Healthy Eating With Diabetes: Your Menu Plan

Healthy Eating With Diabetes: Your Menu Plan

Healthy Eating With Diabetes

Most people with diabetes have learned that what they choose to eat and drink can help raise or lower their blood sugar levels after meals. So which foods should you choose if you have diabetes?

There are four components in food that can affect your blood sugar:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Fat

Carbohydrates raise blood sugar faster and have the greatest effect on blood glucose compared to foods that contain proteins or fats. Fiber, protein, and fat can blunt the rise in blood sugar after a meal.

Aiming for a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in your meals can help you manage your blood sugars. But it’s important to choose quality carbohydrates and smart fats, such as:

  • Vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruit for carbs.
  • Fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, olives, extra virgin olive oil, and canola oil for fat.

Even so, two people with diabetes may respond differently to the same meal. You may want to check your blood sugar regularly before and after a meal and look for patterns between what you eat and drink and the blood sugar levels that result. You also may want to check the amount of carbohydrates eaten with each meal and try to keep the grams consistent with each meal. This can help you take charge of your blood sugars.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet when you have diabetes doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of foods that taste good. The sample menu and recipes below represent meal options that have a good balance of protein and fat and a great source of fiber. These meal options are suggestions that you can plug into your diet — in the right portion sizes — along with any additional fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, protein, or fats in your plan. Don’t forget to pay attention to the sodium in your diet. Read labels and choose foods that are low in sodium.

Sample Daily Menu Options


For breakfast, here’s an example of how you might work in a high-fiber carbohydrate along with some lean protein.

High-fiber carb choices:

  • Whole grain cereals (hot or cold) with fruit
  • Whole grain bread, English muffin or bagel
  • Whole grain waffles or pancakes with fruit

Lean protein (low in saturated fat):

  • Higher omega-3 egg blended with 2 egg whites for egg dish. Add vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, or tomatoes.
  • Low-fat milk or soy milk for your cereal or as beverage
  • Part skim cheese added to your omelet
  • Low or nonfat yogurt with fruit or in a smoothie, or enjoy with cereal

Smart fats:

  • Avocado added to your omelet
  • Nuts for cereals and yogurt parfait
  • Extra virgin olive oil used in omelet
  • Canola oil used in whole grain muffins, pancakes, waffles


Sandwich or wrap made with whole grain bread or tortilla and a lean protein such as:

  • Roasted turkey or skinless chicken or lean beef or pork
  • Part skim cheese or soy cheese
  • Water-packed tuna dressed in a vinaigrette or yogurt or light mayo
  • Falafels
  • Roasted vegetables

Bean-based lunch such as:

  • Bean burrito
  • Hummus with whole grain bread or veggie dippers
  • Chili with lean meat or vegetarian, or stew featuring beans

Entrée salad made with:

  • Dark green lettuce
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Lean meat or fish or beans or cheese plus avocado and nuts if desired
  • Dressing made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil or yogurt.


High-fiber carb choices:

  • Cooked grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur, amaranth, etc.
  • Whole wheat breads — tortilla, pita, buns, etc.
  • Colorful vegetables on the side or with the entrée
  • Dark green lettuce for side or dinner salad
  • Fresh fruit on the side or with the entrée

Lean protein (low in saturated fat):

  • Grilled or baked fish, by itself or in a mixed dish such as tacos
  • Skinless poultry — grilled, baked or stir-fried
  • Lean beef or pork — sirloin, tenderloin — with no visible fat
  • Part skim cheese in entrees such as eggplant parmesan, vegetarian pizza on whole wheat crust, vegetable lasagna, enchiladas, etc.

Smart fats:

  • Extra virgin olive oil or canola used in sensible amounts to cook the above
  • Nuts added to entrée or side dishes
  • Avocado or olives with entrée or side dishes

Sample Recipes

Homemade Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich

To add a couple servings of higher-fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains, serve the chicken salad on 2 slices of 100% whole grain bread or in a whole wheat pita pocket. You can even make a wrap sandwich using a whole wheat flour tortilla.

