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Creating Diabetic Meal Plans for a Balanced Diet

Planning ahead is a good way to ensure that nutritional needs are met through a balanced diabetic diet. A nutritionist or dietician can design a meal plan that helps you control your diabetes and fits into your lifestyle. Ideally, each meal fills a portion of your nutritional requirements and over the course of an entire day you will eat a balanced diet.

Plan Ahead
Look at your meal plan, check nutritional values, and determine how many servings you have to cover in each of the categories. Be sure to remember that in any meal plan a serving is an exact, specified amount and may not be the same as what you would traditionally serve yourself. Once you have a good feel for the foods incorporated into your plan and their nutritional values, you'll be ready to make your shopping list.

The new Food Pyramid.

Make A Menu
Some people find it easier to make specific menus for each meal and snack of the week. For my family, it's simpler to buy foods in categories. For example, for breakfasts I might buy bread, fresh fruit, cereal, juice, milk, and cheese. On any given day I can refer to my meal plan and see that I should have one protein exchange, two starches, one fruit, and one milk. If I choose cereal for my breakfast I can add a piece of fruit, a glass of milk, and maybe a small slice of cheese.

Sample Menus
Food choices can be very personal and vary greatly from one family to another. With that said, these sample menus demonstrate how foods can be interchanged to create a balanced diabetic diet.

  • Cereal ( Starch )
  • Sliced Strawberries (Fruit)
  • Whole Wheat Toast with Cheese (Starch, Protein)
  • Milk (Dairy)
  • Coffee
Don't feel like cereal for breakfast? Substitute crackers for the starches and peanut butter (low-fat, if possible) for the protein. Make sure serving amounts are appropriate so exchanges are equal.
  • Chunk-style Vegetable Soup (Starch, Vegetable, Protein)
  • Grilled Tuna Sandwich (Starch, Protein)
  • Fruit Cup (Fruit)
  • Tea
At a local pizzeria for lunch? The crust will count as starch, the tomato sauce and vegetable toppings (mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, for example) will cover your vegetable exchange, and the cheese is a good source of protein. Just watch out for the overall fat content by avoiding meat toppings.
  • Lasagna (Starch, Vegetable, Protein)
  • Italian Bread (Starch)
  • Green Salad (Vegetable)
  • Water or Tea
  • Ice Cream (Dairy)
Invited to a friend's for dinner? Enjoy the grilled chicken breast, corn on the cob, and vegetable-laden salad. Since the corn was the only starch exchange with your meal, splurge on a small slice of angel food cake with a few fresh strawberries!

In a typical meal plan, it would be okay to skip the bread with dinner and have popcorn as an evening snack.

With a little creativity and some advance planning, you'll soon find it easier than you ever expected to eat a balanced diabetic diet and meet your nutritional needs. In no time at all, you'll know nutritional values and exchanges without having to look them up.

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Last modified 18 September 2006
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