The Best 30-Day Meal Plan for People With Diabetes
For people at risk or living with diabetes, there are many eating patterns that can improve your lifestyle and meet your diabetes goals. With our 30-day meal plan, we are here to help you cut through that noise and simplify your life by considering a few things when it comes to your diet.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. And at the end of the day, what everybody wants is to be healthy.
While it may seem there are tons of tedious rules to obey in order to reach our goals, it all boils down to a nutritious and healthy eating habit. Nutrients from the foods we eat are the building blocks for the structure, function and integrity of cells within our bodies, constantly repairing, healing and reconstructing.
With a carefully prepared meal plan, we can easily use them in our best interest, either to control our weight, blood pressure or other conditions.
DAY 1 – Note every bite you take
Grab a notebook and write down your snacks and meals—a food tracking app could also help you. It’s equally important to be mindful of the time you’re eating and how you’re feeling after every meal you take. Write down in your food journal everything you consider accurate for your diet program.
Small bites and basic portion sizes should be included in your dietary habits. Don’t deceive yourself with 100 calories from an apple and 50 more from an orange—consuming them without a meal plan, at any hour you like, can have consequences on your overall health, especially when you have diabetes.
Taking notes about your eating habits is the only way to see if your diabetes care program such as food, medications and exercises is suitable for you.
No one said it’s easy, but people who remember to write down everything they eat will notice that their chances of losing weight will improve after all. Focus on your goal and stick with it—it’s the only way to keep the weight off in the long term.
Your main goal for day one is to keep your diet on track. Note every bite you take and how you feel after your meals and snacks.
DAY 2 – Look upon your snack carbs
Managing your diabetes well depends on counting the carbohydrates you eat. Your doctor probably told you that carbs are the main factor in raising blood sugar. Keeping your carb intake at around 45 grams for one meal or less than 15 grams for one snack is essential. Depending on your goal, a certified diabetes educator can help you find out what your carb intake should be.
As you know, reading the labels is important, but maybe more important than that is to inform yourself about the carbohydrate count of whole products and other items which aren’t labeled. Write this down in your food journal or use a carb counting app.
Even if many people know the carbohydrate count of whole foods, sometimes they are in doubt when it comes to snacks. Well, if you portion your snacks in baggies and label them with their carb counts, you’ll always have a snack when hunger strikes, without having second thoughts about it.
Count your snack carbs, because carbohydrates are the biggest factor in raising your blood sugar and familiarize yourself with the carbohydrate count of whole products.
DAY 3 – Reduce your salt intake
We don’t want to scare you, but one teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium, which is more than enough for a person who’s on a low-sodium diet. Fortunately for you, there are many sodium-free spice blends you can easily find at a local store.
The average American consumes about 4,000 mg of sodium per day, while the American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults limit sodium to 2,400 mg per day, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program suggests less than 2,400 mg per day, and the World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 mg daily.
Put down your saltshaker and try sodium-free spice blends—you might find them more enjoyable than salt due to their flavors.
DAY 4 – Try the DASH
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension program appeared due to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute findings. This program is based on an eating plan rich in veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and unsalted nuts. Being rich in magnesium, potassium, fiber and low-fat dairy products, the DASH program could help you properly manage your diabetes.
The program encourages diabetics and people with high blood pressure to limit their sodium to 1,500 milligrams per day. If you follow this program which is also a weight-loss friendly one, studies show it can lower high blood pressure and it can enhance blood cholesterol levels. If you’re interested in this program, speak to a registered dietitian nutritionist.
The DASH program comes with an eating plan rich in diabetic-friendly foods. It is recommended to talk to a professional if you want to include it into your lifestyle.
DAY 5 – Evaluate your hunger
Every single time you open your fridge… are you really hungry or just bored? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle—that’s why having a food journal and evaluating your hunger is crucial. You can do this by drawing some smiley faces on your journal with their certain hunger rate written down on the right side of the paper (e.g., not hungry at all, slightly hungry, moderately hungry and starving, all with the smiley face you consider is suitable for each situation).
If you aren’t slightly or moderately hungry, then find out what’s really driving your need for food. Diabetics should try to eat five to six times a day and spacing out the food could help them control the blood sugar and their hunger. Also, our brain signals after 20 minutes to let us know if we have satiated the hunger, so, take your time, wash the dishes or write down what you have eaten before grabbing the second snack.
Ask yourself again: Am I really hungry or just bored? Make sure to read what your body tells accurately and when you find the answer, write it down.
DAY 6 – Learn your food label hot spots
When you’re trying to eat healthy, we recommend you understand food label information. If, lately, you found yourself confused by food labels, there’s a simple way to help you concentrate on the best choices for your blood sugar and blood pressure control. Knowing the label hot spots such as total carbohydrate, serving size and sodium is essential to manage your condition.
