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Meal Planning & Lifestyle Principles for People with Diabetes

and What to do About Weight Gain!


2017 PREDIABETES-Symptoms and Causes - Mayo Clinic.pdf


Dietary management and lifestyle structure are the most challenging aspects of diabetes care. Keep in mind, however, that eating to control your diabetes is no different than eating for good health, something we all benefit from doing. The emphasis should be on realistic goals rather than set rules and regulations. Following is a list of key points you should keep in mind as you work towards your goal of near-normal blood glucose levels.


1. Establish consistent eating patterns


Regardless of whether you are on diabetes medication or not, you should not skip meals (really eat mini-meals and snacks). If insulin or certain oral medications are part of your treatment plan, and you skip a meal, you could have a low blood glucose reaction.


If you aren't on medication, but skip a meal, you are likely to overeat at the next meal, which could result in a high blood glucose level. Additionally, people who skip meals are more likely to miss certain food groups that are important for overall good health, as well as lowering their metabolism. People who skip breakfast lower their metabolism by about 150 calories. You use about 10% of your total energy that you consume to digest your foods and absorb the nutrients.


 2. Eat a variety of healthy foods (skill #5 & 6)


Healthy Eating American Diabetes Association

Follow the diabetes food plate. CREATE YOUR PLATE FOR DIABETES: People with diabetes have the same food needs as people without diabetes.


The diabetes food guide plate is similar to the one commonly seen on cereal and bread products. There are some differences:

  1. Starchy vegetables like green peas, corn and potatoes were moved out of the Vegetable Group and put into the Grains/Beans and Starchy Vegetables group.

  2. Another change is that cheese was moved out of the Milk Group and is now in the Meat & Others Group. Each milk serving has 12 grams of carbohydrate as well as each fruit serving has 15 grams of carbohydrate.

  3. Typical amounts of carbohydrates/meal are 45-60 grams/meal and 25 grams/snack. It is also recommended to have some healthy fats (about 5 grams) and some healthy proteins to slow down digestion of carbohydrates (see below).

  4. Check out Healthy Eating On a Budget


   The amounts needed from each of the food groups is as follows:



   Grains, Beans, and Starchy Vegetables - 6 or more servings per day

   Fruits - 3 - 4 servings per day

   Vegetables - 3 - 5 servings per day (or more)

   Meat & Others - 2 - 3 servings per day (5-7 ounces/day of lowfat proteins)

   Milk - 2 - 3 servings per day

   Fats and Oils - only in small amounts (choose healthier varieties)

   Sweets - only once in a while


Keeping a food record for a day or two, and then comparing the number of servings you eat to the number recommended by the diabetes food guide pyramid will tell you whether you are eating too much or too little of any of the food groups.


Also, remember that the recommended number of servings is for the whole day, so you might want to divide the total number by 3 to see the amount needed per meals. For example, 3-4 servings of fruit per day means 1 per meal or snack, spread throughout the day. As I mentioned, it is really better to divide the total number of choices by 3 meals and 2 snacks to help blood sugars in balance and to keep hungers in balance. Next see suggestions of how much carbohydrate foods to have.


 3. Control carbohydrates


Carbohydrates” is a general term that includes both starches and sugars. The total amount of carbohydrate is more important than the source of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates can be either refined and processed such as in soft drinks and candy, occur naturally such as in milk and fruit, and can be found in pasta, bread, rice, dried beans and peas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn or green peas.


In other words, carbohydrate in the form of cookies doesn't affect your blood sugar any differently than carbohydrate from rice (although many people notice specific sensitivities to certain types of foods, so pay attention by monitoring your blood glucose levels to see how your body responds). However, carbohydrate foods in the form of grains, fruits or milk have vitamins, minerals and fiber, while sugary foods such as cookies have little nutritional value and are often high in fat.


Therefore, the majority of carbohydrate you consume should come from the grains, fruit or milk groups. It's okay to occasionally eat high-sugar foods, but they must be substituted for other carbohydrates, rather than just added to your meal plan.

