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Meal planning

Meal Planning for people affected by diabetes

Meal planning is as individual as you are. Be sure to consult your doctor and other members of your diabetes care team, such as your certified diabetes educator (CDE), nutritionist or dietitian, before making any changes to your current plan.

However, there are some general tips that apply to everyone:

Portion size

The amount of food you eat is important for diabetes management. Portion sizes are different for everyone, so what’s right for someone else might not be right for you.

Canada’s Food Guide suggests you plan your portions the following way:

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits - people with diabetes should choose more vegetables than fruit because most vegetables have less sugar
  • Divide the other half of your plate between protein and whole grain foods

Portion size is an important part of weight loss. If you live with overweight or obesity, weight loss is often the most effective way to help lower your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of other health problems. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the right approach for you.

Focus on eating healthy carbohydrates

It's true that all carbohydrates (carbs) affect your blood sugar, but it is a myth that people with diabetes are not “allowed” to eat any carbohydrate foods. The type and amount of carb you eat is what matters.

There are many healthy carbs that are good for you. Low-glycemic index foods such as legumes, whole grains, and certain fruits and vegetables, can help control blood sugar, protect you from heart disease and stroke, and make you feel full longer to help with losing weight. Include more of these carbs in your diet.

Eat more whole foods and less highly processed foods

Highly processed foods are foods and drinks that are prepared with excess sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Instead of highly processed foods, choose whole foods and prepare most of your meals at home.

Choose more vegetables and fruit

At each meal and as a healthy snack, choose fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits. They are all healthy options. Eat whole or cut vegetables and fruits instead of drinking juices (fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates are high in sugar).

Limit sugars and sweets

Limit regular pop, desserts, candies, jam and honey. The more sugar you eat, the higher your blood sugar will be. Other sweeteners can be substituted with the guidance of your doctor and health care team. 

Diabetes-friendly recipes

You don't need to have diabetes to enjoy our recipes—anyone can enjoy these! Each recipe includes the amount of carbohydrate, sugar, fat, sodium and calories in each serving.

How often should I eat and when?

Try to eat three meals per day at regular times and space your meals no more than six hours apart. Eating at regular times helps your body control blood sugar levels. It also helps to try to eat about the same amount of food at each meal, especially carbs.

Counting carbs (the amount of carbohydrate eaten at one time) is important in managing diabetes. Having too many carbs at a meal may cause your blood sugar level to go too high (hyperglycemica), and not enough carbohydrate may cause your blood sugar to go too low (hypoglycemia), depending on the type of diabetes medication you take.

What are “good” fats and how do I tell them apart?

Some fats are good for us. Good fats are found in foods, such as olive oil, canola oil, other vegetable oils, avocado, soft margarine, nuts, seeds, and oily fish like trout and salmon. These are called unsaturated fats.

More information on healthy fats can be found in Canada’s Food Guide.

Saturated fats increase your cholesterol level and your risk of heart disease. Choose foods with saturated fat less often; for example: butter, red meat, cakes, pastries, deep-fried foods, high- fat dairy products. Choose healthy proteins including plant-based protein and lower-fat dairy products more often.

Drink more water and stay hydrated!

Make water your beverage of choice. Water is a sugar-free and calorie-free way to quench your thirst and stay hydrated. Drinking regular pop and fruit juice will raise your blood sugar.

Alcohol can affect your blood sugar levels and may cause you to gain weight. Enjoy alcohol in moderation.

Planning ahead for healthy meals

Planning healthy meals and snacks can help you reach your goals. Talk to a member of your healthcare team, such as a CDE or registered dietitian, about the right amount of carbohydrates for you and for help with meal planning. A weekly meal plan will help with shopping and cooking at home.

Making healthy food choices

Learn to make healthier food choices with helpful tools and resources from Diabetes Canada.

Diabetes deep dives

Looking for in-depth information on diabetes management? Our Deep Dives video series answers your need-to-know questions now.

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