Diabetic Meal Plans are Easier than You Think!

Many people who have diabetes believe that they must make drastic changes in the way that they eat.  Actually, the components of a diabetic meal plan work much in the same way that any healthy eating plan would work.  The person with diabetes stands to benefit considerably as long as there is balance, portion control and a variety of nutrient dense foods.  Weight loss, blood sugar control and improved nutritional adequacy will become the most obvious benefits.

Diabetic meal plans adapt principles of healthy eating that can benefit everyone.  Having diabetes does not mean that you need to make separate meals or foods.  Everyone has similar nutritional needs regardless of whether or not they have diabetes.  A diabetic meal plan includes the same foods that everyone else eats.  Buying specialty or diet food is usually unnecessary.

Having diabetes does not mean you have to give up carbohydrates.  This is a common belief among many people.  Carbohydrate foods do, in fact, have an effect on blood sugar but they are a necessary component of a healthy diet and need to be included.  It is the quantity as well as the type of carbohydrate that you include which makes the biggest impact in how well blood sugar is controlled.

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source.  Simple carbohydrates include foods with added sugars, juices and fruits.  Complex carbohydrates include grain products and starchy vegetables.  Recommendations for diabetic meal plans suggest that most of the carbohydrate included come from the complex variety.  The best choices of grains or other starchy foods include those with the highest fiber content.  In other words, look for whole grains, and fresh or frozen vegetables to get the most fiber.  Refined or processed grains have much less fiber, and often a lower nutritional value.

Fruit contains natural, simple sugars, and provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.  To get the most fiber from fruit choose fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.  Unsweetened frozen or canned fruit provide additional choices.

The carbohydrate found in milk or yogurt comes from naturally occurring sugar and these foods are perfectly suitable to include in your eating plan.  Choose low fat or skim milk and yogurt.  Read yogurt labels carefully for added sugars.  Some fruit flavored or fruit on the bottom types of yogurt have quite a bit added sugar.

What about desserts and foods with added sugars?  Trying to eliminate desserts entirely is not realistic and could make you feel deprived.  Use good judgment and portion control with desserts, and reserve this type of food for occasional use.  Be sure your blood sugar is well controlled if you decide to include an occasional dessert.

Carbohydrate foods are not the only consideration for diabetes meal planning.  High protein foods and healthy fats are essential as well.  Choose lean sources of meat, chicken or fish.  Vegetable sources of protein such as beans, lentils and soy provide good alternatives that are lower in fat.  Consider using the meatless vegetable proteins as an alternative once or twice weekly.

Selecting lean meat and low fat dairy food is a good way to minimize saturated fat and cholesterol.  Include foods containing omega-3 fatty acids for their beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in soy oil, walnuts, flax seed, and most notably, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.

As you can see, the diabetic meal plan echoes many of the same principles of a general healthy eating plan.  Of greatest importance is to balance and control the amount of carbohydrate consumed each day.  A Registered Dietitian can help you learn about portion size and the right number of servings from each food category to include in your plan.  Here is a simple recipe that includes lean protein, vegetables, and a whole grain starch.  Enjoy!

Sesame Chicken and Asparagus

Serves 4

2 tsp. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp. ginger
4- 4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tb. Dry white wine
½ lb. asparagus, cut into 1”pieces
2 cups whole grain pasta, cooked
½ tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. sesame oil

1. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet.  Add garlic and chicken.  Cook chicken on each side until lightly browned, approximately 5 minutes on each side.
2. Add white wine and asparagus; stir fry all ingredients for an additional 3- 5 minutes or until chicken breasts are cooked through.
3. Add cooked pasta, sesame seeds and sesame oil.  Toss lightly and serve.

Per Serving: 261 Cal (18% from Fat, 48% from Protein, 33% from Carb); 31 g Protein; 5 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 22 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; 2 g Sugar; 42 mg Calcium; 3 mg Iron; 79 mg Sodium; 66 mg Cholesterol

Exchanges = 1 Starch – ½ Veg – 3 Lean Meat

© 2011 Gretchen Scalpi.  All rights reserved. You are free to reprint/republish this article as long as the article and byline are kept intact and all links are made live.

Gretchen Scalpi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and author of “The Everything Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd ed.”  Gretchen operates a private nutrition practice and and has offices in New Windsor and Beacon, NY.  Learn more about good nutrition and diabetes at http://www.nutritionxpert.com/products.

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