Diabetes Mellitus: An Eating Guide and Meal Plan for You

Fast Facts:

What is diabetes mellitus?

All the cells in your body need energy to work normally. This energy is called glucose. Glucose gets into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is not enough insulin, then glucose builds up in your blood. This is what happens to people with diabetes.

What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is when your blood glucose, also referred to as blood sugar, goes too low. It can make you feel dizzy, sweaty, confused, shaky, hungry and weak. Too much insulin or not eating for long periods can cause your blood glucose to drop too low. Warning: If you think you may have low blood glucose, eat or drink something with sugar in it right away. Your doctor may suggest you carry candy, juice or glucose tablets with you in case of this kind of emergency.

How to treat diabetes?

Eating healthy:

All people with diabetes need to maintain healthy eating habits. A dietitian can guide you to a healthy eating plan that will work for you. General recommendations will include:

  • Watching your portion sizes
  • Eating a variety of foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains
  • Including healthy fats and lean protein sources

Watch your weight.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the cornerstones of treating diabetes. If you need to lose weight, your dietitian can work with you to plan a sensible diet that will help you reach a healthy weight.

Be active:

The less you sit the better your blood glucose control. An active lifestyle and regular exercise can improve and maintain your health. Even a short walk after meals will support good blood glucose levels.

The Diabetes Meal Plan

You can take good care of yourself by learning:

  • What to eat
  • When to eat
  • How much to eat

Diet recommendations:

The best way to improve your diet is to eat a variety of healthy foods. You should learn how to read food labels, and consult when making food decisions. Talk to your dietitian if you are a vegetarian, have food allergies or on another type of special diet.

In general your diet should:

  • Moderate in fat and protein
  • Provide controlled levels of carbohydrates through food including fruits, vegetables and starches (whole grain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, dried beans and peas). One way to control your carbohydrate intake is to use the carbohydrate counting method detailed in the next pages.
  • Avoid processed foods high in simple sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, packaged cakes and cookies.


Most carbohydrates are found in starchy or sugary foods, such as breads, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, corn, fruit, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cookies, candies, soda, and other sweets. High fiber, whole grain carbohydrates are the healthier choices.

Grains, beans and starchy vegetables

Foods like bread, grains, beans, rice, pasta and starchy vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and are healthy carbohydrates. Choose carbohydrate sources with plenty of fiber. Eat whole-grain bread or crackers, tortillas, bran cereal, brown rice or beans. Use whole wheat or other whole grain flours in cooking and baking.


Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and spinach add much to your health with little or no effect on your blood sugar levels. Enjoys lots of them! Choose fresh vegetables without added sauces, fats or salts. Look for more dark green and deep yellow, orange or red vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots and peppers.


Fruits are a source of healthy carbohydrates. Choose whole fruits instead of juices; they have more fiber and less sugar. Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit and all berries like strawberries and blueberries, are good choices, as are kiwis, apples and pears. Choose fresh fruits when you can.

Milk and Dairy

Dairy products are a great source of protein, calcium and potassium and carbohydrates. Chose low-fat products if you are trying to reduce your weight. Avoid yogurt with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Use plain yogurt and add your own fruit.

Protein (meat, fish, dry beans, tofu, eggs and nuts)

Foods from this group are excellent sources of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Choose fish and poultry more often. Select lean cuts of beef, veal, pork or wild game. Trim all visible fat from meat. Bake, roast, broil, grill or steam instead of frying.


In general you should limit your intake of fatty foods, especially hamburger, cheese, bacon, sausage and deep fried foods. Go easy on the butter, margarine, salad dressings and cooking oils. Don’t cut fats and oils from your diet entirely. Fats are essential for good health; supporting your immune system, cell repair, hormone production and efficient absorption and use of vitamins and minerals. Many sources of fat will offer heart healthy benefits as well.


Sweets are high in sugar and fat and low in nutrients. Generally avoid these foods. When you chose to have a sweet or dessert, keep the portions sizes small.


In general people with diabetes should avoid alcohol. For more information speak with your doctor or dietitian.

General Food Choices

Avoid Healthy Choice
Cookies, cakes, pies, salty chips Whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers
Jams, jellies, syrup, honey Peanut butter, nut butters
Soft drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks, sports drinks Fresh fruits, sparkling water, low fat milk, unsweetened soy milk
Instant noodles, canned soups Fresh vegetables, beans, brown rice, whole wheat noodles
Lunch meat, bacon, sausage, hot dogs Chicken, beef, lean pork, duck, ham, fish and eggs
Deep fried foods Bake, broil, steam, lightly stir-fry
Read labels: foods containing sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, dextrose, honey, molasses, natural sweeteners , cornstarch, concentrated fruit juices Use small amounts of oil in cooking. Olive oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil and canola oil are good choices.

