A healthy meal plan is an important part of taking care of your diabetes and staying healthy!
The constant carbohydrate meal plan
The constant carbohydrate (carb) meal plan will help keep your blood sugar and weight healthy.
- A constant carb meal plan is made just for you by a registered dietitian (RD).
- Amount depends on gender, age, and activity level
- Count all the carbs you eat each day.
- There are 3 meals and 1 snack each day.
- You eat the same amount of carbs at each meal every day.
- It has all the foods your body needs to be healthy.
- There are foods you can eat every day and foods you can only eat sometimes.
- You should not eat large amounts between meals or snacks because it may raise your blood sugar and cause weight gain.
- Always eat meals and snacks to help your blood sugars stay in a healthy range and to help you feel full.
You will receive a meal plan from an RD in this format:
- Breakfast: _____ grams of carbohydrate
- Lunch: _____ grams of carbohydrate
- Afternoon snack: _____ grams of carbohydrate
- Dinner: _____ grams of carbohydrate
Here are a few tools that can help with carbohydrate counting.
- Nutrition labels
- Measuring cups, measuring spoons, and digital food scales
- Restaurant nutrition information
- Smart phone apps
Carbs are the main fuel for the body and give you energy.
There are 2 kinds of carbohydrates:
- Simple carbohydrates
- Easy to digest
- Raise blood sugar very fast
- Complex carbohydrates
- Have fiber and take longer to digest
- Raise blood sugar slowly
- Help keep your blood sugar in a healthy range
Fiber is found in plant foods:
- Whole grains
There are 5 food groups with carbs:
- Starchy vegetables
- Milk and yogurt
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Sweets and condiments
Choose whole grains and starches that are less processed. They are a main source of energy.
- 1/2 cup cooked unsweetened oatmeal
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cereal
- 1/4 cup granola
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/2 hamburger or hot dog bun
- 1/4 bagel
- 1/3 cup cooked pasta or rice
- 1/3 cup baked beans
- 1/2 cup refried beans
- 1/2 cup potatoes, corn or peas
- 4-inch cob of corn
- 3 ounces baked potato
- 2 ounces french fries
- 1/2 cup pasta sauce
- 3 cups popped popcorn
- 13 chips (1 small bag)
- 6 saltine crackers
Choose fresh or frozen fruits most often. They help with healthy growth.
- 15 small grapes
- 4-inch banana
- 4 ounce apple or pear
- 6 ounce orange
- 1 cup diced melon
- 1 cup berries
- 1/2 cup canned fruit (packed in light syrup or juice)
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1/2 cup fruit juice (fresh squeezed or store bought)
Milk and milk substitutes are important for bone health.
- 1 cup milk (non-fat, low fat, whole)
- 1 cup plain rice milk
- 1 and 1/2 cups plain almond milk
- 1 and 1/3 cups plain soy milk
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt
- 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
Non-starchy vegetables have fiber to keep you full, are low calorie and low carb.
- Baby corn
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Green onion/scallions
- Kale (cooked)
- Pea pods
- Peppers (sweet and spicy)
- Spinach (cooked)
- Squash (summer, yellow, zucchini)
- Sugar snap peas
- Canned tomatoes (no sugar added)
- Water chestnuts
Note: Uncooked leafy greens (iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, and kale) do not need to be counted. They are very low carb.
Do not forget to count carbs in dips, sauces, and dressings.
- 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce (15 g)
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (15 g)
- 1 cup canned gravy (15 g)
- 2 tablespoons ketchup (10 g)
- 1 tablespoon pancake syrup (15 g)
- 2 tablespoons ranch dressing (4 g)
Sweets can fit into a healthy meal plan but should be eaten in small portions.
Do not eat sweets more than 1 time a week or on special occasions.
- 1 1/4-inch brownie, unfrosted (15 g)
- 2 ounce angel food cake, unfrosted (30 g)
- 2 ounce yellow cake, frosted (30 g)
- 1 3/4 ounce frosted cupcake (30 g)
- 4 ounce muffin (60 g)
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounce) fruit cobbler (45 g)
- 1/6 of 8-inch fruit pie with two crusts (45 g)
- 1/8 of 8-inch pumpkin or custard pie (22 g)
- 1 1/2 ounce plain cake doughnut (22 g)
- 2 (1 ounce) doughnut holes (15 g)
- 3 3/4-inch (2 ounce) plain yeast doughnut (30 g)
- Two 2 1/4-inch chocolate chip cookies (15 g)
- One 6-inch (3 ounce) chocolate chip cookie (60 g)
- 2 sandwich cookies with crème filling (15 g)
- 5 vanilla wafers (15 g)
- 1/2 cup pudding, made with low fat milk (30 g)
- 1 ounce milk or dark chocolate candy (15 g)
- 5 chocolate Hershey Kisses® (15 g)
- 3 pieces of hard candy (15 g)
- Popsicle (8 g)
- 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream (15 g)
- 1/3 cup frozen yogurt (15 g)
It is important to know which foods to not eat to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
Blood sugar target ranges:
- Before meals: 80 to 130
- 1 to 2 hours after meals: less than 180
Foods to avoid
Sugar and processed carbs make blood sugar rise and fall quickly.
