If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, you may find yourself wondering, what can I eat? Its a very good question considering food choices play a big role in effective diabetes management.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body is not able to metabolize sugar effectively, so people with diabetes need to manage and control their carbohydrate intake. Doing so not only helps to control blood sugars, but can also result in weight loss, a reduction in triglycerides (a measure of fat in the blood), and a decrease in risk for other cardiac risk factors.
If you have prediabetes and have been told to lose weight, a calorie- and carbohydrate-controlled diet can help to prevent and delay diabetes. Research indicates that losing a small amount of weight, about 7% to 10% of your body weight, can help to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Some research even indicates that losing enough weight and keeping it off can actually put type 2 diabetes into remission.
It’s often hard to find the time to search for recipes and create meals that are tasty and nutritionally balanced. Before searching for meals and meal plans, it is wise to find out how many calories and carbohydrates you need to reach both your weight and blood sugar goals. Individual needs vary, so if you haven’t already, set up a meeting with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to get an idea of ideal caloric and carbohydrate intake that would support your goals.
A good way to check to see if your meal plan is working for you is to test your blood sugar before and two hours after a meal. Check to see how much your blood sugar has risen two hours after the start of your meal (called “postprandial blood glucose” levels) and compared your level to recommended targets. You should speak with your healthcare provider about your exact blood sugar targets.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the recommended targets for people two hours after eating are:
- Non-pregnant adults: Less than 180 mg/dL
- Pregnant women with gestational diabetes: 120 mg/dL or less
- Pregnant women with pre-existing type 1 or type 2 diabetes: 120 mg/dL to 129 mg/dL
The 1800-Calorie Meal Plan
First, it’s important to note not every meal plan works for every person, and this is especially true for people with diabetes. For some people, the total amount of carbohydrates in this meal plan may seem like too much. Some people with diabetes benefit from eating a lower carbohydrate diet. This particular meal plan was made for people looking to eat a 1,800 calorie diet. In it, you’ll find three carbohydrate-controlled meals, one snack, and one dessert, totaling 1,800 calories (approximately 500 calories per meal, dinner is about 600 because it includes dessert and about 200 calories for the snack).
Here’s the sample breakdown:
Meal replacements, such as smoothies, can serve a purpose in losing weight. In addition, they can be protein- and vitamin-rich. When made with the right ingredients, they taste good and are a quick, filling breakfast option.
Breakfast smoothie made by blending until smooth:
- 8 ounces unsweetened almond milk
- 6 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 4 ounces silken tofu
- 1/2 medium banana (about 4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup frozen, whole strawberries
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
- 1 serving protein powder (whey, hemp, or whatever other option you like) *aim to choose an original flavor that does not have added sugar
- Cinnamon and vanilla powder (not necessary but can add flavor)
- Coffee with 1 tablespoon half & half
Nutrition facts: 490 calories, 46 g carbohydrate, 15.3 g fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 26 g sugar, 10 g fiber, 45.7 g protein
Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad:
- 1 cup chopped lettuce (spinach, mixed greens, romaine)
- 1 cup diced tomato
- 1 cup corn (roasted and cut from cob or use frozen)
- 1/4 fresh avocado (diced)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil with balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 6″ whole wheat pita (lightly grilled)
- 4 ounces grilled chicken, canned tuna (drained), or roast turkey
Toss roasted corn, tomato, salad dressing and avocado together while corn is still warm. This will slightly melt the avocado and create a creamier dressing. Chill and serve over lettuce with pita toast on the side.
Drink 8 to 12 ounces ice water with sliced lemon
Nutrition facts: 485 calories, 60 g carbohydrate, 17 g fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 12.4 g sugar, 37.4 g protein, 12.2 g fiber
Grilled Chicken and Broccoli with Brown Rice
- 1 pre-packaged chicken breast (about 6 ounces or you can also try salmon or lean beef)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 2 cups raw broccoli cut into spears (can substitute for frozen or another non-starchy vegetable)
- 2/3 cup cooked long-grain brown rice
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
- 3/4 cup of blueberries with 2 dark chocolate kisses
Rub chicken breast with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and garlic powder and grill. Place broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl, pour a little bit of water over the top and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 60 seconds, or until soft. If you’d prefer not to use your microwave, steam broccoli in sauce pan with a small amount of water. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and garlic powder for flavor. Cook rice as per package instruction and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.
Savor the blueberries and dark chocolate for dessert.
Nutrition facts: 600 calories, 64 g carbohydrate, 16.6 g fat, 5.2 g saturated fat, 19.5 g sugar, 53 g protein, 11.3 g fiber
Sample Mid-Day Snack
- 15 baby carrots or 1 small apple
- 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
Spread peanut butter over apple slices (or carrots) or use peanut butter as a dipping sauce.
Nutrition facts: 194 calories, 17.1 g carbohydrate, 12.3 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 9.3 g sugar, 7 g protein, 4.1 g fiber.