Carbohydrate Counting:

Your body needs energy to function well. One of the best sources of energy is carbohydrates. You need to eat carbohydrates everyday but carbohydrates can raise blood glucose higher and faster than other foods. One way to make sure you are getting the right amount of carbohydrate to keep your blood glucose in the target, healthy range is to use the carbohydrate counting method. This method helps you to keep track of the carbohydrates you eat at each meal.

Basic Carbohydrate Counting:

  • A serving of starch, fruit or dairy count as one carbohydrate serving.
  • Each serving has 15 g of carbohydrate.


  • 1 slice of bread (weight 33 g) = 15 g of carbohydrates
  • One medium apple = 15 g carbohydrates
  •  1/3 cup or 45 g of rice (cooked)= 15 g carbohydrates
  • 250 ml of cow’s milk = 15 g carbohydrates
  •  55 g of sweet potato = 15 g carbohydrates

Your dietitian will help you determine how many carbohydrate servings you should have at each meal and snack. This method is also helpful if you need to lose weight.

If You Want to Lose Weight

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is very important to managing your diabetes.  A healthy weight improves all aspects of your diabetes care.

If you want to lose weight you will need to reduce the amount of calories you take in and adopt a reasonable exercise plan.

Reducing your portion sizes is one way to reduce your calorie intake and still have a variety of healthy foods in your diet.  One easy way to start to reduce portions is to divide your plate in to sections.  One half of the plate should have non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of the plate should be protein and ¼ of the plate should be for the carbohydrate in the meal.

The dietitian can provide you with more strategies for managing your portions sizes and supporting your weight-loss efforts weight

When to Eat Recommendations

The key to good blood glucose control is eating about the same amount of food at each meal and eating on a regular schedule. Some people will only eat three meals a day and some will include 1-2 snacks in their meal routine. With the help of a dietitian you can work out the best schedule for your lifestyle. You should not allow more than 4 – 5 hours between meals. Eat at about the same time everyday and avoid skipping meals.

How Much to Eat

This is a general guide.  An individualized meal plan for you can be worked out with the help of a dietitian.

Category Daily Servings One serving equals
Grains, beans, and starchy vegetables 6-11 1 slice of bread

¾ c of porridge, 1 cup dry cereal,1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta

Vegetables 3-5 1 cup green leafy vegetable, raw or cooked

½ – 1 cup vegetables, cooked or raw

Fruits 2-3 1 medium whole fruit, i.e. apple

1 cup berries, 17 grapes or cherries

Milk and dairy 1-2 250 ml milk, yogurt, 30-60 g cheese
Protein 2-3 1 playing card size of meat, 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 90 g tofu, 2 tablespoons (60 g) of peanut butter.


Keeping a detailed log of meals and blood glucose readings can be useful in helping you; your dietitian and your doctor tailor a specific plan for your specific needs.

Sample Diet Plan

Meal Details

1 egg, 1 slice of toast (1 carbohydrate), berries and 180 g  plain yogurt ( 2 carbohydrates)

Tea or coffee

When you first wake up in the morning your blood sugar will normally be low. A small high protein meal is best.

Soup ( 1 carbohydrate), green salad with 60-90 g chicken breast, 1 cup rice or noodles (2 carbohydrates)

Water or tea

A serving of protein, vegetables and 2 servings of carbohydrates. Remember to take a walk after lunch.
Afternoon snack

One handful of nuts and an apple                             (1 carbohydrate)


A common mistake is waiting too long for lunch or dinner, and then overeating.

1 cup cooked spinach

90 g of broiled fish

1 medium baked sweet potato ( 2 carbohydrates)

1 whole grain roll( 1 carbohydrate), butter



This can be a tricky meal. If you eat late and are inclined to crash on the sofa or bed shortly afterwards, you need to avoid over eating. Remember a walk after dinner will help manage with blood glucose as well as aide digestion.
Evening snack

250 ml milk or unsweetened soy milk ( 1 carbohydrate), 6 whole grain crackers (1 carbohydrate)

If you are up more than 2-3 hours after dinner or do some exercise after your meal, you may want a snack.


Your Meal Plan

Meal Menu
Morning snack
Afternoon snack
Evening snack
Guide to Diabetes Education, American Diabetes Association
 Nutrition Care Manual, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, United States