Eating healthy is important, especially when you’re managing diabetes. Even though there’s not a simple “magic diet” for diabetes, there are several well studied eating patterns that have proven A1c reduction. So, what is an eating pattern? An eating pattern is simply a combination of different foods or food groups. Key food choices include lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, & healthy fats. Choosing whole foods over highly processed foods and minimizing added sugars & refined grains is recommended. My simple equation is this: each meal should include lean protein, healthy carbohydrate, healthy fat, and fiber from non-starchy vegetables.
At the end of the day, my goal is for each person to find a meal pattern that works best for them. Meals should be healthy, tasty, help you manage your blood sugar, and help you to reach your health goals.
Below are some ideas of applying a balanced pattern to your meals, but do keep into account your specific nutrient needs. If you have questions about how much you should be consuming, please schedule an appointment with your registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes care and education specialist/certified diabetes educator (CDCES/CDE).
Eating a balanced breakfast can lead to better blood sugar management throughout your day. There are studies that suggest skipping breakfast can lead to increased blood sugar levels after lunch and supper (study was done on individuals with type 2 diabetes). And for those on scheduled insulin doses or medications that stimulate insulin release, skipping meals in general can increase risk of hypoglycemia.
For breakfast, focus on lean protein, healthy fat, and healthy carbohydrate (high in fiber). Sneaking in non-starchy vegetables is always a bonus! Traditional breakfast foods (like cereal, pastries, muffins, bagels, etc) tend in include large amounts of added sugars. Be sure to look for added sugar on the food label and limit how much you consume. Here are some ideas you could add to your breakfast routine:
- Eggs, whole grain toast with peanut butter, fruit
- Cottage cheese topped with fruit & nuts
- Low sugar Greek yogurt and berries topped low sugar granola or nuts
- Smoothie made with low sugar protein powder, fruit, and spinach
- Crust-less breakfast quiche and fruit
- Whole grain toast with smashed avocado and egg + berries
- Low sugar protein drink and fruit
For many, lunch tends to be rushed. Ideally, each lunch should still include lean protein, healthy carbohydrate, healthy fat, and fiber from non-starchy vegetables. Here are some ideas to add to your lunch routine:
- Left overs (include a protein, healthy starch, and non-starchy vegetable). Add cut raw veggies, salad, or fruit if there aren’t any left-over vegetables from the night before.
- Adult lunch-able (deli turkey or lean ham, 2% cheese slices, high fiber crackers, fruit & vegetable such as grapes and carrot sticks)
- Turkey and veggie wrap on high fiber tortilla & fruit
- Peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, cottage cheese, celery & carrot sticks
- Large green salad with protein (grilled chicken or fish) and yogurt or fruit
- Healthy Choice frozen meal with extra veggies, low-sugar yogurt & fruit
Similar to lunch, supper time also tends to be rushed. To make meals easier, set aside some time to make a weekly grocery list and meal prep a few items ahead of time. Again, each supper should still include lean protein, healthy carbohydrate, healthy fat, and fiber from non-starchy vegetables. Here are some ideas to add to your supper routine:
- Turkey & Veggie chili
- Large green salad with protein (grilled chicken or fish), nuts, & fruit topped with vinaigrette dressing
- Salmon, quinoa, & steamed vegetables
- Spaghetti (try legume pasta) with tomato sauce, turkey meatballs, and salad
- Thin crust pizza slice and large dinner salad
Just like our main meals, snacks should still be balanced and contain lean protein, healthy carbohydrate, & healthy fat. Think of ways to fit in more vegetables and fruit with your snacks.
- Apple with peanut butter
- Light popcorn and almonds
- Cut raw vegetables with hummus
- Cottage cheese & fruit
- Rice cakes and peanut butter
- Orange & sting cheese
- Hard-boiled egg and cut raw vegetables
If you’d like more meal ideas, be sure of join us this Thursday for diabetes support group. We have meetings the second Thursday of every month. The virtual meetings start at 11am for the and in-person meeting at noon. If you are interested in attending, please fill out this form.
American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Food Hub
Diabetes Care 2015 Oct;38(10):1820-6. doi: 10.2337/dc15-0761. Epub 2015 Jul 28.
Nutrition Therapy for Adults with Diabetes or Prediabetes: A Consensus Report