Eating Healthy

Diabetes meal plans - Eating a healthy diet

What is a diabetes meal plan?
A diabetes meal plan is a guide that tells you how much and what kinds of foods you can choose to eat at meals and snack times.  A good meal plan should fit in with your schedule and your eating habits.  The right meal plan can help you improve your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight.

How do I get a diabetes meal plan?
People with diabetes have to take extra care to make sure their food is balanced with exercise and medications to manage their blood glucose levels.  Your dietitian or diabetes educator can help you create a personal meal plan.

Some methods to help you follow your diabetes meal plan include the Healthy Plate method, exchange lists, carbohydrate counting and the Food Guide Pyramid.  Each method is different, but your dietitian or diabetes educator can help you determine which is best for you.

What is a healthy diet?
A healthy diet is a way of eating that keeps your blood sugar in check and reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke and other complications.  Healthy eating includes eating a wide variety of foods including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nonfat dairy products, beans, lean meats, poultry and fish.  There is no one perfect food, so including a variety of foods while watching your portion sizes is the goal.

People living with diabetes can eat the same foods the rest of the family enjoys.  Everyone benefits from a healthy diet.  Talk to your dietitian or diabetes educator about how to choose a healthy diabetes meal plan and improve your well-being.

Holiday meal planning for people with diabetes

The holidays can be a stressful time for families, especially those living with diabetes.  With the right tools, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the holidays and keep your diabetes in check!

The most important thing about managing your diabetes during the holidays is to plan ahead.  The more you know about what’s going to happen, the better you can plan your diabetes management strategies.

For starters, think about your schedule for the holidays.  What does your family schedule look like?  Are you going out of town?  Are visitors staying with you?  Do your plans include many food-related events and parties?  Remember that you need to stick to your basic meal plan during the holidays and continue to take your medications and as recommended by your doctor.

Once you know about your schedule, it’s time to think about holiday menus.  There’s no reason to completely redo your menu just because of diabetes, but you may want to adjust it.  For example, maybe you can make your holiday favorites a bit healthier.  Could you make that casserole with fat-free sour cream instead of regular?  Would roasted or steamed green beans be a good substitute for sautéing them in butter?  Will the cranberry sauce taste just as good if you use a sugar substitute?

There are plenty of ways to decrease fat, sugar and carbohydrate counts in your favorite foods without sacrificing taste and texture.  Try these substitutes to make holiday treats that are lower in fat, sugar and salt:

Instead of this: Try this:
Sour cream Fat free or light sour cream Plain yogurt
Heavy cream Fat-free evaporated milk
Fat in baked goods Applesauce or prune puree for 1/2 of fat in recipe
Salt at table

Salt-free seasonings / Lemon juice / Dried and fresh herbs

Cream cheese Fat free cream cheese or "light" cream cheese (Neufchatel)
Salad dressing Fat free or reduced fat salad dressing
1 cup sugar 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup Splenda®
Canned vegetables Canned vegetables with no salt added
Chicken broth Fat-free low sodium chicken broth

If you just can’t substitute anything in Grandma’s fudge recipe, go ahead and make it, but first talk to your diabetes educator or dietitian about ways to work a few pieces into your meal plan.  It may mean that you will eat less of other treats, get more exercise, increase your insulin or a combination of these options. 

A variety of cultures

Looking for information on healthy foods for Hanukkah or Passover? Visit the Jewish Diabetes Association website at

For more information about healthy foods to enhance your Kwanzaa celebration, try the "Down Home Healthy Cooking" publication series available from the National Cancer Institute at

Whatever your culture, visit the American Dietetic Association website at to find links for healthy recipes and ideas.