Do not eat or drink:
- Foods high in sugar and processed carbs:
- Ice cream
- Drinks sweetened with sugar:
- Energy drinks
- Flavored milk
- Egg nog
- Fruit juice
- Regular soda
- Sports drinks
- Sweet tea
- Breakfast foods with lots of sugar and simple carbs:
- Breakfast pastries
- Flavored oatmeal
- Toaster pastries
- Fruit for a sweet treat
- Drinks sweetened with alternative sweeteners:
- Crystal Light®
- Diet soda
- Powerade Zero®
- Water and milk are always the healthiest choices.
- Breakfast cereal and flavored oatmeal with:
- Less than 10 grams of sugar per serving
- 3 or more grams of fiber per serving
Choose low fat proteins with less than 5 grams of fat per 1 ounce serving.
Protein foods are:
- Plant-based proteins, including:
Plant-based proteins have carbohydrates
Read the nutrition label on plant-based proteins. They are not carb free.
- 2 tablespoons nuts (3 g)
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter (3 g)
- 1 cup shelled edamame (15 g)
- 1/2 cup hummus (15 g)
- 1/2 cup refried beans (15 g)
- 1/3 cup baked beans (15 g)
- 1/2 cup lentils (15 g)
- 1/2 cup beans (15 g)
- Includes black, garbanzo, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, and white beans
Proteins with breading
Read the nutrition label on proteins with breading. They are not carb free.
- Chicken nuggets
- Chicken fried steak
- Fried fish
Healthy cooking tips for proteins are:
- Trim fat off meat before cooking.
- Drain fat off meat after cooking.
- Grill and bake instead of deep or pan fry.
- Use non-stick cooking spray instead of butter.
You need fat for healthy growth. Some fats we should eat and drink more often and some less often.
Eat and drink monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids) fats each day:
- Almond milk
- Fatty fish, including:
- Natural peanut butter
- Olive oil
Limit the saturated fats you eat and drink:
- Whole milk
- Cream cheese
- Fatty beef and pork
- Skin on chicken and turkey
Do not eat and drink trans fats.
There are 2 types of trans fats:
- Natural: dairy and meat products
- Artificial: processed foods
Processed foods are the main source of trans fats.
Look for trans fats in:
- Fried fast foods, such as:
- French fries
- Fried chicken
- Fried fish
- Baked goods, such as:
- Pie crusts
- Frozen pizza
- Buttered popcorn, chips, and crackers
- Stick margarines, shortening, and other spreads
Look for the words “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list.
Foods may be labeled with 0 g trans fat if they have less than 0.5 mg per serving. Often you may eat more than one serving of the food and be eating several grams of trans fat.
Why limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats?
- They make bad (LDL) cholesterol go up and good (HDL) cholesterol go down.
- Eating too much makes your risk of heart disease and stroke goes up.
Salt is found in most processed foods to make them taste better and help them last longer. Most people eat too much salt. Too much makes your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke go up.
Do not eat more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) each day.
Limit your salt intake by:
- Eating less processed foods
- Not eating out at restaurants
- Eating fresh or frozen vegetables over canned vegetables
- Looking for “low sodium” or “no added salt” on the label of canned foods
- Draining and rinsing canned beans and vegetables before heating or adding them to a recipe
- Buying spices without salt, such as garlic powder instead of garlic salt
- Getting rid of the salt shaker at home and season with herbs and spices
- Asking for your food to not be salted at restaurants
Foods high in salt are:
- Canned vegetables
- Canned soups
- Chips, crackers, and pretzels
- Breakfast cereals
- Bread and baked goods
- Lunchmeat, hot dogs, and other processed proteins
- Frozen pizza, breakfast sandwiches, and microwavable meals
Foods and drinks that use sugar alternatives give you more options when eating or drinking something sweet.
- The sugar alternatives listed on this page have been tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “Generally Regarded As Safe” (GRAS).
- GRAS means that experts have agreed that it is safe for use in moderation.
- Many foods with artificial sweeteners may still have carbohydrate. Be sure to check the label.
Some sugar alcohols are:
- Have fewer calories and less of an effect on blood sugar than sugar
- Are not completely carb free
- May cause gas, cramping, and diarrhea in some people
Counting carbohydrates with sugar alcohols:
When looking at the total carbohydrates on nutrition facts, that number tells you how many grams of carbohydrate are in one serving. This includes the carbohydrate in fiber, sugars, and sugar alcohols.
Sugar alcohol is incompletely absorbed. Estimate that only half of the sugar in sugar alcohol will be absorbed and impact your blood sugar.
Sugar alcohol calculation example
The nutrition facts on a piece of food that you want to eat indicate that the total carbohydrate serving includes 29 grams of carbohydrate with 18 grams coming from sugar alcohols.
In this example, your total carboydrate serving will be 29 grams minus one-half the carbohydrate in the sugar alcohol. One half of the sugar in the sugar alcohol serving is 18 grams ÷ 2 = 9 grams.
So the total carbohydrate per serving is 29 grams - 9 grams for the sugar alcohol = 20 grams.
Carb- and calorie-free alternatives to sugar are:
- Acesulfame potassium (AKA-Acesulfame K)
Be aware of products that may have additional carbs or sugar alcohols. Make sure to read the nutrition label and count any carbs listed.
- Stevia in the Raw (dextrose)
- Truvia/PureVia (erythritol)
- Truvia baking blend (erythritol and sugar)
- Splenda sugar blend (sugar)
- Splenda brown sugar blend (sugar and molasses)
|Sweetener name||Brand names found in stores|
|Acesulfame potassium||Sunett, Sweet One|
|Saccharin||Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin|
|Stevia/Rebaudioside A||A Sweet Leaf, Sun Crystals, Stevia, Truvia, PureVia|