3 cups shredded roasted or rotisserie chicken, without skin

1 cup red grapes cut in half

2/3 cup finely chopped celery

1/3 cup sliced almonds, honey roasted or plain roasted


1/2 cup lowfat or light mayonnaise (or nonfat Greek plain yogurt)

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish (optional):

8 leaves romaine lettuce

8 slices of tomato

  1. In medium bowl, combine shredded chicken, grapes, celery, and almonds.
  2. In small bowl, combine dressing ingredients (light mayonnaise, honey, mustard, and pepper with whisk or spoon until smooth and blended. Drizzle dressing over the chicken and grape mixture and stir to blend.
  3. Spoon chicken mixture onto bread of choice to make at least 4 sandwiches, garnish with lettuce and tomato if desired and serve!

Makes at least 4 sandwiches.

Per serving, including bread (if 4 per recipe): 500 calories, 42 g protein, 51 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 6 g monounsaturated fat, 5 g polyunsaturated fat, 96 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 764 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25 percent. Omega-3 fatty acids = .4 gram, Omega-6 fatty acids = 4.5 grams.

Spinach & Mushroom Bagel Pizza

Compared to a personal pan pizza at a popular pizza chain, a serving of these spinach & mushroom bagel pizzas has about half of the calories, fat, and sodium and two-thirds less saturated fat and cholesterol and three times the fiber.

Makes 2 servings (2 bagel pizzas each)

2 whole wheat bagels

1/3 cup bottled pizza sauce (or 2 tablespoons pesto or light garlic & herb spreadable cheese)

2/3 cup shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (button, crimini, or baby Portobello)

2 cups fresh spinach leaves

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Black pepper to taste

  1. Cut whole wheat bagels in half with serrated knife to make 4 pizza crust circles and place them, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of pizza sauce (or 1/2 tablespoon of pesto or light garlic & herb cheese spread) over each pizza half.
  2. Top each bagel half with a fourth of the shredded cheese.
  3. Begin heating a medium nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, until cooked and lightly browned. Stir in the spinach leaves and minced garlic and continue to stir and sauté until the spinach is bright green but shrunken down (about 1 minute). Add black pepper to taste.
  4. Spread the spinach and mushroom mixture evenly over the pizza halves and broil about 4-inches from the heat until cheese is bubbling (watch carefully).

Per serving (using pizza sauce): 452 calories, 25 g protein, 62 g carbohydrate, 12.5 g fat, 4.7 g saturated fat, 4.8 g monounsaturated fat, 3 g polyunsaturated fat, 21 mg cholesterol, 11.5 g fiber, 836 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25 percent. Omega-3 fatty acids = .2 grams, Omega-6 fatty acids = 2.8 grams

Crockpot Coconut Curry Chicken Casserole

If you choose, you can use light coconut milk instead of fat free half and half and coconut extract. You get your veggies, whole grains, and lean meat all in one delicious dish. While the chicken is browning on the skillet, you can be adding the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker and everything cooks, including the dry brown rice, over the next 4 to 6 hours.

1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or canola oil)

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Ground pepper

Salt to taste (optional)

2 cups fat free half and half

2 teaspoons coconut extract

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons red curry powder

3/4 cup uncooked brown rice

2 small red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed) cut into thin strips or 1-inch pieces

3 cups fresh or frozen green beans (stem ends removed) cut into 1-inch long pieces

Garnish: 2 tablespoons toasted coconut, natural unsweetened or flaked (optional)

  1. Begin heating olive oil in large nonstick skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken with pepper and salt (if desired) and place in skillet to brown well on both sides (about 3 minutes a side).
  2. While chicken is browning, in slow cooker dish combine fat free half and half, coconut extract, chicken broth, red curry and brown rice. Add browned chicken on top and arrange bell pepper and green beans over the top of the chicken. Cover slow cooker and heat on LOW for 4 to 6 hours (or until rice is tender).
  3. Serve chicken with some of the rice, vegetables and curry coconut sauce and sprinkle some toasted coconut over the chicken if desired (toast coconut on a stove by spreading the shredded coconut in the bottom of a nonstick skillet or frying pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the coconut is golden brown.

Makes 4 servings

Per serving: 371 calories, 36 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 4 g monounsaturated fat, 1.4 g polyunsaturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 5.5 g fiber, 271 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 18 percent. Omega-3 fatty acids = .1 gram, Omega-6 fatty acids = 1.3 grams.

WebMD Expert Column, Reviewed By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD


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