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The meal plan for managing diabetes is made up of the same healthy foods that people without diabetes should eat. The secret to a healthy diet is eating a wide variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Ideally, you should eat about the same amount of carbohydrates every day. With diabetes, the timing and size of meals and snacks is important to help control blood sugar. If you take diabetes medication, try not to skip a snack or meal because it may cause your blood sugar to drop too low which can be dangerous.

Low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. Eating a larger-than-normal snack or meal may elevate your blood sugar too much. High blood sugar is called hyperglycemia. Over time, hyperglycemia can damage your vision, kidneys, heart, and nerves. Eating healthy, taking the right medication, and exercising regularly helps control blood sugar.

Healthy Meal Planning

A healthy meal plan balances nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your diet. It breaks foods into five groups including grain products, fruits and vegetables, protein foods, dairy products, and fats. It is important to eat a variety of foods from each group daily. Much of the food from these groups is made up of carbohydrates. They have the largest affect on blood sugar and are your body’s main source of energy. Chose your carbohydrates with care and eat them in moderation.

Depending on your calorie needs and blood sugars, the recommended number of daily servings of carbohydrates is 6 to 11. A minimum of 5 to 9 of these servings should be from the fruit and vegetable group. All adults should have 2 servings from the dairy group and 2 servings from the protein group. Foods that should be used sparingly or avoided include fats, oils and sweets. A registered dietitian can assist you with learning more about healthy food choices and determining the total number of carbohydrates that is right for you.

Following a Meal Plan for Diabetes

Spread the number of servings for each food group over 3 meals a day plus snacks. Serving size is very important and typically based on the amount of carbohydrates in each serving. Food sizes are based on 15 grams of carbohydrates. Nutrition facts found on most food containers can help you determine the amount of carbohydrates in each serving. Use measuring cups and spoons to control your portion sizes.

Grain products

In this category, one serving equals ½ to ¾ cup dry cereal (check the box for each type), 1/3 cup of rice, or one slice of bread. A sandwich using two slices of bread equals two servings of carbohydrates. Buy cereals and breads made of whole grains. Sweets such as cookies, cakes, and candy should be eaten only a few times per week. They count as servings, which means eating a cookie keeps you from eating something healthier.

Fruits and Vegetables

One serving of fruit equals ½ cup of juice, one small orange, or ½ cup of canned peaches. Choose one fruit serving at every meal and one for your snack. Fruit juice, however, is generally discouraged. One serving of vegetables equals ½ cup of vegetables, such as broccoli or carrots, ½ cup of vegetable juice, or one full cup of lettuce or spinach salad. A half a cup of raw vegetables on your salad equals two servings.

Dairy Products

This category includes milk and yogurt as healthy sources of carbohydrates. One serving equals one cup of non-fat yogurt or skim milk.

Protein Foods

Meat, poultry and fish are the most common sources of protein. Vegetarians can find good non-meat sources in eggs, tofu and other soy products, dried beans and nuts, as well as a wide variety of grains. A serving equals 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish or one egg.


Fats and oils such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, and margarine, need to be measured with measuring spoons. One tablespoon of regular salad dressing is one serving. You should eat only 3 to 6 fat servings each day. Lower your fat intake with fat-free mayonnaise, salad dressings, and sour cream. Avoid fried foods, skin on poultry and fat on meat.

The DOs

  • If you have type II diabetes and are overweight, you can greatly improve your blood sugar control by losing as little as 5 or 10 pounds.
  • Limit your daily alcohol intake to one drink if you are a woman and two drinks if you are a man. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Eat before you drink to reduce the risk of getting low blood sugar.

The DON'Ts

  • Do not skip snacks or meals.
  • Do not eat large snacks or meals.
  • Do not skip diabetes medication.

Things To Remember

  • A registered dietician can help you put together a healthy meal plan that is right for your and your lifestyle.

What We Have Learned

  1. The meal plan for diabetes includes the same foods people without diabetes eat.
    True or False
    The Answer is True
  2. People with diabetes need to eliminate all desserts.
    True or False
    The Answer is False
  3. Food sizes are based on 15 grams of carbohydrates.
    True or False
    The Answer is True

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