According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2015 almost 9.4% of the United States population had diabetes. With 1.5 million Americans being diagnosed with diabetes every year, that number could well be on its way to 10% by now. People living with diabetes must understand that what they eat has a huge impact on how they manage their diabetes.
That is why there are highly recommended diabetic meal plans to help individuals maintain healthy blood glucose levels. This article will help map out the details of making good food choices that can have rewarding effects on your health and lifestyle while living with diabetes.
How to Use Highly Recommended Diabetic Meal Plans
People eat in a variety of places throughout the day; at home, at work, in a restaurant and maybe even a car. In order to have more control over what food choices are available and that you make healthy decisions, it helps to have a diabetic meal plan.
What is a Meal Plan?
It is a strategic guide to help you plan what food you put in your body. A diabetic meal plan should take into account your lifestyle but should also help you meet your personal weight and blood glucose goals. It includes the following:
The American Diabetes Association reviews a lot of research to ensure what is safe and works well for individuals at risk or living with diabetes. These studies show that adjusting one’s eating pattern can have a significant effect in managing diabetes. Following your doctors prescribed insulin plan and a diabetic meal plan can help you avoid many of the complications of diabetes. This includes but is not limited to hyperglycemia, skin infections, kidney disease, or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
What Are 12 Highly Recommended Diabetic Meal Plans?
1. Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to protect against heart disease and stroke. Research is also showing that it can help individuals maintain healthy blood sugar levels and even lose weight. This diet is more of an eating pattern than a structured diet. It emphasizes eating mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and olive oil. Seafood should be consumed at least a couple times a week while saving red meat for special occasions.
2. DASH Diet
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and was designed to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. The diet is high in fiber and rich in nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, protein and magnesium. Following DASH ultimately means capping your sodium intake at 2,300 milligrams a day, then slowly lowering it to eventually 1,500 milligrams.
3. The Flexitarian Diet
Flexitarian is a combination of two words: flexible and vegetarian. The diet consists mostly of a vegetarian diet but does not completely eliminate meat as a protein option. This gives you the benefits of the lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and cancer associated with vegetarianism, but allows you to still get iron from red meat and Omega-3s from seafood. The focus with Flexitarian meals revolves around plant proteins rather than animal proteins, but the flexibility allows you to slowly reduce your urges.
4. Mayo Clinic Diet
The Mayo Clinic Diet is centeredaround building a new healthy eating lifestyle and adding daily exercise. Through the two-step process you will recalibrate your eating habits, by breaking bad ones and building up good ones. In part one, “Lose it!”, you focus on 15 key habits: ones to add and ones to stop. Most of your meals will consist of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. During part two, “Live it!”, you take habits you learned in part one but adhere to a calculated number of calories you can consume in a day.
5. Vegan/Vegetarian Diet
Vegan and Vegetarian are very similar diets that focus on eating plant-based food only. Veganism goes even further by eliminating all animal products from your diet. This includes anything made from dairy, eggs, or butter. The diet mostly consists of six servings of grains, five servings of legumes, two servings of fruit, two servings of healthy fat and four servings of vegetables a day. In return you will consuming meals rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. Which makes you a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
6. Volumetrics Diet
Developed by Barbara Rolls (Penn State University nutrition professor), Volumetrics is more of an approach to eating than it is a specific diet. The theory is that people tend to eat the same weight of food each day regardless of calories. In this diet you learn to eat less energy dense foods or foods that have fewer calories per gram. Low-density foods are low in calorie but high in volume so you can eat a lot of food without eating a lot of calories.
There are 4 categories of food. Category one (very low-density) includes fruits and vegetables. Category two (low-density) includes low-fat meat and legumes. Category three (medium-density) encompasses meats, cheese, and bread. Finally, Category four (high-density) foods are chips, chocolate candies, nuts, butter and oil. The target is to heavy amounts of category one and two, controlled portions of category three, and a minimum amount of category four foods.
7. Weight Watchers Diet
Based on their SmartPoint system, the Weight Watchers diet assigns every food and beverage a point value based on its nutrition. Members can then eat whatever they want as long as they stay within their SmartPoints target number. Healthy foods are assigned lower numbers. For example, there are 200 foods that are 0 points including eggs, corn, peas, lentils, turkey breast and skinless chicken. The system guides you toward an eating pattern that is lower in calories, sugar, saturated fats, and higher in healthier foods.
8. Jenny Craig Diet
The Jenny Craig Diet is a personalized, pre-packaged meal plan that helps individuals restrict calories, fat and portions. Jenny Craig offers two programs: one standard program and then a Type 2 program designed for people with Type 2 diabetes. This diabetic meal plan includes low-carb menu, reinforcement of self-monitoring of blood glucose levels, consistent meals and snacks, and other self-management strategies for weight loss and support for diabetes control. After reaching your weight goal, you then transition back to planning and making your own meals.
9. MIND Diet
What would happen if you took the DASH and Mediterranean diet and focused in on the foods in each that have positive affects on brain health? That basically is the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet. Each day will consist of three servings of whole grains, a vegetable, and a glass of wine. Every other day eat a cup of beans and snack nuts. Once a week you have some type of fish, and twice a week you have poultry and a half-cup of berries.
10. The Engine 2 Diet
Created by Rip Esselstyn, Engine 2 is a vegan diet with a twist–cut out vegetable oils and eat only whole plant foods. There is a 7 day “firefighter” diet and a 28 day “fire cadet” diet program. During week one, you dump all dairy and processed foods from your diet replacing them with whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. In week two you begin to eliminate all animal products including fish and eggs. In week three you stop using oils and week four is maintaining the plan.
11. Ornish Diet
Developed by Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, the Ornish diet aims to prevent and reverse diabetes, heart disease, and prostate cancer. Ornish categorizes food into five distinct groups. Group one is the healthiest and group five is the least healthy. The diet also addresses some other aspects of health by adding yoga or mediation to manage stress and spending time with loved ones for mental health. Overall the diet is very strict on intake of animal products but allows egg whites and a cup of nonfat milk.
12. Nutritarian Diet
The Nutritarian diet is a whole-plant and nutrient-rich foods diet created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It has four core principle rules; “Nutrient density”, “Nutrient adequacy”, “Toxin avoidance”, “Hormonal favorability”. The program has a 20-day and 6-week weight-loss plan in which you eat all the raw vegetables, cooked greens, beans, legumes, tofu, and fresh fruit you want. The forbidden foods are dairy, meat, oil and salt.
There are many different eating patterns or diabetic meal plans that can be used to manage your diabetes or diabetic symptoms. In order to stick to it, choose a plan that you are likely to follow long-term that fits your diabetes goals and personal needs. Most of the diabetic meal plans on this list require that you eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Saturated fats and processed foods need to be limited as much as you can. Whatever diabetic meal plan you choose, make sure to work with a registered dietician or doctor to safely treat and manage your health.