Healthy Meals For Diabetics
- Test your blood sugar levels to learn how different foods affect them.
- Stick to a certain number of carbohydrate grams per meal. Usually this is about 45-75 grams three times a day.
- Balance carbs with fiber and protein in each meal. This is easy if you use the plate method. Make half of your plate vegetables, a quarter of your plate a carb like brown rice, black beans, or whole-wheat pasta, and the other quarter of your plate a healthy protein like chicken breast, fish, lean meat, or tofu. Add a small piece of fruit and some low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt, depending on your carb target for that meal.
- Eat smart fats such as those in nuts, avocado, fish, olives, and other plants. Avoid saturated fats from meat, butter, cheese, and other dairy foods. Note: Coconut, although a plant, has saturated fat.
If any of the recipes below has fewer carbs than what your doctor or health care team has recommended per meal, round out the meal with more carbs. This could include nonfat yogurt or milk, fruits and vegetables, or a small piece of whole-grain bread.
Scramble 1 egg and 2 egg whites (or 1/4 cup egg substitute) in a small non-stick frying pan coated with cooking spray. On a microwave-safe plate, spread the cooked eggs down the center of a multigrain or low-carb flour tortilla. Top with desired garnishes, such as 1/4 cup chopped tomato, chopped green onion, 1/4 avocado, or 1/8 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese. Microwave on high for about 20 seconds to soften the tortilla and warm up the filling. Wrap up and enjoy.
Estimated: Carbohydrates 30 grams, protein 18 grams, fiber 6 grams.
High-Protein Berry Yogurt Bowl
Put 1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in a cereal bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon honey and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, if desired. Top with 1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries and 1/2 cup whole-grain breakfast cereal of your choice. (Choose a cereal with about 15 grams of carbohydrates and at least 5 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup).
PB&J English Muffin
Toast a whole wheat English muffin and spread 1 tablespoon natural-style peanut butter on one half and 1 tablespoon less-sugar jam on the other half. Enjoy with a whole piece of fruit, such as an orange or banana. Estimated: Carbohydrates 47 grams, protein 10 grams, fiber 7 grams.
Gourmet Cereal Bowl
In a big bowl, put in 1 cup of your favorite whole-grain cereal with about 30 grams of carbohydrates and at least 5 grams of fiber. Top with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries or banana slices and 1/8 cup toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pecans). Drizzle 3/4 cup nonfat milk or soy milk and stir.
Estimated: Carbohydrates 48 grams, protein 22 grams, fiber 15 grams.
French Toast That’s Ready When You Are
French toast freezes well, so make a little extra on weekends to freeze. Then microwave it for a special weekday breakfast. For one serving, blend together 1 large egg, 1 egg white or 2 tablespoons egg substitute, 1/4 cup nonfat milk or fat-free half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Soak about 3 small or 2 large slices of whole wheat bread in the egg mixture. Then lightly brown in a non-stick frying pan coated with cooking spray. Top with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries or other fruit.
Estimated: Carbohydrates 60 grams, protein 21 grams, fiber 10 grams.
Easy Tuna Lunch Salad
Mix one 6-ounce can water-packed tuna (drained) with 3 tablespoons light Italian vinaigrette salad dressing. Then add 1/2 cup grape tomatoes or coarsely chopped tomatoes and 1/8 cup nuts or sliced olives. Serve on 2 cups of firmly packed spinach leaves. Enjoy with an ounce of whole-grain crackers.
Estimated: Carbohydrates 35 grams, protein 54 grams, fiber 6 grams.
Grilled Tomato and Cheese Sandwich With Soup
Heat a non-stick frying pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add a slice of whole wheat bread and top with 1 1/2 ounces reduced-fat cheese and 3 slices vine-ripened garden tomatoes. Lay a second piece of whole wheat bread on top and coat the top with canola cooking spray. When the underside is golden, flip the sandwich over and lightly brown the other side. Serve with a broth or tomato-based soup with about 10 grams of carbohydrates per 1-cup serving.
3-Minute Bean And Cheese Burrito
Estimated: Carbohydrates 50 grams, protein 24 grams, fiber 10 grams.
Lunchtime Pasta Salad
Leftover multigrain pasta from today’s dinner can become tomorrow’s lunch! Toss 1 cup cooked pasta with 1 cup cooked green or cruciferous vegetables of your choice (like broccoli, kale, or cabbage). Add 1 ounce cubed or shredded part-skim mozzarella or 1/2 cup leftover grilled seafood, chicken, or lean beef, plus chopped green onions, tomatoes, and sliced olives (if desired). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts or walnuts. Drizzle on about 2 tablespoons light vinaigrette and toss. This keeps well if you’re bringing it to work. Store in the refrigerator.
