This beginners' meal plan starts with the basics and shows you what a week of healthy, easy eating for diabetes looks like. Whether you were just diagnosed or have had diabetes for years, you'll find plenty of healthy-eating inspiration here.

Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., R.D., C.D.
January 25, 2021
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In this healthy diabetes meal plan for beginners, we include a week of simple meals and snacks using recipes that are easy to follow, without long ingredient lists. Whether you're newly diagnosed or looking to get back on track, this simple meal plan is a great place to start. While this isn't necessarily a diabetes weight-loss meal plan, losing weight can significantly help lower your blood sugars if you're overweight. If weight loss is your goal, we set the calorie level at 1,500 per day, which is a level where most people lose weight, plus included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day, depending on your calorie needs.

Diabetes Diet Basics & How to Get Started:

Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming. It's difficult to know where to start, what to believe and how to make changes to your routine. As with most health changes that we want to become habits, the trick is to start small. Perhaps begin by cutting out sugary drinks and stick to water, then try to cook more at home—starting with just one meal or snack—then consider focusing more on adding plenty of nonstarchy vegetables, fruits, lean protein and more whole grains (which is just what you'll see in this meal plan).

There are a few key changes that can help improve your blood sugars:

  1. Protein: Eating protein, like meat, chicken, eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, nuts or other vegetarian proteins with most of your meals helps improve your blood sugars. Protein slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream, which means your blood sugars will stay more stable. So, the next time you opt for a slice of toast for breakfast, consider topping it with natural peanut butter or an egg, instead of jam, for better blood sugar control. As a general rule, aim to include a protein every time you have a carbohydrate food.
  2. Fiber: Fiber, a type of carbohydrate that isn't digested, helps improve our blood sugars. Like protein, it's broken down slowly and prevents blood sugar spikes. High-fiber foods include whole grains (quinoa, whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta), plus fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils.
  3. Weight loss: If you're overweight, losing weight (even just 5% of your body weight) can make a big difference in blood sugar control. Typically, if we focus on healthy nutrition changes to lower our blood sugar, like increasing protein and eating more vegetables, weight loss tends to follow on its own.
  4. Cut back on sugar and simple carbohydrates: Because sugary drinks can pack in a ton of sugar, avoiding them is often the best first step to improve your blood sugar control. Stick to drinks that have zero calories, like water, seltzer and unsweetened tea. Also, try to limit simple carbohydrates, like white flour, white rice, white pasta and sugar. These foods are low in fiber and are quickly digested, releasing sugar into our blood, which causes blood sugar spikes.
  5. Regular meal routine: A routine of three meals a day with one or two high-protein or high-fiber snacks helps keep our blood sugars stable. Skipping meals then overindulging leads to blood sugar lows and spikes, which leaves us feeling lethargic. Plus, eating regular meals and snacks prevents us from getting too hungry and makes it easier to manage portions. See More: The Dangers of Skipping Meals When You Have Diabetes
  6. Exercise: A combination of cardio exercise, like walking, jogging or biking, plus strength training helps lower blood sugars. Moving more is beneficial, but it doesn't have to be an hour of back-breaking exercise at the gym. Research shows that walking for 10 minutes after each meal can lower your blood sugars by 12% when compared to a single 30-minute walk per day. Regardless of how you like to exercise, moving more and sitting less is always a good idea.

What to Eat with Diabetes:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lean beef and pork (try to limit to twice a week)
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts, peanuts and natural nut butters that don't contain sugar
  • Olive and avocado oil
  • Avocados
  • Fruits, especially fruits with skin and seeds, like berries, apples and pears
  • Vegetables, especially low-carb nonstarchy vegetables, which is most vegetables except corn, peas and potatoes
  • Higher-fiber complex carbohydrates, like oatmeal, quinoa and starchy vegetables (winter squash, corn, peas and potatoes)
  • Greek yogurt

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Prepare Spinach & Strawberry Meal-Prep Salad for lunch on Days 2 through 5.
  2. Make Muffin-Tin Omelets with Broccoli, Ham & Cheddar to have for breakfast throughout the week.

