Diabetes Meal Plan Made Easy: 10 Helpful Tips

Diabetes Meal Plan Made Easy - Person Planning Meals for the Week

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Welcome to this diabetes meal plan made easy blog post! This might be the most practical everyday help I have provided on this website yet. Meal planning for diabetes doesn’t have to be hard or sad. It isn’t restrictive. You don’t have to cut out food groups. And you don’t have to stop eating all your family-favorite recipes.

There’s plenty of good news. And I’m happy to share it! After 30+ years of learning the ins and outs of diabetes, I have learned it’s not what you eat, but what you eat with it. And that takes a plan.

So here are 10 helpful tips to guide you in making a great diabetic meal plan.

Diabetic Meal Plan Made Easy with Instant Download Templates

The “How” Behind a Diabetes Meal Plan Made Easy

Diabetes meal planning made easy just takes a bit of knowledge and some intentionality. I will help you with both in these 10 tips. And because this balanced kind of diet is healthy for almost anyone, this is a win for the whole family!

1. A Diabetes Meal Plan Made Easy is Planned Ahead

For any good plan to work well, it needs to be thought through. And a diabetic friendly meal plan is no different. I personally sit down once a week and do my meal plan for the following week. It takes all the guess work out of “what’s for dinner tonight?” and it also helps me make just one trip to the grocery store for the week!

To make a healthy diabetes meal plan, you need a variety of foods (which we’ll get to in tips #2 and #3). But my point in sharing this first is that if you write it down and plan on it, you’re more likely to stick to it.

If I don’t have a plan, I tend to default to whatever is easy. Unfortunately, whatever is easy doesn’t usually fall into the “balanced and healthy meals” category. Does that happen to you too? But when I do have a plan and meals are prepped, it’s actually pretty easy.

Printable Diabetes Meal Plan Made Easy - Instant Download Templates
These meal plan templates are available for instant
download directly under the next section!

Tips on How to Plan Ahead in your diabetes meal plan made easy

  • Download the Diabetes Meal Plan Template – Print a template from the instant download directly below this paragraph to get started. This gives you a blank slate to begin with.
  • Start with What’s Easiest – Sometimes a blank slate can be intimidating, so start with what you know or what is easiest. For me, that would be breakfast. I am an avid Killer Dave’s toast girl, and I add peanut butter and banana each morning. Then start to fill in the rest, including lean meats, carbs with fiber, and fruits and veggies.
  • Consider Leftovers – Remember what you’re making on Monday may provide you leftovers for Wednesday, so add that on to the plan and avoid letting food go to waste.
  • Double Your Recipe – Consider doubling smaller recipes to intentionally provide for leftovers later in the week. Or you can always make a second batch to freeze for later. (Your future self will thank you!)
  • Remember Snacks – If you’re like me, there’s a solid chance you will need a little snack at some point during the week. Make sure you have a healthy and blood sugar friendly snack on hand to enjoy.
  • Meal Prep – Try meal prepping ahead on the weekend to ensure the week goes smoother. Cook individual ingredients or whole recipes ahead. Portion out lunches. Do whatever you can in advance. Ideas on various meals to prep ahead are listed below.

Healthy dishes you can prep ahead

2. Use the Diabetes Plate Method for Meal Planning

Now that you have a good meal plan in place, let’s start talking about appropriate portions. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and CDC promote the “plate method” of portioning foods properly.

The plate method is basically to start with a standard, round dinner plate and fill half of it with non-starchy vegetables. Focus on veggies first. Then fill a quarter of the plate with protein, and the other quarter with carbs. So that’s the basic idea behind the plate method.

Sample Food Lists

In case it’s helpful, here are some basic ideas of what fits into the categories of nonstarchy vegetables, lean proteins, and carbs with fiber.

  • Examples of nonstarchy vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, green beans, mushrooms, peppers, salad greens, and squash.
  • Examples of lean protein: beans and lentils, chicken breast, cottage cheese, egg whites, fish, greek yogurt, and turkey breast.
  • Examples of carbs (whole grains with fiber): barley, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta.

Now, I have to imagine this approach is mostly meant for type 2 diabetes, since the ADA website says, “Using this method, you can create perfectly portioned meals with a healthy balance of vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates—without any counting, calculating, weighing, or measuring.”

With type 1 diabetes, we know we need to calculate the foods we eat and dose insulin accordingly.

The Diabetes Plate Method

One item that is not included in this tip, however, is that we need healthy fats in our diet as well. There are healthy fats in foods like almonds, avocado, canola oil, coconut, lean turkey, nut butters, olives, olive oil, salmon, tofu, tuna, walnuts, and full fat yogurt.

3. Balance Fat, Fiber, and Protein

Speaking of healthy fats, another thing I have learned about managing blood glucose levels is the importance of balancing healthy fats, fiber, and lean protein in meals. When we balance these nutrients, we help prevent or limit a spike in blood sugar levels after eating. More stable blood sugars make me happy simply because I feel better!

The fats and protein take longer to digest than the carbs, so adding those in to our favorite foods along with our carbs helps slow the digestion of the carbs. Thus, the blood sugar spike is limited more than if we had eaten those carbs on their own.

That’s why when I consider a recipe I always calculate fat, carbs, fiber, and protein. And now you can also in our next tip.

4. Count What You Eat

So here’s the rub with the plate method I mentioned earlier. Let’s say I’m enjoying my diabetic-friendly blueberry pancakes for breakfast or my baked rotini for dinner. I’m not going to separate out the ingredients on my plate. With some dishes you just can’t. And visualizing it, as they recommend in this case, simply doesn’t get me close enough. I prefer not to play a guessing game with mixed dishes like this.

