If you've got diabetes, the right meal plan can help you keep
blood sugar under control. Fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains,
and low-fat dairy products -- even sweets now and then -- all have a place in
"A meal plan provides a specific approach to controlling blood sugar," says
Dianne Davis, RD, LDN, CDE, a dietitian with the Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes
Center in Nashville, Tenn. "If you have diabetes, a meal plan is
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, to answer a question about the link between prediabetes and diabetes.
Q: At my last checkup, my doctor told me I have prediabetes. Does that mean I'll ultimately develop diabetes?
A: Almost everyone who develops type 2 diabetes develops prediabetes first. But not everyone who has prediabetes...
That's because a meal plan helps ensure you eat a balanced diet high in
fiber and low in fats. It can also "help you lose weight, by controlling
portion sizes and calories," Davis says.
Which Diabetes Meal Plan Is Right for You?
Your lifestyle and the type of diabetes treatment you're getting -- whether
you're taking premeal insulin or not -- will determine the type of meal plan
best for you, says Davis.
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are all factored into a plan. But carbs
are an especially important component since they have the biggest impact on
"Your meal plan can also include your favorite foods," Davis adds. "No food
is off-limits -- it's a matter of how much you eat, when you eat it, and what
it will do to your blood sugar."
With that in mind -- and understanding you should talk with your doctor
before making big changes in your diabetes diet -- here are four meal-planning
The Diabetes Food Pyramid
The diabetes food pyramid is similar to the USDA food pyramid you see on
food labels. It is a pyramid in which a healthy diet means eating more grains,
fruits, and vegetables, and less meat, sweets, and fats.
The diabetes food pyramid's general recommendations are:
Grains, beans, and starchy vegetables: 6 or more servings/day. One
serving: 1 slice bread; 1/2 small bagel; 1/2 cup cooked cereal, pasta, rice;
3/4 cup ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup cooked beans, corn, peas.
Fruits: 2-4 servings daily. One serving: 1 medium-size fresh
fruit; 1/2 cup canned fruit; 1/2 cup fruit juice.
Vegetables: 3-5 servings a day. One serving: 1 cup raw vegetable;
1/2 cup vegetable juice.
Meat, Fish, Cheese: 2-3 servings/day. One serving: 2-3 ounces
cooked lean meat, skinless poultry, or fish; I egg; 2 tablespoons peanut
butter; 2-3 ounces cheese.
Milk and Yogurt: 2-3 servings daily. One serving: 1 cup (8 ounces)
milk or yogurt.
Fats, Sweets, and Alcohol: eat these in small amounts. One
serving: 1 teaspoon butter, margarine, or mayonnaise; 1 tablespoon cream cheese
or salad dressing; 1/2 cup ice cream.
Combined foods, like eggplant lasagna, for example, will include servings
from several food groups (1 vegetable, 1 meat, 1 fat).
This meal system has limitations, says Davis. "When you follow the diabetes
food pyramid, you are not controlling specific grams of carbs and might not be
able to achieve very tight blood sugar control," she tells WebMD. "However, the
pyramid helps you see which foods are carbohydrates -- to get you acquainted