Sample Diabetes-Friendly 1600-Calorie Meal Plan

Strawberry chicken salad
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Diabetes meal planning should be individualized and made with the intent to help people with diabetes achieve good blood sugar control as well as optimize nutrition, lose weight, reduce blood pressure, and cholesterol (if needed). Depending on your weight, activity, and blood glucose control your dietitian or certified diabetes educator may recommend a calorie and carbohydrate controlled diet. By reducing calories and carbohydrates you can better manage your health and improve your blood glucose control, as well as increase your energy.

In fact, a recent study suggests that losing weight can actually help to put diabetes in remission.

A Meal Plan That Has a Good Balance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat

Balanced meal plans will contain plenty of non starchy vegetables, good quality carbohydrates, such as, whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, and high fiber fruits. They will also include lean protein—such as chicken, fish, turkey, lean beef, and low-fat dairy. Additionally, a balanced meal plan will include healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and nut butters, to name a few. 

If you've been instructed to follow a 1600-calorie diabetes-friendly meal plan, your health care provider has hopefully helped you identify carbohydrates, as well as educated you on different food options that can assist you in achieving your goals. 

Below you'll find additional options, that provide a total of 1600 calories in one day—notice that each meal is a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Suggestions include breakfast, lunch (with a recipe link), dinner, and snack ideas. Read more about diabetes meal planning.


  • Spinach, Egg and Cheese Sandwich:
  • 1 toasted English muffin (can substitute one small whole grain wrap or one slice of whole grain bread)
  • 1/2 cup sautéed spinach (made with one teaspoon olive oil) 
  • 1 scrambled egg plus two whites
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese (or 1/4 cup shredded low-fat cheese)
  • 1 cup honeydew melon cubes
  • Coffee with 1 teaspoon half and half 

For more breakfast ideas: High Protein, High Fat Breakfast Ideas


  • 1 serving strawberry chicken salad with dressing
  • 1 (6-inch whole grain) pita, warmed in the oven
  • 1 1/4 cup strawberries, 3/4 cup blueberries, or 1 cup raspberries
  • 8 to 12 ounces ice water or sugar-free beverage

For more lunch ideas: Best Lunches for Diabetes 


  • 4 ounces grilled lean steak (like flank steak or grilled chicken, pork, or broiled fish)
  • 1 small baked sweet potato (about size of computer mouse)
  • 1 cup sautéed green beans and mushrooms (or another non-starchy vegetable of choice)
  • 8 to 12 ounces ice water or sugar-free beverage


  • 1 tablespoon all natural peanut, almond, or cashew butter
  • 1 small (4 ounce) apple or a different type of fruit of choice (Note: avoid dried fruit and canned fruit soaked in sugary syrup)
  • 8 to 12 ounces ice water or sugar-free beverage

For more snack ideas: 20 Diabetes Friendly Snacks for 200 Calories or Less

Two Common Methods of Diabetes Meal Planning

Most people with diabetes can benefit from either carbohydrate counting or following the plate method.

For those people with diabetes who take insulin based on the amount of carbohydrates consumed, carbohydrate counting is very important. 

Carbohydrate Counting Method: This method involves tracking the grams of carbohydrates you consume in one meal. Most diabetes meal plans consist of about 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal (but should be individualized based on a persons' lifestyle, blood sugars, weight, activity level, etc). The total amount of carbohydrates you should consume per day should be discussed with your doctor or dietitian. Prior to having this discussion, you may benefit from keeping a food log so that he can get a basic understanding of how many carbohydrates you are currently eating.

Additionally, keeping a food log can help you to manage your blood sugars and weight, while keeping you accountable for your intake. 

Plate Method: For those people who are unable to count carbohydrates, the plate method can be a very effective way to meet your nutrition and health goals. This method is a little less overwhelming than adding up carbohydrates. Using a standard dinner-sized plate, aim to make half of the plate non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of the plate high fiber carbohydrate, such as whole grains, legumes, or starchy vegetables, like sweet potato. The final quarter of the plate should consist of lean protein, such as white meat chicken, eggs, fish, shellfish, lean beef, pork or low fat cheese (the portion varies and is usually about 4 ounces). 

What About a Vegetarian Diet? 

For people with Type 2 diabetes, following a vegetarian diet may seem a bit tricky because excluding animal products like meat, fish, and fowl can limit protein options. While it may seem appropriate to eat a higher protein diet because they tend to be lower in carbohydrate, it is possible to eat a vegetarian diet and maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar control. Learn more: How to Be a Vegetarian with Type 2 Diabetes. 


Lean M, et al. Primary care led-weight management for remission of type 2 diabetes (DiRECT): an open label, cluster-randomized trial." Lancet. 2017: DOI:10.1016/ S0140-6736(17)33102-1.