Up your protein intake to stay satisfied and improve blood sugars in this healthy 7-day diabetes meal plan.

Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., R.D., C.D.

The core principles of the diabetes diet have largely remained the same over the years but as the research grows, we learn about new ways to help manage the disease even more efficiently. People with diabetes still want to work on reducing refined carbohydrate intake (because these foods raise blood sugars rapidly), and instead fill up more on high-fiber complex carbohydrates (like whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta), nonstarchy vegetables and lean protein to keep blood sugar balanced.

Research has also shown that another key factor—a high-protein diet—helps people with diabetes improve their blood sugar control and reduce their weight by decreasing post-meal blood sugar spikes and helping to keep us full, which reduces overeating and weight gain. To maximize the benefits, aim to spread protein more evenly throughout the day rather than overloading at dinner. Because weight loss can improve blood sugar control, we set this plan at 1,200 calories a day to promote a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week, with modifications to make it 1,500 and 2,000 calories a day, depending on your needs. Lifestyle changes, like increasing exercise, cooking more meals at home and avoiding sugary drinks (yes, even juice!) can also make a significant difference.

Whether you just found out you have diabetes or have been managing the disease for years, this helpful meal plan and easy recipes will make it simple to figure out what to eat and how to keep it exciting.

High-Protein Foods for Diabetes

Since cardiovascular disease is the leading complication of diabetes, choosing heart-healthy proteins can make a big difference in keeping our blood sugar in check while protecting our heart. Skip protein that's high in artery-clogging saturated fat—think bacon, sausage, fried meats and fatty cuts of red meat—and focus more on lean protein and plant-based protein to maximize your health.

  1. Poultry: Chicken and turkey are great options. Choose baked, roasted, grilled or poached options and skip the fried varieties.
  2. Eggs: Go ahead, eat the yolk. Research shows it doesn't raise our cholesterol, plus it's packed with nutrients. Eggs are a great protein choice—they are filling, quick, delicious and do not raise your blood sugars.
  3. Legumes: Although beans and lentils have some carbohydrates, they are also packed with protein and fiber, which means they'll keep your blood sugar levels stable rather than spiked.
  4. Fish: All fish is great, but fish rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and albacore tuna, are especially good options.
  5. Nuts: High in healthy fats and protein, nuts are a great convenient option.
  6. Dairy: Aim for Greek yogurt and cottage cheese to pack in the protein. Cheese is also high in protein, but it's also high in saturated fat, so aim to eat it in moderation.
  7. Soy: Whether you choose tofu, edamame, soybeans or tempeh, soy is a great vegetarian protein option.

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals

  1. Prepare Easy Loaded Baked Omelet Muffins to have for breakfast and snacks throughout the week.
  2. Prepare Mexican Spaghetti Squash Meal-Prep Bowls to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.

Day 1

Breakfast (304 calories)

A.M. Snack (35 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Lunch (292 calories)

P.M. Snack (105 calories)

  • 1 5-oz. container nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup raspberries

Dinner (477 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,212 calories, 75 g protein, 140 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 45 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 1,071 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 2 Tbsp. almond butter at breakfast, increase to 2 servings of Egg Salad Avocado Toast at lunch, and add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack.

Day 2

Breakfast (246 calories)

A.M. Snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries

Lunch (338 calories)

P.M. Snack (136 calories)

  • 1 medium peach
  • 10 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (427 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,211 calories, 64 g protein, 106 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 65 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 1,689 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to lunch, increase to 20 unsalted dry-roasted almonds, and add 1 serving Easy Loaded Baked Omelet Muffins (2 muffins) to P.M. snack.

Day 3

Breakfast (306 calories)

A.M. Snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries

Lunch (338 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 cup blackberries

Dinner (422 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,193 calories, 84 g protein, 91 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 59 g fat, 16 g saturated fat, 1,744 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 25 walnut halves to P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast, add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to lunch, and add 25 walnut halves to P.M. snack.

Day 4

Breakfast (249 calories)

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup blackberries

A.M. Snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries

Lunch (338 calories)

P.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Dinner (436 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Assemble ingredients for the Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili with Butternut Squash. Tomorrow morning, cook on Low for 8 hours so it's ready in time for dinner.

Daily Totals: 1,182 calories, 86 g protein, 106 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 53 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 1,139 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to lunch, add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack, and add 1 avocado to dinner.

Day 5

Breakfast (304 calories)

A.M. Snack (106 calories)

Lunch (338 calories)

P.M. Snack (8 calories)

  • 1/2 cup sliced cucumber
  • Pinch of salt & pepper

Dinner (461 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve 2 servings of the Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili with Butternut Squash to have for lunch on Days 6 and 7.

Daily Totals: 1,217 calories, 77 g protein, 125 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 54 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 1,870 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1 clementine to breakfast and 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to lunch.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 apple and 2 slices whole-wheat toast with 3 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to lunch.

Day 6

Breakfast (249 calories)

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup blackberries

A.M. Snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries

Lunch (307 calories)

P.M. Snack (176 calories)

  • 1 small apple
  • 1 Tbsp. almond butter

Dinner (417 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Double the Easy Brown Rice recipe and reserve 2 cups to have with dinner tomorrow.

Daily Totals: 1,212 calories, 83 g protein, 137 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 41 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 1,432 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Increase to 1/4 cup chopped walnuts at breakfast and increase to 3 Tbsp. almond butter at P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Increase to 1/4 cup chopped walnuts at breakfast, add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, add 1 2-oz. slice whole-wheat baguette to lunch, and increase to 3 Tbsp. almond butter at P.M. snack.

Day 7

Breakfast (281 calories)

A.M. Snack (68 calories)

  • 1 large peach

Lunch (307 calories)

P.M. Snack (116 calories)

  • 1 large apple

Dinner (452 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,224 calories, 77 g protein, 154 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 39 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 1,586 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, add 1 2-oz. slice whole-wheat baguette to lunch, and add 3 Tbsp. almond butter to P.M. snack.

Watch: How to Make Easy Loaded Baked Omelet Muffins

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