- Total carbohydrate: This is actually the main indicator of how that food will impact your blood sugar. Remember that a meal should be no more than 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and then look again at the label hot spot.
- Sodium: For a person with diabetes and hypertension, the daily sodium intake is less than 1500 milligram per day. Try to opt for foods that have 140 milligrams of sodium or less.
- Serving size: Here comes the real problem… What is mentioned on the label is often very different from the real-life serving sizes. Always pay attention to this hot spot—it’s tricky.
Knowing the label hot spots (total carbohydrate, serving size and sodium) is a certain way to get great results.
DAY 7 – Know the hidden names for salt
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults limit sodium to 2,400 mg per day, and the World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 mg daily. If you have high blood pressure, limiting your sodium even further is essential (the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest 1,500 mg per day for people with diabetes and hypertension).
Even if these numbers are indispensable for a healthy life, the average American consumes about 4,000 milligrams of sodium every day. The problem is with the foods that contain hidden names for sodium such as monosodium glutamate, marinades, baking soda, canned foods and a variety of frozen processed foods. Also, remember that kosher salt and sea salt are still SALT.
Select lower sodium foods and fresh foods which contain less sodium and are more nutritious. If you crave for a canned tuna, opt for low-sodium versions or rinse them off with cold water.
Many foods contain hidden forms of sodium, so knowing them is very important to reduce your sodium intake and follow a healthy diet plan.
DAY 8 – Minimize your dishes
A plate 9 inches in diameter was the recommended standard size dinner plate. In the last decades, the dinnerware has increased in size and the average dinner plate is now 12 inches in diameter.
Many studies show that these huge plates and bowls make you eat more, therefore adding many pounds to your waistline. Use small plates and never eat out of the container—you will eat way too much without even realizing (until you find yourself with extra pounds).
If you continue to eat from large size plates, you will gain weight. Portion your food into a small plate or bowl—this is very useful for snack foods, because we tend to eat the entire package.
DAY 9 – Eat colorful foods
Eating more veggies will provide you fiber, phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins you need to stay energized. As a main rule for lunch and dinner—fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as artichoke, asparagus, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, peppers, sprouts, tomatoes, eggplant, cabbage, beets, potatoes, carrots or mushrooms.
Adding a colorful variety into your plate not only looks good, it’s good for your health. Eating in a variety of colors such as red, orange, green, purple and white helps provide your body with valuable nutrients.
DAY 10 – Do not skip breakfast
Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. If you don’t start your day with a nutrient-rich breakfast, chances are, your day will not be that great. Try these tips tomorrow to make breakfast the right way:
Include protein: Vegetables, egg whites and a low-fat cheese with some blueberries on the side is the perfect breakfast.
Eat grains: Steel-cut oatmeal is high in fiber, making you feel fuller longer. You can add unsalted crushed almonds with a sliced apple. If you’re not a cereal lover, try whole-grain bread with natural almond butter.
Eat your lunch for breakfast: Your breakfast plate can contain tuna or salmon on brown rice cakes with some tomatoes and lettuce.
Never underestimate the power of a healthy breakfast! You might be surprised at the effect it has on your overall wellness.
DAY 11 – Eat more nuts
Replace chips with unsalted organic nuts such as walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds and pecans. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids and consuming them can improve brain function. Brazil nuts contain vitamin E, selenium, copper, fiber and niacin. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and calcium while pecans can help you lower cholesterol.
Almost all nuts are low in carbohydrates—that’s why they are a smart snack for people with diabetes, but try to consume them in moderation, because too many calories even if they come from healthy foods will lead to extra pounds.
Nuts are very nutritious but eating them in moderation, like everything else for that matter, is the key to manage your diabetes.
DAY 12 – Take fruits and veggies in season
Fruits and veggies in season are tastier, fresher and healthier. If you aren’t sure what’s in season, a vendor should be able to help you out. The problem appears when your favorite fruit is out of season and you crave for it. You can buy canned fruits and veggies, but make sure you’re reading the labels carefully. Remember what we said for day 7? Canned products often have added sodium.
Always try to choose fruits and vegetables in season because they are more nutritious. If some of them are out of season, read the labels twice before you buy them.
DAY 13 – Get enough fiber
Fiber is highly important for our bodies to function well. Controlling our weight depends on the fiber intake because foods high in fiber can help us feel fuller for longer. Also, fiber can minimize the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Insoluble fiber that comes from corn, green beans, wheat, nuts and dark green leafy veggies can prevent constipation.