Turkey Avocado Wrap
Top a multigrain or low-carb tortilla, flatbread, or naan bread with 1 tablespoon basil, sun-dried tomato pesto, or olive tapenade (available in jars). Top with a few slices of roasted turkey, 1 ounce reduced-fat provolone (or similar cheese), about 4 avocado slices, a few spinach leaves, and some tomato slices, if desired. Roll up and wrap in foil or plastic wrap. Chill until ready to eat.
Estimated: Carbohydrates 30 grams, protein 32 grams, fiber 8 grams.
Vegetarian or Turkey Simple Salsa Chili
In a medium nonstick saucepan coated with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, brown 1/2 pound ground lean turkey or 1 pound sliced mushrooms with 1/2 chopped onion and 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Add 1 cup bottled marinara sauce, 1 cup prepared or bottled salsa, 1 15-ounce can black or kidney beans (drained), plus chili powder, oregano, and ground cumin to taste, if desired. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Makes 3 servings. Serve with a cup of fruit salad.
Fruit & Walnut Chicken Dinner Salad
Cut a leftover grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast into slices (or use store-bought pre-sliced seasoned chicken breast) and toss with 3 or 4 cups dark green lettuce, 1 cup fresh or frozen berries or a sliced pear or apple, 1/4 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, 2 tablespoons blue cheese, and 2 tablespoons light balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette.
Estimated: Carbohydrates 27 grams, protein 37 grams, fiber 12 grams.
Teriyaki Salmon Dinner
Cook steamed brown rice (available in the frozen food section in some grocery stores). While it cooks, heat the broiler of your oven or toaster-oven. Line a pie plate with foil and place salmon fillets on top. Drizzle each fillet with 2 teaspoons bottled teriyaki sauce. Broil about 6 inches from the broiler for about 4 minutes. Flip the fish, spread 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce on top of each piece, and broil until the fish is cooked through. Serve with 3/4 cup steamed brown rice and 1 cup steamed green or cruciferous vegetables per serving.
Mushroom Spaghetti Dinner
Boil whole-grain spaghetti according to package directions. While it cooks, sauté 1 cup sliced mushrooms (any type) and 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil per person in a medium non-stick saucepan. Pour in 3/4 cup marinara sauce per person, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Serve about 1 cup of the mushroom marinara with 3/4 cup cooked pasta. Serve with a garden salad: Toss 2 cups spinach or romaine lettuce, 1/4 cup kidney or garbanzo beans, a few olives, and assorted vegetables such as sliced cucumber and carrot with a tablespoon or two of light vinaigrette.
Estimated: Carbohydrates 60 grams, protein 18 grams, fiber 9 grams.
The Best Foods To Choose For People Living With Diabetics
1. Fatty fish
Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, and mackerel are great sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which have major benefits for heart health.
Getting enough of these fats on a regular basis is especially important for people with diabetes, who have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
DHA and EPA protect the cells that line your blood vessels, reduce markers of inflammation, and may help improve the way your arteries function.
Research indicates that people who eat fatty fish regularly have a lower risk of acute coronary syndromes, like heart attacks, and are less likely to die from heart disease (2).
Studies show that eating fatty fish may also help regulate blood sugar.
A study involving 68 adults who had overweight or obesity found that participants who consumed fatty fish had significant improvements in post-meal blood sugar levels than participants who consumed lean fish.
Fish is also a great source of high quality protein, which helps you feel full and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
Summary Fatty fish contain omega-3 fats that can help reduce inflammation and other risk factors of heart disease and stroke. Plus, it’s a great source of protein, which is important for managing blood sugar.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables are extremely nutritious and low in calories.
They’re also very low in digestible carbs, or carbs absorbed by the body, so they won’t significantly affect blood sugar levels.
Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are good sources of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C.
Some evidence suggests that people with diabetes have lower vitamin C levels than people without diabetes, and they may have greater vitamin C requirements.
Vitamin C acts as a potent antioxidant and also has anti-inflammatory qualities.
Increasing dietary intake of vitamin C-rich foods can help people with diabetes increase their serum vitamin C levels while reducing inflammation and cellular damage.
Summary Leafy green vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C as well as antioxidants that protect your heart and eye health.
Avocados have less than 1 gram of sugar, few carbohydrates, a high fiber content, and healthy fats, so you don’t have to worry about them raising your blood sugar levels.
Avocado consumption is also associated with improved overall diet quality and significantly lower body weight and body mass index (BMI).
This makes avocados an ideal snack for people with diabetes, especially since obesity increases the chances of developing diabetes.
Avocados may have properties specific to preventing diabetes.
A 2019 study in mice found that avocatin B (AvoB), a fat molecule found only in avocados, inhibits incomplete oxidation in skeletal muscle and the pancreas, which reduces insulin resistance.
More research is needed in humans to establish the connection between avocados and diabetes prevention.
Summary Avocados have less than 1 gram of sugar and are associated with improved overall diet quality. Avocados may also have properties specific to diabetes prevention.