Day 1

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7834565/what-is-inulin-and-what-should-i-eat-to-get-more-of-it/garlic-butter-roasted-salmon-with-potatoes-asparagus/

Breakfast (330 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (360 calories)

P.M. Snack (170 calories)

  • 22 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (522 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,513 calories, 77 g protein, 114 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 91 g fat, 798 mg sodium

To Make It 1,200 Calories: Omit the walnuts at breakfast and change the P.M. snack to 1/2 cup sliced cucumber.

To Make It 2,000 Calories: Increase to 4 Tbsp. chopped walnuts at breakfast, add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 2

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Breakfast (295 calories)

A.M. Snack (272 calories)

  • ⅓ cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (374 calories)

P.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Dinner (473 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,509 calories, 63 g protein, 148 g carbohydrate, 35 g fiber, 81 g fat, 1,625 mg sodium

To Make It 1,200 Calories: Omit the pear at breakfast and change the A.M. snack to 15 almonds.

To Make It 2,000 Calories: Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to breakfast and add 1 whole avocado, sliced, to dinner.

Day 3

https://www.eatingwell.com/gallery/7833134/5-step-chicken-dinner-recipes/20-minute-creamy-italian-chicken-skillet/
| Credit: Jason Donnelly

Breakfast (295 calories)

A.M. Snack (116 calories)

  • 1 large apple

Lunch (374 calories)

P.M. Snack (268 calories)

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • ¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (425 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,479 calories, 82 g protein, 139 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 69 g fat, 1,271 mg sodium

To Make It 1,200 Calories: Omit the pear at breakfast and reduce to 10 almonds at the P.M. snack.

To Make It 2,000 Calories: Add 2 1/2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to A.M. snack and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 4

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/289245/7-day-heart-healthy-meal-plan-1200-calories/ew-heart-healthy-mp-spin-salad-bowls-1244/

Breakfast (330 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (374 calories)

P.M. Snack (268 calories)

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • ¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (415 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,518 calories, 87 g protein, 120 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 83 g fat, 1,390 mg sodium

To Make It 1,200 Calories: Reduce the walnuts to 1 Tbsp. at breakfast and omit the almonds at the P.M. snack.

To Make It 2,000 Calories: Increase to 4 Tbsp. chopped walnuts at breakfast, add 1/3 cup almonds to A.M. snack, and add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to lunch.

Day 5

Breakfast (330 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

A.M. Snack (154 calories)

  • 20 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (374 calories)

P.M. Snack (141 calories)

  • 1 medium bell pepper, sliced
  • ¼ cup hummus

Dinner (493 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve 2 servings of Slow-Cooker Chicken & White Bean Stew to have for lunch on Days 6 & 7.

Daily Totals: 1,493 calories, 107 g protein, 107 g carbohydrates, 44 g fiber, 73 g fat, 1,366 mg sodium

To Make It 1,200 Calories: Omit the walnuts at breakfast and change the A.M. snack to 1/2 cucumber, sliced.

To Make It 2,000 Calories: Add 1 medium apple to A.M. snack, add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to lunch, and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 6

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7882092/clean-eating-meal-plan-for-beginners/attachment/7882118/

Breakfast (295 calories)

A.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Lunch (493 calories)

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Dinner (504 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,485 calories, 81 g protein, 170 g carbohydrates, 61 g fiber, 60 g fat, 1,497 mg sodium

To Make It 1,200 Calories: Omit the pear at breakfast and omit the avocado at dinner.

To Make It 2,000 Calories: Add 1/4 cup almonds to A.M. snack, add 1/4 cup walnut halves to P.M. snack, and increase to 1 whole avocado at dinner.

Day 7

https://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/278474/spicy-shrimp-tacos/attachment/7850524/

Breakfast (330 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

A.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • ¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (493 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (421 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,512 calories, 99 g protein, 130 g carbohydrates, 44 g fiber, 72 g fat, 1,480 mg sodium

To Make It 1,200 Calories: Omit the walnuts at breakfast and change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make It 2,000 Calories: Increase to 4 Tbsp. chopped walnuts at breakfast, increase to 1/3 cup almonds and add 1 large pear at A.M. snack, and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.