A reader e-mailed me and asked me for some sample meal plans. This request was a timely one since the previous article ended with a call to plan our meals.
Diabetes Meal Planning
A diabetic meal plan answers a few questions; What do I eat? When do I eat? How much do I eat? The answer to these questions can help us to control our blood sugar.
Nutrition should be our focus and for this reason, we must plan carefully as we respond to the questions above. The idea is for us to plan meals that are nutrient-dense in order to be our best health and to prevent or control diabetes.
When planning our meals, we need to consider what we need to achieve (goals), our lifestyle (eg. how active are you?), the medications we are taking, and the dose (be reminded that a low carb meal and a full dose of medication, coupled with a normal or close to normal blood sugar reading prior to meal consumption could be dangerous).
Our food also needs to appeal to our senses of sight and taste. If we hate the look then eating will be difficult and this could be a major turn off from other healthy meals. Taste is equally important if we are determined to adjust our lifestyle. We must enjoy what we are eating.
When planning our meals we also need to plan for balanced and regular meals. This way we can have control over the spikes and falls we can experience with our blood glucose levels.
In order to understand this and to plan healthy meals, we need to know about the 3 macronutrients and how they affect our blood sugar. Before we look at some diabetes sample meal plans, allow me to take some time to first look at the effect of these 3 macronutrients (Macros) our bodies need.
The 3 Macronutrients
Macronutrients give us the energy we need to carry out our daily activities. Immune function and cellular development are also possible because of the 3 macros.
The macros are carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Our bodies use a lot of these daily. The result is that they are in high demand for us to function.
Let us take a look at each macro, some samples from each group, and the effect they have on our blood sugar level. Please note that I will pause and give the menus throughout the article.
What are Carbohydrates?
Our body gets fuel from carbohydrates. They (carbs) are broken down by the body into glucose, which is what we call sugar. This glucose provides energy for our bodies. Sometimes it is stored for future use.
We can break down this macro into:
- Complex carbohydrates (these take a longer time to be broken down and used by the body. This is the type of carbohydrate that does not result in dangerous blood sugar spikes. These are the carbohydrates we want to include in our diabetic meal plan.
- Simple carbohydrates (this is the not so good carbohydrate. They cause our blood sugar to rise out of control. This is the type of carbohydrate that should be excluded as much as possible from the diabetic meal plan.
Please see the info-graphic below for a list of some of the foods in both the complex and the simple group.
Let us now look at some carbohydrate recipes as we prepare to plan our meals.
Sweet Potato Nacho Fries
Diabetics sometimes miss having foods such as french fries. In order for our diet to be sustainable, we must be able to indulge in some foods we love. Sweet potato is an excellent choice of complex carbohydrates for diabetics and their family.
What you will need for this recipe (Sweet Potato Nacho Fries):
- Sweet potatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sour cream
- Lime juice
- Corn kernels
- Black beans
- Cheddar cheese
- Cherry tomatoes
Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
Almonds and Green Beans are complex carbohydrates, which means that they are diabetic-friendly foods as they take a longer time to break down and so they do not cause a dangerous spike in our blood sugar.
What you will need for this recipe (Green beans with toasted almonds):
- Fresh green beans
- Olive oil
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper
Banana – Carrot and Pecan Muffins
With its combination of banana, carrots, cinnamon, yogurt, and pecans, this muffin is low in carbohydrate and therefore qualifies for a diabetic treat or a “grab and go breakfast”. Take some fruits with this banana-carrot and pecan muffins with a cup of coffee and have a great day.
What you will need for this recipe (Banana-Carrot and Pecan Muffins):
- Ripe Bananas
- Whole wheat flour
- Baking Powder
- Baking soda
- Brown sugar
Take a look at the graph below. We must try to avoid this cycle if we are serious about controlling diabetes.
What are Proteins?
Amino acids are the building blocks for our muscles, brain, blood, skin, hair, and nervous system. Protein furnishes our body with these amino acids. It also moves oxygen and other nutrients around our body.
