Making a Diabetic Meal Plan Work for You

How a Diabetes Meal Plan Can Help You

Knowing how to plan heart healthy meals is important for managing all types of diabetes diets. Food can raise blood sugar levels. The type and amount of foods that are eaten will affect how high and how fast blood sugar levels will rise. It is important to make healthy eating choices about when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.

When should a diabetic eat?

Eat your meals and snacks at about the same time each day. By doing this, your blood sugar levels may stay under control. Space your meals 4-5 hours apart. Eat in-between snacks as needed. If you take insulin or diabetes pills, keep the right balance between food and these medicines. You should understand how long your pills or insulin take to work to lower blood glucose levels. Find out when they work the best you plan when to eat. Snacks between meals are very important if you go more than five hours from meal to meal.

What should a diabetic eat?

Eat about the same size meals and snacks every day. Most people eat a small breakfast, a medium sized lunch and a larger dinner. This forces the body to process most of the day's food at the end of the day. A better idea is to eat all meals that are about the same size. You will be eating balanced meals throughout the day. Make healthy food choices rich in vitamins, minerals, lean protein like white chicken and fiber such as brown rice. The fiber takes longer to break down. Blood sugars rise slower. This will keep blood sugar levels better controlled. It will help your body better process the sugar coming from your food.

Do not skip meals. If you take insulin or diabetes pills, do not skip meals. This can cause your blood sugars to drop too low. Skipping one meal could cause you to overeat at the next meal. Even if you do not take diabetes pills or insulin, you still may have better control of your blood sugar levels if you eat balanced meals.

How much should a diabetic eat?

Control your portions. When you have diabetes, eating the right portions of foods is just as important as taking the proper amount of your pills or insulin. If your portions are too large, your blood sugar may rise. If you take in too many calories, weight gain may result. If your portions are too small, your blood glucose levels may drop too low. Eating the right amount of carbohydrates (carbs) can help control your blood sugar levels.

If you cannot weigh or measure foods, these tips may teach you how to "eyeball" portions:

  • A 1-cup portion is about the size of a woman's hand made into a fist.
  • One teaspoon of margarine is approximately a pat of margarine.
  • 1 oz. cheese is about the size of a 1" cube.
  • 3 oz. meat is about the size of a deck of cards.

Important things to remember

  • Everyone with diabetes should have a meal plan. Your dietitian or diabetes meal educator can help you with a meal plan that works for you.
  • Plan your meals and snacks into your day like you would plan a doctor's visit. Try not to let anything interfere with your meal times.
  • Practice weighing and measuring foods to learn how to "eyeball" portion sizes.
  • Food portions should be large enough to satisfy you. But, not so large they cause you to feel too full.
  • Meals should be about the same size and spread evenly throughout the day.
  • Meals should include a variety of foods from all of the food groups.

How can your doctor help you?

If you need help with a meal plan, your doctor can refer you to a dietitian. A dietitian can help you with a meal plan. Your doctor can also help you understand how your diabetes pill or insulin affect your blood sugar levels. Finally, your doctor can inform you of any dietary needs that you might have (such as low sodium to control high blood pressure).