Meal Plan for Diabetics
Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietician. I am a 24+ year Type 1 Diabetic who has an A1C level that floats between 6.5 - 7.1 and I maintain a healthy weight. This meal plan has no pasta and very few beans, as those are foods that ratchet up my blood sugars for days. Every diabetic responds differently to “healthy foods” such as beans and fruit. I have tested my limits with these and eat them infrequently.
Eating healthy for a diabetic is very different than any of the "diet plans" available online or at a bookstore. Why? Much of the healthy grains and fruits that are promoted in an "eat clean" plan are higher in carbohydrates and thus risky for those of us who don't produce insulin (Type 1) or are resistant to it (Type 2). It took my years to figure out what I could and could not eat because registered nutritionists gave me bad information. They said to count carbs and use my carb-to-insulin ratio to medicate for each meal. That didn't always work, especially when I had a higher carb and a higher fat food at the same meal, i.e. pizza and pasta with cheese. The same is true for desserts. Sometimes it takes 3-4 times the insulin to counter a dessert, especially if it is made with any substantial amount of butter. It's the fat/carb combo that leads to disaster.
The following meals are very low-carb. At a grocery store, I shop the perimeter. That's where the meats, cheese, and vegetables are found. Down the center of the store, I shop only for canned meats, coffee, tea, nuts, seeds, condiments, etc. The change in shopping habits is not easy. Diabetes in not easy. But it is possible and will, literally, save your life. You are not alone in this challenge, and I pray that that knowledge gives you courage.
The meals are grouped together, the idea being that you would select a breakfast, a lunch, a dinner, and a snack from each category and make this your own plan. Remember that meal portions are very important. Use a smaller plate and fill it up with vegetables first, then your protein. Eat it all, then wait. Sip on water or hot tea when you eat. These are little tricks to use to keep your tummy satisfied and your blood sugars in range. Overeating healthy foods feels just as damaging as eating sweets.
Some of these meals may appear to be Keto in nature, but I don’t focus on the fat content, just the carbohydrate levels. Avoiding simple carbohydrates is the secret. Complex carbs (beans, fruit, whole grains) can be very good for some, but for me it raises my blood sugars too much. If you can tolerate quinoa, millet, or beans, go for it! Add them to any meal in small amounts until you know how you respond to them.
The best way to manage both increasing your vegetable consumption and keeping your portions in range is to picture your plate like a face of a clock. The 12:00-6:00 section is your vegetables. Don’t feel as though you need to limit yourself to a single type of vegetable, but mix it up. 6:00-9:00 is for your protein. I save the 9:00-12:00 for something like cottage cheese, an almond flour biscuit, or sometimes just more vegetables.
Formula for breakfast: Protein ¼ of plate, vegetable ½ plate, small fruit smaller than ¼ of plate (if any)
Eggs with sauteed vegetables (i.e. onion, zucchini, peppers) and ½ apple
Green Eggs and Ham (spinach & eggs blended together, then cooked like a pancake & served with a slice of ham. I roll mine up and eat them on the way to work.)
Cottage Cheese omelet topped with blueberries & slivered almonds - prepare eggs for an omelet, and fill with cottage cheese.
Plain Yogurt blended with a low-carb protein powder, topped with slivered almonds
Eggs, bacon, sautéed veggies & coffee
Eggs, sausage, sautéed veggies & coffee
Almond bread, toasted with soft-boiled eggs
I make almond bread a dozen different ways, but on a busy morning, I mix together ⅓ cup almond flour, 1 egg, a ½ teaspoon of vanilla and a small dash of stevia. Pour this batter into a hot pan and cook it like a pancake. Perfect with an egg on top or by itself. Very filling!
Keto Wrap (from Aldi) with sliced Avocado, 1-2 scrambled eggs and salsa
Green Mint Shake: Blend together a generous handful or two of spinach, ½ an avocado, a few drops of peppermint extract or 5-6 mint leaves, and water or milk. Once blended smooth, add 1 scoop of a low-carb chocolate protein powder. Blend well, but not on high as the protein powder can foam, and then you have a mess.
Leftover dinners make the easiest lunch. Just make more at dinner and save some for lunch. Be sure to follow the same plate portion in the picture above.
Or, think of your favorite sandwich. Skip the bread and put it on a salad. This is amazingly easy and delicious. A Cheeseburger salad is my favorite. Ground meat on a salad with all the toppings: ketchup (sugar-free), mustard, a little mayo, green olives and cheese.
Serve up a broth-based soup. Chicken vegetable, beef stew, tomato soup, egg drop soup…all homemade, all easy, all low-carb.