All by itself, our body creates 11 amino acids, but it is incapable of producing the essential amino acids (a total of 9). We get these from the foods we consume.
This leads us to a brief discussion about Complete and Incomplete Proteins.
As the name suggests, complete proteins give us all amino acids that we need in the amount required. Some complete proteins are:
Some plant-based proteins on the other hand are incomplete. This means that they do not furnish us with all the amino acids. Peanuts, cashew, pistachio (and other nuts) along with seeds belong to this group of plant-based proteins.
In the event that carbohydrate is absent, our body uses protein (reverse-process) as energy. This process is called gluconeogenesis.
The interesting thing with protein is that when consumed by us, our blood sugar spike is less than when we consume foods loaded with carbohydrates. It is now time for us to look at some protein recipes.
Simple Asian Grilled Chicken
This grilled chicken is bursting with flavors and to top it off it is tender and juicy. It can be made using a cast iron grill, so there is no need to be in the scorching sun.
What you will need to make the Asian Grilled Chicken:
- Rice vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Sambal oelek (made with chilies)
- Minced garlic
- Ground ginger
Mediterranean Baked Fish
If you are in the mood for some fish, take a look at the Mediterranean baked fish. It is a simple, but yet delicious meal. Here are the ingredients needed for this delicious baked fish:
- Fish fillet
- Olive oil
- Apple juice (I made my own by simply using my juicer)
- Bay leaves
- Lemon juice (I used the juice from a few limes)
- Orange juice and peel (I squeezed my oranges at home)
- Black pepper
Fats in the Diabetic Meal Plan
Texture and flavor are added to our diet when we include fats. Some foods with fat are meat, fish, other seafood, cheese, butter, lard, olive oil, eggs, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
The good news for diabetics is that fat does not cause a spike in our blood sugar levels. I love avocado and I can eat any amount and two hours after my blood sugar does not change.
I however believe in moderation and so I try hard to not eat too much of any food, including those that do not negatively affect my blood sugar.
Something Worth Knowing
Insulin is our hormone which stores fat. Insulin increases when we eat. At this point, it tells our body to store some of the energy as body fat. The reverse happens when we do not eat. Yes, the insulin level goes down and tells the body to make use of our body fat (stored energy).
Before you go further in this article, please take a look at what Dr. Jason Fung has to say about dietary fat and diabetes. Go ahead and click here.
Take a look below to see how you can determine your healthy portions.
Planning Meals with the Plate Method
Overeating is easy when we fail to plan. We can avoid this by using a visual guide with our plate as the tool. The idea is for us to know the number of non-starchy vegetables, protein, and fat to consume in any one sitting.
Using an 8 or 9-inch plate, consider the guide below:
- Half of the plate should be our non-starchy vegetables (salads, cabbage, callaloo, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cho cho, etc).
- A quarter should be our protein (chicken, turkey (or other animal protein), beans such as black beans, etc.).
- The other quarter should be our starchy foods such as sweet potatoes, pasta, rice, etc. My choices here are some green bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, etc. I sometimes prefer to eat some nuts here or just have more of the non-starchy vegetables. I also find that pumpkin helps me to prevent that dangerous blood sugar spike.
- Dolson, Laura. “The Macronutrients Your Body Needs Most.” Verywell Fit, 17 July 2019, www.verywellfit.com/macronutrients-2242006.
- “Loaded Sweet Potato Nacho Fries.” EatingWell, www.eatingwell.com/recipe/255216/loaded-sweet-potato-nacho-fries/.
- Zacharia, Joy. “Diabetes-Friendly Banana-Carrot and Pecan Muffins Recipe.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 23 Feb. 2017, www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/banana-carrot-pecan-muffins-recipe.
- Zacharia, Joy. “Type 2 Diabetes Sample Meal Plan: 21 Delicious Recipes.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 Mar. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/seven-day-meal-plan.