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Meal Planning Tips for People with Type 2 Diabetes

If you have diabetes, SparkPeople highly recommends that you work directly with a Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator to receive comprehensive training in diabetes self-management. Together you can develop a diabetes meal plan based on your health goals, tastes, and lifestyle—as well as the latest guidelines for healthy eating. Below are examples of two different meal planning systems; your registered dietitian can help you decide which is best for you.

1. Carbohydrate Counting is the most accurate meal planning system for controlling blood sugar levels. Essentially, carbohydrate counting is a way to “budget” the amount of carbohydrate eaten at any meal or snack. This method allows you to choose any type of carbohydrate foods, as long as the portion size you choose allows you stay within your goal “budget.” In general, about half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrate foods. However, if you have diabetes, it is important to eat roughly the same amount of carbohydrate at each meal. Commonly recommended “budgets” are 30 to 45 grams (2 to 3 servings) of carbohydrate per meal for women and 45 to 60 grams (3-4 servings) per meal for men. Both women and men should limit snacks to 15 to 30 grams (1 to 2 servings) of carbohydrates. (Click here for a printable reference chart of carbohydrate servings.) Your Registered Dietitian will determine the right amount of carbohydrates for you, along with guidelines for protein and fat intake.

In addition to carbohydrate budgeting, it is important to space your meals and snacks evenly throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. Experts recommend waiting at least two hours (but no more than five hours) between meals and snacks during the day. This will help prevent your blood sugar level from going too high or too low.
Here's a sample meal plan that uses the carbohydrate counting method:

Breakfast Carbohydrate Count
1 scrambled egg 0
2 slices whole-grain toast 2.0 (30 grams)
1 tsp margarine 0
1/2 cup orange juice 1.0 (15 grams)
Breakfast Total: 3.0 (45 grams)
Snack 1 Carbohydrate Count
1 medium orange 1.0 (15 grams)
Snack Total: 1.0 (15 grams)
Lunch Carbohydrate Count
1 cup skim milk 1.0 (15 grams)
2 slices bread 2.0 (30 grams)
Low-fat mayo 0
3 oz. turkey 0
Lettuce and tomato 0
Lunch Total: 3 (45 grams)
Snack 2 Carbohydrate Count
6 oz. light yogurt 1.0 (15 grams)
Snack Total: 1.0 (15 grams)
Dinner Carbohydrate Count
1 medium sweet potato 2.0 (30 grams)
1 tsp margarine 0
1 cup skim milk 1.0 (15 grams)
4 oz. baked chicken breast 0
1/2 cup cooked broccoli 0
1 cup salad 0
2 Tbsp low-fat dressing 0
Dinner Total: 3 (45 grams)
Snack 3 Carbohydrate Count
1 small apple, sliced 1.0 (15 grams)
2 Tbsp peanut butter 0
Snack Total 1.0 (15 grams)

2. The Plate Method allows you to visually evaluate the carbohydrates in your meal and the overall nutritional balance in five easy steps:
  • Step #1: Start with a nine-inch plate. Take a ruler and measure across your plate to make sure it is not too large.
  • Step #2: Pretend to divide your plate in half. Then divide one of those halves into two equal sections. Fill one-half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, either cooked or raw. Fill one-fourth of the plate with a serving of protein. Fill the last fourth of the plate with a carbohydrate-rich food (1 carb serving, 15-grams), using the chart above for examples. *Note: For breakfast, enjoy your meat and grain items each covering one-fourth of your plate; non-starchy vegetables may be omitted in the morning.
  • Step #3: Add 1 cup (8 fl oz) of low-fat milk or 1 container (6-8 oz) of light yogurt to your meal (1 carb serving, 15 grams).
  • Step #4: Select one serving of fruit to go along with your meal (1 carb serving, 15 grams).
  • Step #5: Complete your meal with one or two servings of healthy fats. This could be a tablespoon of salad dressing, 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil used to sauté vegetables or a teaspoon of mayonnaise for a sandwich.
For more information about eating with Type 2 diabetes, click here.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Amy Poetker, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.
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Member Comments

I am rereading this because I have apparently forgot some of it. Report
I also think these carb amounts are too high for a diabetic. Less carbs helps control my blood sugar and helps my weight loss. Report
This was written in 2007. Many new studies have been done since then.

I believe lower carbohydrate counts, at least 50 or lower, is to be tried to lower full blown diabetes. My sugars wouldn't budge until I did low carb, 40 or less per day. Report
Great tips! Report
I've gotten my blood sugar from 13.8% to 5.5%. I tried to carb count, but felt I was complicating things too much and living on the edge. What works for me was learning about foods and how many carbs were in each food and totally avoiding high carb foods altogether. it worked for me. Report
Thank you, great article. Report
I strongly agree, this carb intake is MUCH too high for type 2 diabetics trying to drop weight. It is contrary to the latest research and I think it should be withdrawn from SP articles along with other similar outdated articles. PLEASE SP, we need help and we need to know we can trust what we need here. Report
Thanks Report
Good idea must continue with it Report
When I first decided to follow the Diabetes meal plan, I was shocked at how many carbs are allowed. It's more than I normally eat, when I'm not dieting.

Although the SP Diabetes plan follows the American Diabetes Association recommendations, I still think the carb count is too high. If I ate all those carbs while staying within my calorie limits, I'd be hungry all day. I'd also gain weight.

Cutting back on carbs is what allowed me to lose weight. When I get over 80 net carbs per day, I start gaining weight, even if my calories are the same. Report
If I ate like this article recommends, my blood sugar levels would be through the roof. Fruit juice is never a good idea for diabetics, eat the whole fruit if you're going to eat fruits at all. I mostly only eat berries. You can't cure diabetes, only keep it under control because if you go back to your old ways of eating, the blood sugar numbers will go up again. The only way I've been able to control my blood sugar numbers is to eat a much lower carb diet than this article suggests. In 1 year I have lost 65 pounds and have been able to go off my insulin and keep my A1C below 6 by eating less than 50 grams of carbs a day. Many artificial sweeteners can spike your blood sugar levels just like sugar. Report
I appreciate the advice on keeping carb levels the same at each meal. I thought the recommended daily carb levels a bit high. I eat maximum 30 grams of unrefined and nutrition rich carbs each meal. I'm diabetic and this keeps my glucose levels stable and in a really good range. I could never dream of drinking fruit juice regularly like the article suggests. Maybe everyone is different. Report
I lowered my hA1c and got myself out of the pre diabetic range by counting my carb intake and eating less than 60 carbs per day. It's not hard to do at all. I just excluded bread a bbqbd pasta from my diet and started eating more green vegetables, cooked and raw. And I started drinking nothing but water, no diet drinks for me! Report
If I ate 30-45 carbs per meal my blood sugar would be over 200 all the time. I eat less than that per day and don't need drugs or insulin to control my blood glucose. Report
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About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.