Soluble fiber which is found in oats, apples, barley, citrus fruits, flaxseeds and carrots can lower blood sugar and cholesterol. Plus, this type of fiber can improve insulin sensitivity.
The American Heart Association recommends eating 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. It’s important to increase your fiber consumption in time to help prevent excessive gas buildup and stomach upset. Also, when you consume fiber, make sure you drink enough water—at least six glasses every day.
Fiber consumption is essential for your overall health—it can reduce your risk of developing certain conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
DAY 14 – Drink more water
You should drink about 48 ounces of water a day. Drinking water more often raises metabolic rate and helps with weight control. Staying hydrated with water and quitting drinks such as alcohol, soda and sugary juices can benefit many people with diabetes. Dehydration can drive up blood pressure because it causes your body to retain sodium, so drinking enough water is crucial when you have high blood pressure.
Drinking enough fluids, especially water is essential for everyone, not only for diabetics. Also, for better results, replace alcohol, soda and sugary juices with water.
DAY 15 – Shop with a grocery list
Before going to the grocery store, write down a shopping list – this way you’ll stay away from unhealthy foods and spend less money. It’s a win-win! You will save more money and stay within your carbohydrate, calorie and sodium intake.
Write down a list of foods you don’t have in your refrigerator and go to the grocery store without spending money and time on food you don’t need.
DAY 16 – Make smarter alcohol choices
Drinking alcohol is like eating empty calories. In general, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and that packs a punch. Opt for mineral water or a noncaloric beverage. As a tip, you should avoid alcoholic drinks when your blood glucose is below 80 mg/dL.
If you do want to drink something alcoholic, try to stick to wine or light beer to avoid the added carbohydrates, calories and sodium that are in cocktail mixers. Fancy drinks are actually calorie bombs. Also, have a snack and drink water between your beverages.
Avoid cocktail mixers and try to eat a snack when you’re drinking alcohol—this will reduce the effects of the alcohol.
DAY 17 – Lose just a little weight
When you’re overweight, studies show that weight loss of 3 to 5 percent of your total body weight can impact your health, improving both blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Focus on the steps below to achieve your goals:
Check your meds. Some blood pressure meds can cause weight gain such as beta-blockers. Ask your doctor if your medication could cause weight gain.
Don’t go on the other side. Dramatic calorie restriction isn’t good. You can reduce your normal intake by no more than 500 calories per day. Also, speak to your dietitian—he or she is the only one who could tell you what calorie level is right for you based on your gender, activity level, health history and age.
Know your options. It’s no secret that people who are obese and have type 2 diabetes are candidates for weight loss drugs. Eating healthy and exercising regularly can help you keep off the weight no matter if you have health issues related with obesity.
Don’t give up—no matter what! As long as you lose weight in a healthy way, you are on the right track to your dream body.
DAY 18 – Organize your refrigerator
When your refrigerator is clean and organized, you’ll get a positive vibe about planning and preparing healthy meals. Throw away expired products and make sure your refrigerator temperature is under 40°F. Also, you can put baking soda in a bowl to help capture lingering odors.
If you have diabetes, portion your snacks and label them. Keep veggies and fruits in different drawers, because some of them give off ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process.
Organize and clean your refrigerator regularly. Portion your snacks wisely and place your fruits and vegetables in separate drawers.
DAY 19 – Snack smarter
Throw away sodas, sugary drinks, candy, cookies and any other carb-filled and high-sodium snack. Instead, opt for unsalted nuts. Walnuts are an excellent choice for those who have high blood pressure. Of course, you should pay attention to your portion sizes, no matter what type of nuts you’re enjoying (unsalted walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, almonds or Brazil nuts).
A great snack for you could also be Greek yogurt with chopped almonds. Another snack which won’t spike your blood sugar is hard-boiled egg with a dash of pepper. Not to mention that your refrigerator should always contain fresh vegetables—they are also a delicious snack that is suitable for you.
Steer clear of unhealthy snacks—they only spike your blood sugar. Replace these snacks with smart options and do your best to maintain your healthy eating habits.
DAY 20 – Choose the smallest meal size
Portioning can be hard, especially if we are eating out—and let’s be honest, most restaurants serve super-sized meals that are enough for you and your friend. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back with some easy-to-remember tips:
- Choose the smallest meal size
- Dine out with a friend and share the meal
- Stay away from “all you can eat” buffets
- Avoid menu items that are described with the following words: jumbo, extra-large, supreme, triple, double, or grande
- Go for: small, appetizer, lunch portion, kid-sized, petite, or junior
You can easily overeat when you’re in a restaurant—that’s why it’s important to know how to portion your meals in every situation.
