Meal Planning With Diabetes

DIABETES CARE|Nov.10, 2018


In an interview with Business Insider, Dan Schmitz, Abbott's director of user experience and research and development, envisioned a future where our favorite foods would one day become as nutritious as kale or broccoli.

But until the day that a pizza that's both super delicious and super nutritious arrives, we must make do with good ole-fashioned healthy food to meet our nutritional needs. That isn't always an easy task — especially for those who are trying to make a meal plan for people living diabetes.

Diabetes nutrition is highly individualized, and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) acknowledges that there isn't one meal plan that will work for everyone living with diabetes. Knowing what to eat, how much of it to eat and when to eat it can be difficult determine. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and other members of your diabetes care team are invaluable assets in helping you create your optimal meal plan.

Even if you have a good plan, though, you may need to tweak your meal planning when you go out to eat, when you're sick or when a special holiday is coming up.

You have things to do and a life to live, and factoring diabetes into your lifestyle can be challenging. But certain strategies can make it easier to put together a healthy meal plan for diabetes.

Count Those Carbs

Adding up the carbohydrates for each part of your meal will give you a full carb count.

Let's say you're making breakfast, and you want pancakes. You look at the nutrition label on the pancake mix or check out a database, such as this one from the United States Department of Agriculture, to determine how many carbohydrates are in a single pancake once you combine all the required ingredients. You see that each four-inch pancake contains 15 grams of carbs, so you need to make some decisions. How many pancakes are you going to have? What are you going to top them with? What will you eat on the side?

Having an accurate carb count will help you make some healthy substitutions. For example, you can choose a sugar-free syrup. Or, instead of eating a full stack of pancakes, you can choose to have one or two scrambled eggs with a shorter stack.

Make sure to read labels carefully, too.

Carbs can be sneaky and pop up in unexpected places, such as dressings and sauces. You think you're eating a healthy salad until you realize that the dressing is loaded with sugar; next thing you know, your blood glucose has shot up much higher than you expected.

Ketchup and barbecue sauces can also be packed with sugar and carbs, too.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Food-tracking apps can be especially helpful in managing your carbohydrate intake. Many of them have easy barcode-reading systems that give you a quick view of the carb count on many popular foods. With a few swipes, you can store that information on your smartphone or device for quick recall.

Recipe-sharing blogs and other websites can also be helpful, especially if they provide the nutritional information right next to the recipe. You can quickly determine if an appealing recipe fits your diabetes meal plan; if it doesn't, you can move on to the next one. For example, you can find helpful recipes from Glucerna here.

Think Ahead

Meal planning means planning every meal — that's breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even your snacks. Medications, including insulin, are a big part of making sure your blood sugar doesn't dip too low or spike too high, but good diabetes nutrition is also key.

This process of creating a meal plan for diabetes may seem daunting at first, but with practice, it becomes routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that half of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, and the other half should be split evenly between grains and lean proteins. You can practice with this interactive tool from the ADA that lets you create a custom plate.

Meal planning with diabetes is about making choices, balancing carbohydrates with protein and fat and selecting foods that support your health and life goals. Talk to your doctor about coming up with a meal plan that's right for you. Once you've got one, follow it for happy and healthy eating.

Be Mindful of Snacks

New data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that individuals with diabetes aren't making the best snack choices.1 Snacks are becoming a fourth meal, contributing a meal's worth of calories and too much added sugars. When choosing snacks, select nutritious options like fruit or vegetables.

Abbott's Glucerna® shake is designed to help minimize blood sugar spikes, making it a perfect grab-and-go meal or snack replacement you can feel good about.

In fact, if you replace one snack per day with Glucerna for a month, you could eliminate 5,670 calories (equal to 14 medium-sized blueberry muffins), 1,082 g carbohydrates (the same amount of carbs in about 32 snack bags of pretzels), and 533 g sugar (what's in 92 fun-sized candy bars2).

1Taylor C. et al. New Evidence that Snack Calories are the Lowest Quality Calories for People with Diabetes. American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 2018, Las Vegas, NV.

22017 NHANES database macronutrient calculations. Nutrition information sourced from the USDA National Nutrient Database.