You want to eat healthier and be healthier. Healthy eating helps keep your blood sugar in your target range. It's a critical part of managing your diabetes because controlling your blood sugar can prevent diabetic complications. Planning meals ahead of time can help you succeed. Diabetic diet charts can help you get organized for healthy eating every day.
Healthy diabetic eating includes:
- Limiting foods that are high in sugar
- Eating smaller portions spread out over the day
- Being careful about when you eat carbs and how many
- Eating a variety of healthy foods
- Eating less fat and salt
- Limiting your use of alcohol
The wide variety of healthy foods that you get to eat includes:
- Whole grains
- Lean meats
Keeping Your Blood Sugar in Target Range
Your main focus is on keeping your blood sugar (glucose) level in your target range. To help do this you want to follow a meal plan that has:
- Food from all the food groups
- Fewer calories
- About the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal and snack
- Healthy fats
Along with healthy eating, you can keep your blood sugar in target range by maintaining a healthy weight. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help you manage your diabetes better. Eating healthy foods and staying active can help you meet and maintain your weight loss goal.
Less Sugar in Your Diet
Eating less sugar is not as hard as you might think. Substitute sugary beverages with sugar-free soda, water, and unsweetened tea. Instead of having a whole dessert, share half with someone else.
Smaller, Slower Meals
Eating smaller portions is also a recommended choice for healthy eating. Learn about serving sizes for different foods and how many servings you need in a meal. Some of the diabetic diet charts have easy-to-follow guides for meal portions. An easy way to cut meal portions when you’re eating out is to share a meal. Or you could also ask the server to put half in a box to take home. Also, chew your food thoroughly, savor every bite, and take a break in between bites.
Eliminating Bad Fats
The experts also recommend eating less fat. Choose fewer high-fat foods and use less fat for cooking. You especially want to limit foods that are high in saturated fats or trans fat, such as:
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Fried foods
- Whole milk and dairy products made from whole milk
- Cakes, candy, cookies, crackers, and pies
- Salad dressings
- Lard, shortening, stick margarine, and nondairy creamers
More Whole Grains
The CDC recommends that people with diabetes eat more fiber by eating more whole-grain foods. Whole grains can be found in:
- Breakfast cereals made with 100% whole grains
- Whole grain rice
- Whole-wheat bread, bagels, pita bread, and tortillas
Also eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit and 100% fruit juices most of the the time. Watch out for fruit juices with added sugar! Eat plenty of veggies, especially dark green and orange vegetables. Beans and peas too. Here’s a good list:
- Brussel sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
- Black beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Split peas
7 Diabetic Diet Charts
Diabetic diet charts are tools to help you manage your diabetes. They can help you with:
- Grocery shopping
- Food and beverage tracking
- Calorie tracking
- Carb counting
- Controlling food portions
- Personal meal planning
Use this printable from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for grocery shopping. It's a good list to use for keeping your kitchen stocked with healthy essentials.
The American Diabetes Association also provides My Daily Food and Drink Tracker. This diabetic diet chart provides an easy way to keep a brief food and beverage diary. My Daily Activity Tracker is also included.
"What I Ate This Week". This diabetic diet chart is from the ADA's premier consumer magazine website for people with diabetes, Diabetes Forcast. Keep track of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks Sunday through Saturday. There’s a space each day for extra notes and a gray bar at the bottom of each box for tracking calories.
4. The Daily Diabetes Meal Planning Guide is from Eli Lilly and Company. This diabetic diet chart provides all kinds of information including:
- A "handy" guide to portions
- A detailed three-page food list for meal planning
- Instructions on carb counting
- The Personal Meal Plan Chart
5. My Plate Planner has a colorful visual reminder for meal portions. The second page includes an easy-to-follow meal planning guide.
6. Diabetes: Meal Plan 1800 is a one week meal plan for those who want a daily 1800 calorie diet. This diabetic diet chart is from the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center.
7. The Pritikin Longevity Center has a two-page diabetic diet chart, Shop Smart & Fill Up Your Cart!. Included is a convenient Top 50 checklist for grocery shopping. There are also 3 Top 10 lists of foods to avoid for specific health goals, including weight loss.
Success With Diabetic Diet Charts
It's hard to change our habits, especially when it comes to eating and exercising. You want success. Diabetic diet charts are tools to help you set goals, act on those goals, and make progress. Here are some tips for using the charts.
Make it convenient. Put your charts in the places where you need them. For example, if you're going to use one of the lists for grocery shopping then keep a copy in your purse or glove box. Make sure you have a pen or pencil handy so that you can mark things off. Stick the meal portions chart on the refrigerator or tape it on the table where you eat. Make it as easy as possible to use whichever tool you've chosen.
Personalize it. We need structure to change our habits. In fact, having structure, like these charts, increases our chances of success. But you need the right structure for you. It has to fit your diet and health goals. It has to fit your way of doing things. If you need to, take the information and ideas from these charts and create a custom chart.
Be specific. What are your health goals? How will you know when you've achieved these goals? Management guru Peter Drucker is famous for saying, "What gets measured gets improved." It's true. If you want to meet your goals be specific about what they are. Use whichever printable(s) you've chosen. Write your specific goals on your chart or list. Use whatever space is available: top, bottom, sides, front, or back. Or get a separate journal. You want to keep those goals in your sights every day as you use your chart. You also want to chart your progress. Start by taking some measurements and write those down too.