That’s why I am a huge fan of counting what I’m eating. And after you start getting the hang of doing this, it becomes like second nature.

You can read all the details in my post about counting carbs for diabetes. There are step-by-step instructions with real-life examples for you there.

The basic idea is that you count the g carbohydrates, the g fat, the g fiber, and the g protein in each ingredient of the recipe. Then you divide each total by the number of servings the recipe makes, and you have your calculations for each individual serving.

I personally calculate the nutrition for any recipe I make. And because I document it right then and there, I have it handy for next time. So easy!

And now you can do the same thing when you download my recipe template (and all the free downloads that come with creating a recipe binder) RIGHT HERE.

Recipe Template for Diabetics with Carb Counting Included
CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

5. Read Books for a Diabetes Meal Plan Made Easy

There are tons of great books on the topic of diabetic meal planning. Many are written by health professionals so they know what they’re talking about. You can find books for pre-diabetes, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Here are a few go-to diabetes nutrition guidebook and cookbooks that are highly rated:

6. Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy While you’re Dining Out

One of the most complicated things for me to do as a diabetic is eat out in a restaurant that is unfamiliar to me. I love the idea of going to a fun new neighborhood restaurant sometimes. But it’s tricky. You too?

I tend to try to order low carb foods when I’m trying a new restaurant. (Especially because I never know when the food will come out.) I really love a good salad, and I can easily see the ingredients on the plate. So that’s a go-to solution for me most often. Over time though, you get pretty good at “eyeballing” what you’re eating and adjusting accordingly.

The easiest way to deal with eating out is to look up the grams of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins online in the nutrition facts of chain restaurants. Basically every chain has that available now. And if you’re in a new restaurant that isn’t a chain, you can certainly ask the waiter if nutrition facts information is available.

One basic idea we know in restaurants is that we should limit processed foods and deep fat fried foods. Really anyone (diabetic or not) should consider avoiding these foods. But for someone with diabetes, overly fatty foods can really slow the digestion process and cause spikes hours later.

When I’m in a restaurant, I like to watch serving sizes too. Some restaurants will pile on the food! It may be twice what you’d fix yourself at home. So ask for a doggy bag and take it with you for later.

Diabetic Meal Planning Made Easy While Dining Out

7. Think about Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) wasn’t something I thought about much until just recently. And that’s because I’ve learned more about it.

This GI is basically a ranking of foods that contain carbs based on how slowly or quickly they are digested and increase blood glucose levels. For example, the carbs in standard white rice is digested and absorbed quickly and has a high GI number of 72. But cooked quinoa is absorbed more slowly and has a lower GI number of 35.

Having a basic understanding of where different foods fall on the index can help you with the timing of your pre-meal insulin delivery times. (In case you’re interested, they have an app.)

8. Consider your Activity Level

The other consideration with a diabetes meal plan made easy is activity level. Yes, there is a lot that goes into diabetes management, isn’t there? Nothing is simple.

If you know when you’ll be doing yoga, lifting weights, playing pickleball, going for a run, or all the latest ways people exercise, you may want to plan meals accordingly. Once you understand your body’s reaction to differing levels of fats, fiber, and protein, you will be able to plan and adjust accordingly. This is one thing about diabetes that is totally individualized.

Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy also considers exercise

9. Work with Your Medical team

Because I’m not a medical professional, I can’t stress this tip enough. Before you go about changing the way you eat (which changes your need for medication to control diabetes), talk with your doctor.

For more comprehensive meal planning guidance, talk with a nutritionist. A diabetes educator may be of great help as well.

10. Give Yourself Grace

And my last tip for a diabetes meal plan made easy is to simply give yourself grace. If you haven’t picked up on this from my blog yet, that’s a big deal to me in diabetes management. I plan well and I try hard, but when something doesn’t work quite right, that’s just life to me. This approach lowers my stress level, which helps my blood sugars, and I move on.

I would encourage you to do the same. Grace abounds when something goes awry after you’ve done your best at planning ahead and trying!

Disclaimer – You may also want to add counting daily totals for calories to what you’re counting in these meal plans. This blog post was not written for weight loss or weight gain, but for balanced blood sugar and better diabetes management. Consult your medical team for your specific needs and a balanced diet for your daily calorie need.

Have You Used these Diabetes Meal Plan Made Easy Tips?

If you’ve used these tips, how did it go? I would love to hear from you!

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NOTE: I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietician. Nothing here should be taken as professional medical advice. Any information provided should be used as a general guideline only. For the most accurate information, please consult your doctor and nutrition based on the specific ingredients and brands you use.

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Diabetic Meal Plan Made Easy with Instant Download Templates

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COUNT CARBS and Nutrition Facts EASILY

Looking for a way to count your carbs, fat, fiber, and protein easily? Look no further… 

I love how this template makes counting nutrition facts SO easy. You literally list the total grams from each ingredient, total it at the bottom, and divide by the number of servings. Voila! 

This recipe template walks you through every step. And you can keep it for future reference. Just calculate it once and you’re done!

Check my Etsy store for an instant download that includes a cover page, section header pages for different kinds of recipes, section tabs, and this recipe template.

Diabetic Recipe Template with Carb Counting and Nutrition Facts

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Kaycee - Devotions on Diabetes

HEY - I'M KAYCEE!

Welcome to my Devotions on Diabetes website! Thanks for stopping by. I've lived with diabetes for 30+ years. And I'm here to provide you with a heaping helping of encouragement while you deal with diabetes and navigate this chronic illness with God by your side.

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