¨      One serving of grains, fruit or milk provides about 15 grams of carbohydrate and is often referred to as 1 carbohydrate choice.

¨      For most people, 45-60 grams (3 – 4 servings) of carbohydrate per meal, and no more than 15 - 30 grams (2 – 3 servings) of carbohydrate per snack is a reasonable goal.


¨      However, your meal plan should be individualized to meet your specific needs. You do that by keeping records and noticing how your body responds and seeking support to manage all of this information.

¨      Diabetes Meal Planning:


 4. Eat less fat and healthier types of fat


If you have diabetes you have a higher risk of heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, and other micro  and macro vascular complications, therefore, you are encouraged to eat a low fat and high fiber diet. Choose foods that are lower in fat, use lower fat cooking methods and limit the amount of extra fat added to foods. Also visit point #8 below to see about raw and fresh foods.


 5. Eat more fiber


Fiber is part of a healthy diet and most people do not eat enough of it and and Focus on Fiber ideas. Fiber is found in plant foods including whole grain breads and cereals, fruits (not juice), vegetables and dried beans and peas.


The recommended intake is 21 to 38 grams per day. The fiber content is listed on the Nutrition Facts label so it is easy to calculate your intake. Keep a food record to see how much fiber you are eating in a day. If you find you are eating too little fiber, increase your intake slowly and be sure to drink plenty of fluids (8-10 cups/day).


6. Maintain a reasonable body weight


If you have been told to lose weight, be aware that a moderate weight loss of 10-20 lbs is beneficial for blood glucose control. In other words, a small weight loss can provide large returns in terms of your blood glucose and the quality of your life.


To lose weight you need to watch portion sizes - using measuring cups and spoons to measure foods (or use bowls or cups of known amount) and beverages for a week or so to be sure you are eating reasonably sized portions. Please see #8 below for additional ideas.


7. Additionally, regular physical activity - 30 minutes per day - will help with weight loss as well as improve blood glucose control. Visit also the American Diabetes Fitness section! Check out the additional resource below on Exercise & Physical Activity.


8. Weight gain with diabetes

This is one of the most challenging areas to manage. Frequently people with diabetes have also had their bodies become less physically able to move about (due to increased weight and degenerative joint diseases, and fibromyalgia, which lead to increased pain). The side effects of oral hypoglycemic medicines and insulin (and frequently medicines for depression and other mental or neurological imbalances, and steroids to relieve joint pains and arthritis) are to automatically cause weight gain! First check with a pharmacist to see which of your medications might cause weight gain. To address the challenge try out:


Additional Resources

Diabetes and Drug Use:

Here is a centralized resource that explores the dangerous relationship between diabetes, alcohol and other drugs. 
Because of this, we engaged with researcher Dr. Karen Vieira, PhD MSM to create a comprehensive resource on the 
implications, contraindications and the latest research regarding substance abuse and diabetes.

The result is this page, which can be navigated by mousing over the “Skip to Section” button: 

Please note: I list many Websites as resources. I have not participated in the development of any of the sites, and cannot endorse any products or supplements they sell or services that they promote or contain.

Hope Warshaw

Hope Warshaw MMSC, RD, CDE is a certified, nationally known diabetes educator and the author of many books that promote practical and delicious ways to discover and apply healthful eating in a hectic world. About Hope:

Hope is most well known for her expertise in the areas of diabetes nutrition management and healthy restaurant eating.

For nutrition and diabetes information:

Too discover Hope's wonderful straight-talking books:

Hope also has a healthy eating and living well BLOG:


Diabetes Mellitus Information and Treatment Supply 
Description: Complete Information on Diabetes, Types, Treatments Available. Recommended Herbs, Foods, Vitamins, Minerals and Exercises


Nutrition & Recipes from American Diabetes Association

Visit the link   to explore many other helpful topics.


Visit the Diabetes Mall for the latest in diabetes information, technologies, and resources.





See also: Childhood and Teen Obesity Resources for suggestions about children and teen obesity.

             Copyright © 2001-2018 Bob Wilson BS, DTR  All Right Reserved. Articles are for personal use only. Please request permission for other uses. Thanks!