- Current weight
- Inches of your biceps, waist, and hips
- How many calories you eat in a typical day
- How many miles you can walk
Every time you print out a new chart write out your goals again. What are your new stats? Write them down. How much time did you spend exercising? How many miles did you walk? How much do you weigh? Write it all down. Keeping track of specific things will help keep you on course.
Plan ahead. Think beforehand about how you’re going to achieve your goals. For example, say you've decided to keep track of your daily food and beverage intake. Instead of waiting until after your meal to write down what you ate, try this. Write down what you're going to eat on your chart the night before or the meal before. Make a habit of making healthy decisions ahead of time.
Take Charge. Don’t be passive about pursuing your new eating or exercise habits. Take an active role by focusing on what you're doing to help yourself. Try asking yourself questions about your active involvement in your new goals. Look at this question, "Do I have a diabetic diet chart that will help me meet my goals?" This an example of a passive question. It has nothing to do with you being in charge of the situation. Now look at this question, "Am I doing my best to use this diet chart to make my goals?" This is an active question that makes you accountable and puts you in the driver’s seat. Active questions like this will help you focus on what you can do for yourself. They will help you check your progress and make necessary adjustments on your way to success. There’s an inspiring self-help book about this called Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith.
Be consistent. Consistency is a big key to changing your health habits. One way to develop the consistency of a new habit is to link it to other habits. For example, think of all the small habits that make up your morning routine. Where would your new habit (e.g., walking more, planning a meal) fit in? Think of your morning routine as a stack of mini-habits. What you want to do is find a place in that stack for your new mini-habit. The goal is to fit your new habit in with the others. That way it becomes part of your regular routine. S.J. Scott has written some books about his concept of "habit stacking".
Review it. At the end of every week take a look at your chart(s). See what you can learn from the notes you've made. Check to see how well you did in pursuit of your new healthy habits. Was there a day when you didn't do so well? Which day did you do the best? Now ask yourself some questions. Why did or didn't I stick to my plan that day? What was going on then? How was I feeling? Going over the ups and downs of the week can help you find patterns in your behaviors. For example, reviewing a food diary can help you to figure out what "triggered" you to do something. It's often an environmental "cue" or our emotions that trigger our eating habits. Common triggers are:
- Watching television at home in the evening
- A stressful meeting or appointment
- Getting to work and not having a plan for lunch
- Having someone offer you a tasty snack
- Being tired and thinking of food as a good pick-me-up
- Walking past a vending machine or a candy dish
- Seeing your favorite snack food in the cabinet
- Sitting in the break room beside the vending machine
- Seeing a box of doughnuts in the break room
- Being bored and grabbing something to eat for something to do
As you review the week write down each trigger. Follow these instructions according to the situation:
- Situations that don't involve other people. For instance, eating in the break room by the vending machine. Ask yourself the following question. "What can I do to avoid this trigger?" There could be another place you could eat your lunch. Or you could have a healthy snack on hand for when you feel tempted by something not-so-healthy.
- Situations that involve other people. For instance, staff meetings. Ask yourself the following question. "What can I do that would be healthier than what I did before?" Could you suggest or bring healthier snacks? Could eating a healthy snack beforehand help?
Determine in your mind to do the things that will help you change. Write down these new ideas as goals on your chart or in a separate journal.
You Can Do It
Remember that it takes time and persistence to develop new habits. It doesn't happen overnight. Don't beat yourself up when you fail. Don't give up on the rest of the day when you give in to a craving or experience a setback. Don't wait until the next morning or New Year's Eve to resolve to get back on track. Determine to make a fresh start right then and there. You can do it! Make one small change first and then another. Take it one day at a time.
“Little hinges swing big doors.” W. Clement Stone
Top Web Resources About Food and Nutrition for Diabetes
Here are some reliable online resources to help you learn more about healthy eating when you have diabetes.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A resource for finding a nutrition professional that can help you develop a healthy meal plan.
- American Association of Diabetes Educators. A resource for finding a diabetes educator.
- MyFoodAdvisor Compare foods, find healthy eating alternatives, analyze favorite recipes and more using this online tool. (American Diabetes Association)
- Diabetes Nutrition: Eating Out When You Have Diabetes (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Diabetes type 2 - meal planning (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Best Food Choices (American Diabetes Association)
- Diabetes Superfoods (American Diabetes Association)
- Grains and Starchy Vegetables (American Diabetes Association)
- Managing Diabetes: Looking Beyond Carbs (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Non-Starchy Vegetables (American Diabetes Association)
- Protein Foods (American Diabetes Association)
- Dairy (American Diabetes Association)
- Glycemic index and diabetes (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Snacking when you have diabetes (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Diabetes Nutrition: Including Sweets in Your Meal Plan (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Sweeteners - sugar substitutes (Medical Encyclopedia)
- What Can I Drink? (American Diabetes Association)
- Alcohol (American Diabetes Association)
- Understanding Carbohydrates (American Diabetes Association)
- Counting carbohydrates (Medical Encyclopedia)
- All About Carbohydrate Counting (American Diabetes Association) - PDF
- Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Carbohydrate Counting and Diabetes