Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

You are what you eat, as the saying goes. This statement is especially poignant if you have type 2 diabetes, since you become acutely of your diet and its impact on your blood glucose levels, as well as your cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight, and even your physical stamina. So knowing how to choose the right foods is essential.

Creating a meal plan for type 2 diabetes can sometimes feel like you're walking a tightrope, but the alternative of making choices haphazardly is not a very healthy option either. If you want to gain control of your disease and therefore have a healthier and more balanced life, it is essential that you learn how to plan your meals for your health benefit. And with a little help, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Why a Meal Plan:

A diabetes meal plan is simply a guide that helps you to determine how much food you need to eat at each meal and in what quantities; it is not a diet. The difference between a meal plan and a diet is simple. A diet will give you exact portion sizes, count specific calories, calculate fat grams, and dictate exactly what foods you eat. A meal plan, however, focuses on a much broader scale and offers more flexibility.

There are several types of meal plans you can choose from. The plate method focuses on portion sizes, the carb counting plan measures carbs in your meals, and the glycemic index helps you predict the effect your food items have on your glucose levels throughout the day. Choosing the right meal plan for type 2 diabetes will help you to manage your disease and keep your body in balance.

A Healthy Meal Plan:

When your meal plan focuses on balance, moderation and nutrition, your health will automatically improve. In a type 2 diabetes meal plan, your food options will include plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, lean meats, poultry, fish, and non-fat dairy items. Since no single food is perfect for diabetes, your meal plan should consist of a combination of these foods on a regular bases with emphasis on portion control. Even foods considered to be good and healthy can be harmful when eaten in large quantities.

Nutritionists recommend that you choose foods from each of the food groups to help ensure you are getting the right assortment of nutrients in each meal. The plans list foods that are high in minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

Not Restrictive:

Many people believe that a meal plan is highly restrictive, but a well-balanced and healthy plan would include many of the foods the family normally eats but perhaps in smaller portions. This way, the person with diabetes doesn’t have to feel excluded when joining the family at mealtime.

It takes time to make a meal plan for type 2 diabetes but the rewards cannot be overstated. Those who invest the time will likely discover that they feel better, have better control of their glucose—as well as perhaps their cholesterol and triglycerides—and even have more energy to live their lives. While there is no perfect solution to dealing with diabetes, having a meal plan can make all the difference.