Published on September 28, 2021

Insights on Diabetes Meal Planning


Diabetes diet foodWhat’s all the fuss about diets?  Which diet is best for people with diabetes? Do I have to give up all my favorite foods?  There are a lot of questions when it comes to meal planning with diabetes, but that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable or stop eating all of your favorite foods.  The diet that is best for you is a diet that you can maintain for life.  There are a variety of diets to choose from, but some are better than others when it comes to managing diabetes.  Beware of diets that restrict entire food groups and offer quick weight loss results.  If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is too good to be true!

When it comes to meal planning with diabetes, it is important to balance the intake of carbohydrates with the medicines you are taking.  Carbohydrates are needed throughout the day to provide energy for cells to function appropriately.  Eating 3 meals per day helps ensure adequate nutrition.  Eating a small bedtime snack can help stabilize glucose through the night. 

A healthy diet will adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Adequate nutrition.  The U.S. Department of Health, maintains that females require 1600-2400 calories per day and males require 2000-3000 calories per day, which are then customized to an individual’s activity level and desire for weight loss.  The bare minimum calories for women is 1200 per day and for men 1400 calories per day which will ensure sufficient nutrients and prevent the slowing of one’s metabolism. 
  2. Cut added sugars to no more than 25 gm per day for women and 36 gm per day for men.  Ways to limit added sugars include cutting out juices and regular soda from the diet as well as limiting cakes, cookies, pastries, donuts, candies and ice creams. 
  3.  Limit salt intake.  The American Heart Association recommends keeping sodium intake between 1500 mg-2300 mg per day.  This helps keep your heart healthy over your lifetime.
  4. Stay adequately hydrated by drinking 72 ounces of water daily especially with high activity levels. 
  5. Keep active aiming for 30 minutes of physical activity 5-7 days per week.  To promote weight loss, physical activity should be closer to 60 minutes most days of the week. 

Here are 3 diets that can work well with diabetes:

  1. Mediterranean Diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.  Encourages the use of lean protein like chicken and fish and the use of heart-healthy fats like olive oil and nuts.  Red wine is promoted within the daily allowance of 1 five ounce glass daily.
  2. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) discourages the use of red meats and alcohol.  Stresses the increase of high potassium fruits and vegetables and restricts the use of salt and high sodium foods.  Also encourages 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
  3. Volumetrics Diet is based on the volume of food at meals not calorie restriction.  This encourages a lot of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and water to help you feel full after a meal.  Lean meats like chicken and fish are encouraged as well.  Whole grain foods like brown rice, quinoa and barley are promoted. And the diet encourages drinking lots of water.

When introducing a new diet to your lifestyle, it may be helpful to see a registered dietitian who specializes in diabetes to help ensure meals are carbohydrate balanced with your diabetes medications.  The Diabetes Center at Silver Cross Hospital has dietitians who are also Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists.  Ask your physician to fax a referral to 815-300-5991 to help get you started.

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.