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Meal Planning: The Diabetes Super Skill

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2021.

A healthy eating plan is an important tool in the quest to manage your type 2 diabetes. The right foods will help you control your blood glucose and weight, and lower your risk for the complications common to diabetes.

It can take some creative thinking to create meals that offer balanced nutrition and fewer carbohydrates. After all, you will be working around issues like what you and your family like to eat, your budget, and how much time you have to shop and cook. However, with a little practice, you can build the skills needed to plan some healthy meals for the days ahead.

Learning how to plan your meals

Meal planning may seem like one more thing to learn when you are first diagnosed with diabetes. This is especially true if you currently do not cook at all.

However, there are many advantages to planning and preparing what you eat. It is a skill that can save you time and money, as well as help you manage your weight, blood sugar, cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Here are some ways to learn meal planning if you are new to the task, or tips to improve what you are already doing:

Still not sold on the idea? There are many benefits to weekly meal preparation.

Different types of meal planning for type 2 diabetes

Meal planning looks different for everyone. A household with 1 adult age 55 has different needs than a family of 4 with a mix of children and adults. The good news is that there are plenty of tips and tricks to plan healthy meals. The result? You will be able to feed you and yours well without resorting to frequent fast food runs.

Where to find recipes and nutrition tips

One important part of meal planning involves finding recipes you enjoy. New recipes can help you find ways to reduce the carbohydrates and fat in some old family favorites.
A regular rotation of new recipes helps prevent boredom. Here are some places to look for recipes that are diabetes-friendly:

A dietitian or diabetes educator can also help you learn more about the details of planning meals when you have type 2 diabetes. To create healthy meals, you will need to know about:1,2

  • Foods you should eat more of and foods you should eat less of
  • Food substitutions for foods high in glycemic value
  • Portion sizes
  • How your diet (Mediterrean, vegetarian, vegan, keto) can support your diabetes care plan
  • How many calories and grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat you should eat each day
  • How you should change your eating when you add exercise
  • How you should change your eating if you are sick
  • Foods to have on hand in case you develop hypoglycemia
  • Ways to reduce salt (sodium) in your diet
  • How to read food labels

Start off small for long-term sustainability

If all this seems overwhelming, keep in mind that you should start slowly and make changes in your diet that you can sustain long-term. If you currently do no meal planning, try starting by planning 2 to 3 meals per week and build from there. Small, steady changes can gradually create big results when it comes to managing your diabetes.

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