One of the most frustrating experiences is coming home after a long day of work, looking in the fridge, and not knowing what to make for dinner. The above scenario often leads to quick orders for takeout and other unhealthy foods. But with diabetes, food comes with a double-edged sword. Picking unhealthy meals or failing to eat on a regular timeline can cause insulin spikes. Meal planning, the act of selecting and even prepping meals in advance, can help take the stress out of picking healthy foods and ensure that people with type 2 diabetes eat on a predictable schedule.
1. Embrace the plate method
In the US, oversized plates can lead to excessive food portions. So, many experts recommend starting with a nine-inch plate. The smaller size ensures that people don’t accidentally overeat. When planning meals, focus on covering half of the plate with non-starchy veggies like broccoli, salad, green beans, or carrots. Divide the remaining half of the plate into two equal portions. In one half, add a lean protein like chicken, turkey, eggs, or beans. And in the final quarter, include a grain or starch. Or, for people who want to avoid high glycemic index (GI) starchy foods, fill the final quarter with more non-starchy vegetables.
2. Counting carbs
Counting carbs isn’t just for people on keto and Atkins diets. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, making the food component an important aspect that people with diabetes need to be mindful of. When planning meals, people with diabetes should pay attention to the total carb intake, especially for people taking insulin. People unsure of how to properly count carbs should speak with a physician or dietitian.
3. Keep alcohol and sweets to a minimum
Because both alcohol and sweet treats are high in sugar, people with diabetes should avoid consuming large amounts of both items. Specifically for sweets, consider switching to sugar-free options, share desserts to reduce intake levels, and opt for the smallest serving size when possible.
Practice makes perfect
Meal planning can be an overwhelming task in the beginning. But by working with a dietitian or physician to identify healthy foods and to learn how to properly count carbs, people with type 2 diabetes can successfully create weekly menus that are tasty and easy to prepare. And in some cases, either cooking in advance or preparing parts of the meal ahead of time can help keep people with diabetes on track and minimize the risk of picking unhealthy quick meals. For more information about managing diabetes, speak with a healthcare provider.