Quesadilla made with a Keto wrap (Aldi), cheese and chicken or tuna. Top with a little more cheese and pumpkin seeds (also from Aldi). Bake until hot. Serve with salsa and sour cream. A true comfort food!
Formula for dinner:
Meat ¼ plate, vegetables ¾ plate.
Zucchini crust pizza
Billy’s steak & onion sauté
Pan-fried or baked Chicken, Roasted zucchini, peppers, mushrooms & radishes & Salad with ginger dressing
Burgers (beef, venison or turkey), Zucchini fries, Salad
Chicken thighs and Kielbasa, diced root vegetables, on one large baking sheet, roasted in oven at 350F for at least 45 minutes. One pan, one meal.
Baked Chicken, Roasted Radishes and Kale, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper & Green beans, baked in casserole dish, topped with crushed garlic parmesan cheese and sunflower seeds
Ground Beef, Roasted Root vegetables (beets, onions, radishes, carrots, turnips)--Think cheeseburger salad. Top the burger with cheese and place it on a salad and top it like you would a burger. Don’t forget the dill pickles!
Ground Turkey burgers with cheese, Roasted kale, Cheesy stuffed mushrooms
Steak, grilled or broiled, Green beans with garlic and parmesan cheese, Mashed cauliflower with butter
Eggs, cooked a million different ways, Variety of veggies, sauteed and served with eggs & Plain yogurt topped with cinnamon & almonds, sweeten with a tiny bit of stevia
Salmon, grilled, broiled or steamed, Sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini topped with parmesan & Salad with cucumber-dill dressing (dice cucumbers, mix in mayonnaise, a few dashes of dill and a squeeze of lemon.)
Tuna steak, pan-fried, Asparagus & Cauliflower (riced or mashed)
Baked chicken, Artichoke hearts & Crispy, fried zucchini
Bacon, Brussels sprouts & cream sauce & Quinoa vegetable pilaf
Pizza toppings on a Zucchini Crust
Salmon (or tuna) Patties, Green beans & Zucchini Fries
A few money saving, food stretching ideas:
If you can find a local farmer who raises and sells meat chickens, order as much as you can store in a freezer. With our family of 8, a baked chicken is usually picked clean after a single meal. I put the bones back into the crock pot and add celery, onion, carrots and cook it overnight. This makes a beautiful bone broth and can be used as a base for a soup, or warmed and sipped like a tea on cold, winter nights.
Ok, so this one sounds weird, but I’ve done it and it’s amazing. If you can get chicken feet from that same local farmer, add 3-4 feet to your broth to really ramp up the collagen. Clean the feet, trim the nails, and cut off the pad of the foot, then add it to the bones and vegetables. You might feel like Strega Nona, but the result will leave you feeling nourished and satisfied.
Before you make a new meal, check your fridge for leftovers and serve a “Buffet Dinner” a few times a month. Simply warm everything up, add a salad, and everyone has a sampling. No more throwing food out!
If you have a vast amount of leftovers, freeze it with a food-saver, the kitchen appliance that packages food by taking out all the air from the bag. Then, months down the road when you are too tired to cook and tempted to order out, just warm it up and stay on track. The money saved and the health maintained will be worth it!
Before you make your meal plan, check your local grocery store to see what’s on sale. Make your meal plan around that.
Make a meal plan. You can spend upwards of $50 on a beautiful meal planning calendar. Or you can buy a stack of spiral notebooks in August when school supplies are cheap and make your own. I added a flap of paper to the cover that lists dinner ideas. I flip that over to the current page when I make my meal plan for the week. Below my meal plan, I make a shopping list.
I have never calculated the difference, but I know I spend much more at the store when I don't have a meal plan and a shopping list.
Here are some items I make sure are always on hand:
Dill pickles, or any pickled vegetable that isn’t sweetened (homemade Dilly Beans!)
Green olives, especially ones that are stuffed with feta cheese, just my own preference
Reasonably priced and unprocessed meat: chicken, beef, pork, eggs, tuna, salmon
Protein Powder - reasonably low-carb and tasty
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachio, your favorites)
Seeds (pumpkin and sesame seeds)
Apples (this is my go-to when my blood sugars are low)
Frozen strawberries and blueberries
Heavy Whipping Cream
Dark Chocolate, at least 70% and enjoyed in small portions, not everyday.
Sugar free Ketchup
Hot sauce, to awaken the flavor of low-flavor veggies
Salad Dressings, again low sugar and oil-based
Cinnamon (I use cinnamon as a sweetener in yogurts, coffee, and on keto toast with peanut butter. It’s a spice that is great for keeping blood sugars in line.)