Regular egg consumption may reduce your heart disease risk in several ways.
Eggs may decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and modify the size and shape of your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
A 2019 study found that eating a high fat, low carb breakfast of eggs could help people with diabetes manage blood sugar levels throughout the day (8Trusted Source).
Older research has linked egg consumption with heart disease in people with diabetes.
But a more recent review of controlled studies found that eating 6 to 12 eggs per week as part of a nutritious diet did not increase heart disease risk factors in people with diabetes.
What’s more, some research suggests that eating eggs may reduce the risk of stroke.
Summary Eggs may improve risk factors for heart disease, promote good blood sugar management, protect eye health, and keep you feeling full.
5. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a wonderful food for people with diabetes.
They’re extremely high in fiber, yet low in digestible carbs.
In fact, 11 of the 12 grams of carbs in a 28-gram (1-ounce) serving of chia seeds are fiber, which doesn’t raise blood sugar.
The viscous fiber in chia seeds can actually lower your blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which food moves through your gut and is absorbed.
Chia seeds may help you achieve a moderate weight because fiber reduces hunger and makes you feel full. Chia seeds may also help maintain glycemic management in people with diabetes.
A study involving 77 adults with overweight or obesity and a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes found that eating chia seeds supports weight loss and helps maintain good glycemic control.
Additionally, chia seeds have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and inflammatory markers.
Summary Chia seeds contain high amounts of fiber, which may help you lose weight. They also help maintain blood glucose levels.
Beans are affordable, nutritious, and super healthy.
Beans are a type of legume rich in B vitamins, beneficial minerals (calcium, potassium, and magnesium), and fiber.
They also have a very low glycemic index, which is important for managing diabetes.
Beans may also help prevent diabetes.
In a study involving more than 3,000 participants at high risk of cardiovascular disease, those who had a higher consumption of legumes had a reduced chance of developing type 2 diabetes (12).
Summary Beans are cheap, nutritious, and have a low glycemic index, making them a healthy option for people with diabetes.
7. Greek Yogurt
A long-term study involving health data from more than 100,000 participants found that a daily serving of yogurt was linked to an 18 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It may also help you lose weight, if that’s a personal goal.
Studies show yogurt and other dairy foods may lead to weight loss and improved body composition in people with type 2 diabetes.
The high levels of calcium, protein, and a special type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in yogurt may help keep you full for longer.
What’s more, Greek yogurt contains only 6–8 grams of carbs per serving, which is lower than conventional yogurt.
It’s also higher in protein, which may promote weight loss by reducing appetite and thus decreasing calorie intake.
Summary Yogurt may promote healthy blood sugar levels, reduce risk factors for heart disease, and help with weight management.
Nuts are delicious and nutritious.
Most types of nuts contain fiber and are low in net carbs, although some have more than others.
Research on a variety of different nuts has shown that regular consumption may reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar, HbA1c (a marker for long-term blood sugar management), and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Nuts may also help people with diabetes improve their heart health.
A 2019 study involving more than 16,000 participants with type 2 diabetes found that eating tree nuts — such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios — lowered their risk of heart disease and death.
Research also indicates that nuts can improve blood glucose levels.
A study with people with type 2 diabetes found that eating walnut oil daily improved blood glucose levels.
This finding is important because people with type 2 diabetes often have elevated levels of insulin, which are linked to obesity.
Summary Nuts are a healthy addition to a balanced diet. They’re high in fiber and can help reduce blood sugar and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables around.
A half cup of cooked broccoli contains only 27 calories and 3 grams of digestible carbs, along with important nutrients like vitamin C and magnesium.
Broccoli may also help manage your blood sugar levels.
One study found that consuming broccoli sprouts led to a reduction in blood glucose in people with diabetes.
This reduction in blood glucose levels is likely due to sulforaphane, a chemical in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and sprouts.
Summary Broccoli is a low calorie, low carb food with high nutrient value. It’s loaded with healthy plant compounds that may help protect against various diseases.
10. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil contains oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that may improve glycemic management, reduce fasting and post-meal triglyceride levels, and has antioxidant properties.
This is important because people with diabetes tend to have trouble managing blood sugar levels and have high triglyceride levels.
Oleic acid may also stimulate the fullness hormone GLP-1.
In a large analysis of 32 studies looking at different types of fat, olive oil was the only one shown to reduce heart disease risk.
Olive oil also contains antioxidants called polyphenols.
Polyphenols reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels, keep oxidation from damaging your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure.
Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined, so it retains antioxidants and other properties that make it so healthy.
Be sure to choose extra-virgin olive oil from a reputable source, since many olive oils are mixed with cheaper oils like corn and soy.
Summary Extra-virgin olive oil contains healthy oleic acid. It has benefits for blood pressure and heart health.