DAY 21 – Reinvent your drink
Maybe you’re tired of drinking only water—but no one said you can’t put your fingers on a lemon, squeeze it and add it into your water. But, when it comes to caffeine, try to limit the amount, because too much of it can increase your blood pressure—a cup of coffee in the morning with a noncaloric sweetener is enough for your daily intake.
Flavor your water with lemon and try to limit the amount of your daily caffeine to avoid any unwanted effects.
DAY 22 – Stay on schedule
In order to control your hunger and keep your blood sugar levels stable, you need to stay on schedule with your meals, especially if you take insulin. Eat five to six times per day without hesitating.
It’s extremely important to eat at specific hours. Make your own program to fit your lifestyle and stick to it so you can reap the benefits.
DAY 23 – Rethink your side dishes
You’re probably thinking what you should put next to that turkey… Well, if what you have in mind is coleslaw, potato salad or pasta salad, think again – they are packed with calories and sodium. For example, potatoes can take you over your daily recommended carb allowance. Our suggestions are brown rice, carrots, bean sprouts or quinoa.
Steer clear of side dishes that are high in calories and sodium and try to eat diabetic-friendly ones such as bean sprouts and carrots.
DAY 24 – Eat your fav occasionally
When you have diabetes or hypertension, you also have restrictions. But we all deserve a treat. As long as you keep your conditions under control, you can enjoy your favorite food in moderation. Eat your treat mindfully and control your cravings—you could be tempted to eat more cookies than you should when you’re at a party.
No one said you have to give up what you like! You can still eat your favorite food, as long as you’re doing it wisely.
DAY 25 – Learn your nut butters
Nut and seed butters are great sources of dietary fiber, plant-based protein, being also cholesterol-free. Choosing healthy nut-butters can be tricky, but, like in every other case, the ones with fewer ingredients are the best. Stay away from those who contain added trans fats and hydrogenated oils. However, when you open the jar, keep your serving size to about 2 tablespoons.
Not all nut butters are great for your health. Read the labels carefully and keep your serving size to about 2 tablespoons.
DAY 26 – Be a salad lover
Eating a salad before a meal is perfect to cut your hunger and avoid overeating. Many restaurants have salad bars, but sometimes it’s hard to select the best option in this situation, especially when you are a diabetic person. Follow the steps below for a salad bar victory:
- When in doubt, stick with oil and vinegar
- Fill your bowl with fresh veggies
- Don’t sprinkle on calories, carbs, and salt
- Stay away from prepared foods
- Watch your portions
There’s nothing healthier and lower in calories than a salad. So portion your salad well and keep it green!
DAY 27 – Travel light
We are all tempted to eat unhealthy food when we travel, but we must stick to the plan. Remember the following things next time you travel:
Driving. Make sure you pack a cooler and frozen water bottle next time you’re on the road. Don’t stop at a gas station for chips! Eat a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread topped with some romaine lettuce and tomato.
Flying. Bring some unsalted nuts with you and purchase water when you are past security at the airport. Also, it’s important to know the TSA requirements for bringing food through security—otherwise, you’ll have to check out the food court which doesn’t seem very healthy.
If it’s hard to eat healthy at your friend’s party, when you’re on vacation is even harder. Remember your goal and everything you’ve done so far to achieve it.
DAY 28 – Remember the omega-3s
These fatty acids found in tuna, salmon, wheat germ, chia seeds, walnuts, ground flaxseed and certain vegetable oils may help prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They can also minimize inflammation and guard against heart disease. The mentioned benefits are like a golden nugget for people with diabetes and hypertension.
If you want to take omega-3 supplements, you should speak to your doctor about it, because these supplements can interact with some blood pressure medications.
Go natural! Get the adequate amount of omega-3s by eating a variety of foods. If you want to take supplements, speak to your doctor.
DAY 29 – Be the host you want to see
Prep those traditional dishes with low-fat dressings in place of mayonnaise. Healthier is always tastier! Who knows? Maybe your neighbor with bad eating habits will ask for your meal plan. Every friend and every family member will appreciate your efforts, so put on that apron and get started!
You don’t have to make different dishes for you and your loved ones. Prepare your healthy meals and let your friends enjoy them!
DAY 30 – Find a dietitian
No matter if he or she is a certified diabetes educator, or a registered dietitian nutritionist, they are both qualified to understand your needs. A dietitian will work with you to make a customized eating plan that satisfies your needs, in order to achieve your weight and health goals.
Fortunately, most insurance companies cover dietitian and diabetes education services for people who live with diabetes—ask your doctor for more information.
Now, your main goal is to stick with your customized eating plan without repeating the mistakes in the past.