No food is off-limits when you have diabetes, as long as it’s in sensible amounts and as part of a balanced meal. The key is learning how to create a balance in your total meal that will produce normal blood sugars after you eat.
Here are four tips to help you get started, followed by recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Use daily testing of blood sugars as a way to learn what is working for you and how your blood sugars are affected by different foods.
- Stick to a certain number of carbohydrate grams per meal, about 45-75 grams of carbohydrate eaten three times a day, depending on the person and the meal.
- Balance those carbs with fiber and protein in each meal. Foods containing carbs and fiber, such as vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains, and whole fruits generally don’t cause blood sugars to rise as high as carbohydrates such as sugar, pastries, white bread, and white rice. Protein also helps blunt the rise in blood sugar after a meal.
- Eat sensible amounts of smart fats found in nuts, avocado, fish, olives, and other plants. High levels of saturated fats from meat, butter, cheese, and other dairy foods can contribute to insulin resistance. Note: Coconut, although a plant, contains saturated fat.
Quick and Healthy Breakfast Ideas
Scramble 1 egg and 2 egg whites (or 1/4 cup egg substitute) in a small nonstick frying pan coated with cooking spray. On a microwave-safe plate, spread the cooked eggs down the center of a multigrain or low-carb flour tortilla and top with desired garnishes, such as 1/4 cup chopped tomato, chopped green onions, 1/4 avocado, or 1/8 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese. Microwave on HIGH for about 20 seconds to soften the tortilla and warm up the filling. Wrap up and enjoy!
Estimated: Carbohydrate 30 grams, Protein 18 grams, Fiber 6 grams
High-Protein Berry Yogurt Bowl
Add 1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in a cereal bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon honey and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, if desired. Top with 1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries and 1/2 cup whole grain breakfast cereal of your choice (choose one that adds about 15 grams of carbohydrate and at least 5 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup).
Estimated: Carbohydrate 47 grams, Protein 22 grams, Fiber 10 grams
PB & J English Muffin
Toast a whole wheat English muffin and spread 1 tablespoon natural-style peanut butter on one half and 1 tablespoon less-sugar jam on the other half. Enjoy with a whole piece of fruit, such as an orange or banana.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 47 grams, Protein, 10 grams, Fiber 7 grams
Gourmet Cereal Bowl
In a big cereal bowl, add 1 cup of your favorite whole grain cereal that has about 30 grams of carbohydrate and at least 5 grams of fiber. Sprinkle 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries or banana slices, and 1/8 cup toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pecans) over cereal. Drizzle 3/4 cup nonfat milk or soymilk over the top, stir, and enjoy!
Estimated: Carbohydrate 48 grams, Protein 22 grams, Fiber 15 grams
French Toast That’s Ready When You Are
French toast freezes well, so make a little extra on the weekends to freeze, then microwave for a special weekday morning breakfast. For one serving, blend together 1 large egg, 1 egg white or 2 tablespoons egg substitute, 1/4 cup nonfat milk or fat-free half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Soak about 3 small or 2 large slices of whole wheat bread in the egg mixture, then lightly brown in a nonstick frying pan coated with cooking spray. Top with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries or other fruit.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 60 grams, Protein 21 grams, Fiber 10 grams
Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas
Easy Tuna Lunch Salad
Mix one 6-ounce can water-packed tuna (drained) with 3 tablespoons light Italian vinaigrette dressing. Then add 1/2 cup grape tomatoes or coarsely chopped tomatoes and 1/8 cup nuts and/or sliced olives. Serve on 2 cups firmly packed spinach leaves. Enjoy with an ounce of whole grain crackers.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 35 grams, Protein 54 grams, Fiber 6 grams
Grilled Tomato and Cheese Sandwich with Soup
Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray, lay a slice of whole wheat bread on top, then top it with 1 1/2 ounces reduced-fat cheese of your choice and 3 slices vine-ripened garden tomatoes. Lay a second piece of whole wheat bread on the very top and coat the top with canola cooking spray. When underside is golden, flip the sandwich over and lightly brown that side. Serve with a broth or tomato-based soup with about 10 grams of carbohydrate per 1-cup serving.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 60 grams, Protein 27 grams, Fiber 8 grams
