intake under 2,300 mg (that’s about a teaspoon of salt). A high sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure4.
  • Sugary drinks: Sodas, sweetened tea, energy drinks, and juice can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels5.

Finding a meal plan that’s right for you

Creating a diabetes-conscious meal plan doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. Over time, you may find recipes and foods that work for you, as well as ones that do not. Managing portion sizes, counting carbohydrates, and mixing in vitamin supplements can help you boost your nutrition. Talk to your dietitian or healthcare provider to create a meal plan that suits your goals and needs.

1. Diabetes, Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Page. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity. Accessed 9SEP2021
2. Eating Well – Fruit. The American Diabetes Association Page. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/fruit. Accessed 9SEP2021
3. Diabetes Superstar Foods. The American Diabetes Association Page. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/diabetes-superstar-foods. Accessed 9SEP2021
4. Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan. The Mayo Clinic Page. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-diet/art-20044295. Accessed 9SEP2021
5. Sugary Soft Drinks and Diabetes. The Global Diabetes Community Page. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/sugary-soft-drinks.html. Accessed 9SEP2021

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