Request an Appointment:
or Call 1-888-824-0200
Patient Care Services
Patient and Visitor Information
Clinical Trials
Classes and Events

Health Library

Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Click a letter to see a list of conditions beginning with that letter.
Click 'Topic Index' to return to the index for the current topic.
Click 'Library Index' to return to the listing of all topics.

Meal Planning

The importance of meal planning in diabetes management

You can control your blood sugar levels to a certain extent with proper diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. A healthy lifestyle can also help control or lower your blood pressure and control blood fats. This reduces your risk for heart disease.

To help maintain steady blood sugar, space smaller meals throughout the day. Eating a big meal only once or twice a day can cause extreme high or low blood sugar levels. Also, if your activity level has changed, you may need to make changes to your diet as well. This will help maintain weight control and control blood sugar levels.

What is the My Plate plan?

Whether you do or don't have diabetes, following the MyPlate guidelines is beneficial to your health. MyPlate plan can help you eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food plate to guide you in selecting foods.

MyPlate has 5 food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional intake of the following:

  • Grains. Make half the grains consumed each day whole grains. Whole-grain foods include oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, whole cornmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Check the food label on processed foods—the words “whole” or “whole grain” should be listed before the specific grain in the product.

  • Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green- and orange-colored kinds, legumes (peas and beans), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables. Healthier choices include buying fresh, low-sodium, or no-salt added canned versions, or plain, frozen vegetables that have no added sauces or seasonings.

  • Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or pureed.

  • Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium.

  • Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine—choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.

Oils are not a food group, yet some, such as nut oils, contain essential nutrients and can be included in the diet. But, limit solid fats, such as animal fats.

Also include exercise and every day physical activity with a healthy dietary plan.

To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 and to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations for your age, sex, and physical activity level, visit the Online Resources page for the links to the ChooseMyPlate.gov and 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the MyPlate plan is designed for people older than age 2 who don't have chronic health conditions.

Although the MyPlate plan promotes health, including the prevention of diabetes and its complications, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends individualized meal plans for people with diabetes. People with diabetes should talk with their healthcare providers and registered dietitians (RD) for guidance with meal planning and physical activity.

The number of servings from each food group may differ for a person with diabetes, based on his or her recommended treatment plan, diabetic goals, calorie intake, and lifestyle. There are many tools available to help you follow a diabetes meal plan, including ChooseMyPlate.gov, exchange lists, and carbohydrate counting. Always talk with your healthcare provider or dietitian for dietary recommendations and daily physical exercise requirements for your situation.

Grains

Grains provide the body with energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Although filled with carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels quickly, grains are essential to a healthy diet. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, whole grains and refined grains. Examples of grains include:

  • Bread

  • Oatmeal

  • Pasta

  • Cereal

  • Rice

  • Cornmeal

  • Tortillas

Vegetables

Vegetables contain vitamins and minerals essential to the body. Many vegetables also contain fiber. Because they are low in calories when eaten raw or cooked, people with diabetes are encouraged to eat plenty of vegetables. However, people with diabetes may still need to count carbohydrates when they eat vegetables, because even nonstarchy vegetables contain some carbohydrates.

Fruits

Fruit can provide energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. How and when to eat fruit or drink fruit juices for a person with diabetes is very specific to that person. Certain fruits can affect blood sugar levels. You may need to experiment with various fruits to determine how fruit affects your blood sugar.

Milk and yogurt

Fat-free and low-fat milk and yogurt provide energy, protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. Fat-free milk or yogurts also are good foods to treat low blood sugar levels, since they contain the same amount of carbohydrates as 1 serving of fruit or starch.

Protein

Foods that contain protein help build muscles and body tissue, in addition to providing vitamins and minerals. Due to the increased risk of heart disease in people with diabetes, the ADA recommends that people cut down on animal protein foods. Animal protein foods, like meats, whole-milk products, and high-fat cheeses contain saturated fat. Other examples of protein foods include poultry, eggs, fish, beans, nuts, and tofu.

Fats and oils

The total fat and oil intake should be based on your cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, and lifestyle. Some examples of "healthier" fats and oils (lower in saturated fats and cholesterol and higher in monounsaturated fats) include olive oil, olives, nuts, canola oil, and avocado.

Sugary foods

Because diabetes is associated with glucose (sugar) levels in the blood, some people think they should not eat sugar at all. However, table sugar and other sugars in your diet don't increase blood glucose levels any higher than other carbohydrates, according to the ADA.

How much sugar you eat depends on your personal diabetes treatment and nutrition plan, and how well you control your blood sugar levels and blood fats. Always talk with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian for more specific recommendations.

Online Medical Reviewer: Horowitz, Diane, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Wilkins, Joanna, RD, CD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2017
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.