Diabetic meal planning can seem complicated when you first learn that you or a family member has diabetes. Luckily, diabetic diet plans don’t involve any special foods, and planning diabetic meals isn’t necessarily difficult.
Visiting a registered dietician is the best way to learn to balance the carbohydrates, fats and proteins in your favorite foods to create a healthy diabetes meal plan. Your dietician may suggest an exchange diet or a diabetes food pyramid. As you get used to measuring portion sizes and become aware of the nutritional values of the foods you eat, diabetic meal planning becomes quite routine and relatively simple.
Challenges of Diabetic Meal Plans
Here are some answers to common concerns many diabetics face when first learning about diabetic meal planner basics:
- Boredom worries: Controlling portions and balancing nutrients doesn’t have to be boring. You can eat almost any foods on a diabetic diet. If you take the time to plan and vary your meals, your diet may end up being more interesting than the diets of most non-diabetics.
- Carbohydrate limits: Contrary to popular belief, diabetics can and need to eat a substantial amount of carbohydrates every day. Most doctors recommend that a diabetic diet be composed of 50 percent carbohydrate, with 40 to 60 percent as the acceptable range.
- Eating out safely: Diabetics can safely enjoy eating out. Your dietician can help you make healthy choices from the menu, and know when to request substitutions. Since restaurant portions tend to be large, you may have to take some of your meal home for later, or share with a friend.
- Meals with family: Since a diabetic diet is healthy for everyone, your family can enjoy the same meals together.
- Snacks: Most diabetic meal plans include three moderate meals and two snacks daily. This may take some getting used to, but may find yourself with more energy with your food intake staggered throughout the day.
- Sugar allowance: If you manage your blood sugar well, you’ll probably be able to eat small amounts of sugar.
Taking Advantage of Free Foods
When planning diabetic meals, don’t forget to take advantage of free foods. Any food or drink with less than 20 calories per serving and less than 5 grams of carbohydrates is considered a free food for diabetics. The great thing about free foods is that you can enjoy up to 3 servings per day of them, while adding variety and flavor to your meals. Some common free foods include:
- Bouillon or broth without fat
- Cabbage (1 cup, raw)
- Carbonated water, club soda and sugar-free soda
- Celery (1 cup, raw)
- Coffee or tea
- Cranberries (Â½ cup, unsweetened)
- Cucumber (Â½ cup, sliced)
- Green onions (1 cup, raw)
- Hot peppers (1 cup, raw)
- Ketchup (1 tablespoon)
- Mushrooms (1 cup, raw)
- Radishes (1 cup, raw)
- Sugar substitutes
- Sugar-free gum
- Zucchini (1 cup, raw).
Speak to your doctor or dietician before adding these free foods to your diet.
Diabetic Diet Information. (2010). Diabetic diet – FAQ. Retrieved June 2, 2010, from http://www.diabetic-diet-recipes.com/diabetic_diet_faq.htm.
Healthcastle Nutrition. (2010). Add “free”dom to your diabetes meal plan. Retrieved June 3, 2010, from http://www.healthcastle.com/diabetes_free_foods.shtml.
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Exchange list: Free foods. Retrieved June 9, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-diet/DA00076.
Women’s Health Resource Center. (2009). Diabetes diet. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from http://www.wdxcyber.com/diabetes_diet.html.