Managing blood sugar levels is the key to living well with diabetes and avoiding some of the more severe health problems it can cause. This means that following a healthful diet is essential for people with diabetes.

A diabetes meal plan can help. A good meal plan can help people to meet their nutritional needs, eat an appropriate mix of foods, and lose weight if needed.

A 7-day diabetes meal plan not only provides a week’s worth of healthful eating, but it also makes shopping and cooking duties simpler and can help people save money.

Two menus for 7 days

Meal plan.

Planning meals in advance is a good way to ensure that a diet is balanced and nutritious while managing diabetes.

The ideal diabetes meal plan will offer menus for three meals a day, plus two snacks.

Plans tend to suggest consuming 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day.

The number of calories people with diabetes need to eat each day will vary, depending on their activity level, height, and gender, and whether they’re trying to lose, gain, or maintain their weight.

The meal plans below provide a maximum of three servings of healthful, high-fiber carbohydrate choices at each meal or snack.

Diet plans for weight loss

Carrying excess weight puts additional stress on the body’s ability to use insulin and regulate blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, close to 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to the Obesity Society.

It is helpful for most people with diabetes to consider weight loss guidelines when developing a meal plan. Under the guidance of a doctor, many choose to follow a reduced calorie plan.

Step-by-step guide to meals for a week

Measuring spoons with dried pasta, beans, and legumes.

Measuring portions of food can ensure accurate monitoring of a diet.

These three practices can help people with diabetes enjoy a healthful, varied diet and successfully manage their blood sugar:

  • balancing carbohydrates, proteins, and fat to meet dietary goals
  • measuring portions accurately
  • planning ahead

With these ideas in mind, the following steps can help people with diabetes put together a healthful 7-day meal plan:

  • note daily targets for calories and carbohydrates
  • see how many portions of carbohydrates and other foods will meet those targets
  • divide those portions between a day’s meals and snacks
  • review the rankings of favorite and familiar foods and see if they can fit into a regular schedule, taking note of portion sizes
  • use exchange lists and available resources to fill out a daily schedule
  • plan meals to maximize ingredient use, such as having a roasted chicken one day and chicken soup the next
  • repeat the process for each day of the week
  • monitor blood sugar daily and weight regularly to see if the meal plan is producing the desired results

Diabetes meal planning methods

The diabetes plate method uses the image of a standard, 9-inch dinner plate as a way for individuals to plan their meals. In this approach, a plate is divided as follows:

  • 50 percent non-starchy vegetables
  • 25 percent protein
  • 25 percent high-fiber carbohydrates

Limited amounts of monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oils and avocado, and polyunsaturated fats, such as sesame seeds or nuts, can be used to prepare or accompany foods, such as fish or vegetables.

Counting carbohydrates is another effective way to develop a healthful diabetes meal plan. This approach is used when people with diabetes have worked with a healthcare professional to determine how many carbohydrates they can safely eat each day, and the right amount to eat at each meal.

People can then choose how they want to “spend” their carbohydrates by using a carbohydrates exchange list. These handy resources list foods according to the number of carbohydrates they contain, which makes it simpler to swap out one type of food for another.

Two other standard methods used in managing diabetes with diet are:

  • The glycemic index and load: These methods rate foods according to how quickly they raise blood sugar.
  • Food exchange lists: These lists are similar to those used in counting carbs, only they group together foods that have similar levels of fat and protein, as well as carbohydrates. These larger exchanges are divided into lists of starches, fruit, milk, vegetables, meat and meat substitutes, and fat.

Fortunately, all these methods are complementary. People developing a diabetes meal plan using the plate method can use a carbohydrate exchange list to switch up their menu choices, and then use the glycemic load to see if the other elements of the meal will balance it out.

Food exchange lists can be especially useful for putting together a 7-day diabetes meal plan.

Healthful foods to eat for diabetes management

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes provide fiber, and are suitable for those who are gluten intolerant.

According to the American Diabetes Association, many Americans do not even come close to eating the minimum recommended daily amount of fiber, which is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Some people with diabetes may have a hard time with the gluten found in some high-fiber foods, such as multigrain bread. Alternatives that may help to provide fiber include carbohydrates, such as:

  • sweet potatoes
  • quinoa
  • buckwheat
  • bean pasta
  • legumes
  • green peas
  • corn

It is important to include fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, in a 7-day diabetes meal plan because fiber slows carbohydrate digestion and lowers the risk of major health problems, such as heart disease and cancer.