3-Minute Bean and Cheese Burrito
Lay a multigrain or low-carb flour tortilla on a paper towel and microwave on HIGH for about 30 seconds, or until soft. Sprinkle 1/3 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack or Cheddar over the top of the tortilla. Spoon 1/2 cup no-fat canned refried beans (or similar) evenly in the center along with 1 tablespoon fat-free sour cream, 1 tablespoon salsa, and some chopped green onion or tomato (as desired). Roll it up into a burrito and microwave until the burrito is hot throughout.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 50 grams, Protein 24 grams, Fiber 10 grams
Lunchtime Pasta Salad
Leftover multigrain pasta from today’s dinner can become tomorrow’s lunch! Toss 1 cup leftover pasta with 1 cup cooked green or cruciferous vegetables of your choice. Add 1 ounce cubed or shredded part-skim mozzarella or 1/2 cup leftover grilled seafood/chicken/lean beef, plus chopped green onions, tomatoes, and sliced olives (if desired). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts or walnuts over the top along with about 2 tablespoons light vinaigrette. Toss and enjoy! This keeps well if you are bringing it to work. Store it in the refrigerator.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 54 grams, Protein 21 grams, Fiber 10 grams
Turkey Avocado Wrap
Top a multigrain or low-carb tortilla, flatbread, or Naan bread with 1 tablespoon basil, sun-dried tomato pesto, or olive tapenade (available in jars). Top with a few slices of roasted turkey, 1 ounce reduced-fat provolone (or similar cheese), about 4 avocado slices, a few spinach leaves, and some tomato slices, if desired. Roll up and wrap in foil or plastic wrap, and chill until needed.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 30 grams, Protein 32 grams, Fiber 8 grams
Vegetarian or Turkey Simple Salsa Chili
In a medium nonstick saucepan coated with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, brown 1/2 pound ground lean turkey or 1 pound sliced mushrooms with 1/2 onion (chopped) and 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Add 1 cup bottled marinara sauce of choice, 1 cup prepared or bottled salsa of choice, 1 15-ounce can black or kidney beans (drained), plus chili powder, oregano, and ground cumin to taste, if desired. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. This will make 3 servings. Enjoy each serving with a cup of fruit salad.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 43 grams, Protein 22 grams, Fiber 12 grams
Fruit & Walnut Chicken Dinner Salad
Cut a leftover grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast into slices (or use presliced seasoned chicken breast, available in a couple of brands) and toss with 3 or 4 cups dark green lettuce, 1 cup fresh or frozen berries or a sliced pear or apple, 1/4 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, 2 tablespoons blue cheese, and 2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette or light raspberry vinaigrette.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 27 grams, Protein 37 grams, Fiber 12 grams
Teriyaki Salmon Dinner (substitute another fish or skinless chicken if desired)
Start cooking steamed brown rice (available in the frozen food section in some stores). Heat the broiler of your oven or toaster-oven. Line a pie plate with foil and place the salmon fillets on top. Top each fillet with 2 teaspoons bottled teriyaki sauce. Broil about 6 inches from the broiler for about 4 minutes. Flip the fish over, spread 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce on top of each piece, and broil until the fish is cooked through. Serve with 3/4 cup steamed brown rice and 1 cup steamed green or cruciferous vegetables.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 42 grams, Protein 29 grams, Fiber 5 grams
Mushroom Spaghetti Dinner
Start boiling whole grain spaghetti noodles,following the directions on the package.Sauté 1 cup sliced mushrooms (any type) and 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil per person in a medium nonstick saucepan. Pour in 3/4 cup marinara sauce per person into the saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Serve about 1 cup of the mushroom marinara with 3/4 cup cooked pasta. Add a garden salad to complete the meal: 2 cups spinach or romaine lettuce, 1/4 cup kidney or garbanzo beans, a few olives, plus assorted vegetables such as sliced cucumber and carrot, all topped with a tablespoon or two of light vinaigrette.
Estimated: Carbohydrate 60 grams, Protein 18 grams, Fiber 9 grams
NOTE: If the amount of carbohydrate in one of the suggestions above is lower than what your health care team has recommended for you for that meal, add additional carbs to the meal, such as nonfat yogurt or milk, fruits and vegetables, or a small piece of whole grain bread
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD. Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
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