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Meal Plan for Diabetics

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

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 me 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 is not easy. But improving your knowledge of food, exercise and how it impacts your diabetes 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 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.


Breakfast:

Formula for breakfast: Protein ¼ of plate, vegetable ½ plate, small fruit smaller than ¼ of plate (if any)

  • Eggs with sautéed vegetables (i.e. onion, zucchini, peppers) and ½ apple thinly sliced (that makes it feel like more food)

  • Green Eggs and Ham (a handful of spinach & 2 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 Greek 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.



Lunch:

  • Leftover dinners make the easiest lunch. Just make more at dinner and save some for lunch. Be sure to follow the same plate portion (face of a clock).

  • 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. This has become my go-to comfort food!

  • Serve up a broth-based soup. Chicken vegetable, beef stew, 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. Another true comfort food thanks to the cheese!


Dinner:

Formula for dinner:

Meat ¼ plate, vegetables ¾ plate. (Yes, more vegetables. Why? Because in the evening, we tend to be more sedentary and we don't need any carbs. It's the busy-ness of our day that burns off the effects of the few carbs in this plan. Overnight, blood sugar levels can rise if dinner has too many carbs.)

  • Zucchini crust pizza

  • Pumpkin Chili - in the fall, keep one large pumpkin just for this meal. Prepare your favorite chili recipe. While it simmers, cut the top off a pumpkin and clean it out. (Save the seeds to roast. Excellent source of fat and protein.) Pour the chili into the pumpkin and bake it in the oven at 350F for at least an hour, or until the pumpkin is soft. This infuses the chili with a pumpkin flavor. When you serve the chili, scrape the sides of the pumpkin and add some to your bowl.

  • Pumpkin Beef Stew - same idea as the chili, but add your favorite beef stew recipe to the pumpkin.

  • Pumpkin Soup - when the chili or the beef stew that you baked in your pumpkin is finished, scrape the rest of the pumpkin out, add some chicken broth, and blend it until smooth. Reheat in a pan and enjoy it topped with those pumpkin seeds you roasted.

  • Billy’s steak & onion sauté

  • Pan-fried or baked Chicken, Roasted zucchini, peppers, mushrooms & radishes & Salad with ginger dressing (Aldi)

  • Burgers (beef, venison or turkey), Zucchini fries, Salad

    • Zucchini fries are sliced long, tossed with extra virgin olive oil, dusted with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 until crispy, or air fry.

  • 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 roasted with garlic and parmesan cheese, Mashed cauliflower with butter.

    • To make mashed cauliflower, I roast it first coated with olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic (you can boil it, but I find it too runny), then blend it with butter and some heavy whipping cream. Eats just like mashed potatoes.

  • Eggs, cooked a million different ways, Variety of veggies, sautéed and served with eggs & Plain yogurt topped with cinnamon & almonds, sweeten with a tiny bit of stevia.

  • Salmon, grilled, broiled or steamed, Sautéed 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


Fill a pumpkin with chili, beef stew or vegetable soup and bake until the pumpkin is cooked through.

Snacks

Formula for snacks: simple, small, low-carb

I only eat a snack if I am truly hungry. I test my hunger before I eat with water or tea. Sometimes when we are thirsty, we think we are hungry. Before falling into that weight-gaining, sugar-loading trap, make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy that. If you are still hungry 20 minutes later, have a snack. As the formula implies, snacks for diabetics should be simple and small. This is not a meal, just a healthy means to not be hangry and to manage healthy blood sugar levels.


  • Chia Seed protein drink. This is only for those who like the texture of the chia seeds. I soak the seeds in water for about 15 minutes, stirring it every now that then while I'm in the kitchen prepping my breakfast and lunch for the day. Then, I add a low-carb protein mix and shake that up. By snack time, the seeds are nice and plump, the protein powder has mixed in, and the snack is small (1 cup) but very filling.

  • Cottage Cheese (1/2 cup) with slivered almonds (1 tablespoon)

  • walnuts (1/4 cup)

  • small salad (seriously. Sometimes the best snack because salads take longer to eat; not to mention the added veggies!)

  • Celery with peanut butter or cream cheese

  • Protein shake with almond milk or water

  • A cup of coffee with a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream (amazingly, sometimes a cup of coffee is all I need.)

  • A cup of teechini (a coffee substitute) with heavy whipping cream.

  • A cup of hot bone broth, warming and good source of protein


Having diabetes can be expensive. I know how much I spend on my insulin and insulin pump supplies alone; the last thing I want is to spend a fortune on expensive foods. As you can see from the listing above, it's all fairly affordable, but there are a few money saving, food stretching ideas to share:


  • 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:


Vegetables:

Zucchini

Kale

Salad

Cucumbers

Celery

Carrots

Cauliflower

Onions

Garlic

Asparagus

Avocado

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


Proteins:

Reasonably priced and unprocessed meat: chicken, beef, pork, eggs, canned tuna, canned salmon

Cheese

Protein Powder - reasonably low-carb and tasty (I have found that some of the low-carb powders are just nasty. I don't use it, I don't gain the health benefits, and I waste my money. I prefer a few added carbs (less than 15/serving) and enjoy the shakes.)

Bacon

Sausage

Plain Yogurt - sweeten with cinammon, 1/2 a diced apple or stevia

Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachio, your favorites)

Seeds (pumpkin and sesame seeds)

Almond Flour


Fruit:

Apples (this is my go-to when my blood sugars are low)

Frozen strawberries and blueberries


Happy Things:

Coffee

Heavy Whipping Cream

Butter

Dark Chocolate, at least 70% and enjoyed in small portions, not everyday.

Natural Peanut Butter - the kind of you have to stir in the oils.


Condiments:

Sugar-free Ketchup

Mustard

Mayo

Horseradish

Salsa

Hot sauce, to awaken the flavor of low-flavor veggies

Salad Dressings, again low sugar and oil-based

Sea salt

Pepper

Paprika

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.)


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