Type 2 Diabetes Meal Planning

Two Meal Planning Methods and a Sample Meal Plan

A food diary.
A food diary. Image Source/Getty Images

There are a few methods that can be used for diabetic meal planning. It is good to research more than one, but also important to remember that diabetic diet needs are going to vary based on your sex, age, activity level, medications, height and weight. If you have not yet met with a registered dietitian, seek one out who can help you develop an individualized meal plan that will meet all of your specific needs.

Common Methods of Diabetic Meal Planning

1. Carbohydrate Counting Method

Carbohydrate counting is the most common meal planning method. Most diabetic meal plans will need to have 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal, but remember that your personal needs may be slightly different. Still, that is a good amount to start with.

For this method, you will need to learn what foods have carbohydrate in them, what information to look for on a food label, and how to approximate a serving of carbohydrate when a food label is not available. Once you become familiar with these, you will be able to easily track your carbs to make sure you're not consuming too much. You may want to keep a log throughout the day.

Carbohydrate Foods:

  • Starchy foods like bread, cereal, rice, and crackers
  • fruit and juice
  • dried beans and soy products
  • starchy vegetables, like potatoes and corn
  • sweets and snack foods

Food Labels:

Foods might sometimes appear to be packaged into individual serving sizes even though they contain two or more servings per package.

To determine that, look at "serving size" and "servings per container" at the top of any food label. For example, if a serving size is 1 and there are 2 servings per container, you will need to double all of the nutrient values on the label in order to get a clear picture of the value of the entire container.

The total carbohydrate will be located after the calories, total fat, cholesterol and sodium on the label. It will be broken down further into how much of the carbohydrate comes from fiber, and how much comes from dietary sugar.

For carbohydrate counting, you only need to pay attention to the total carbohydrate.

Approximate Serving of Carbohydrate:

Some foods don't have labels to check, which is why knowing some estimate carbohydrate counts can help you.

The following represent 15 grams of carbohydrate:

  • 1 small piece of fresh fruit (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup of canned or frozen fruit
  • 1 slice of bread (1 oz) or 1 (6 inch) tortilla
  • 1/2 cup of oatmeal or 3/4 cup of most unsweetened dry cereals
  • 1/3 cup of cooked pasta or rice
  • 4-6 crackers
  • 1/2 English muffin or hamburger bun
  • 1/2 cup of black beans or starchy vegetable
  • 1/4 of a large baked potato (3 oz)
  • 2/3 cup of plain fat-free yogurt (6 oz)
  • 1 cup of fat-free or 1% milk (8 oz)
  • 2 small cookies
  • 2 inch square brownie or cake without frosting
  • 1/2 cup ice cream or sherbet
  • 1 Tbsp syrup, jam, jelly, sugar or honey
  • 2 Tbsp light syrup
  • 6 chicken nuggets
  • 1/2 cup of casserole
  • 1 cup of soup
  • 1/4 serving of a medium French fry
  • 1/8 of a 12" thin crust pizza

2. Plate Method

Most of my newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetic clients prefer to start out with the Plate Method of meal planning. It is a little less overwhelming, and doesn't require adding up carbohydrates. It does require that you learn what foods belong in what category. Using a standard dinner-sized plate, for breakfast, make half of the plate starch, and the other half fruit & lean protein. For lunch and dinner, make half the plate non-starchy vegetables, and the other half starchy foods and lean proteins.

For lunch and dinner, then add a non-fat milk, low-fat milk, or another starch plus one serving of fruit.

Starchy Foods

  • bread
  • tortillas or pita bread
  • English muffin or bagel
  • hamburger or hotdog buns
  • rice or pasta
  • oatmeal or unsweetened dry cereal
  • crackers
  • baked or mashed white or sweet potato
  • winter squash
  • peas, corn or baked beans

Fruit - (For Lunch & Dinner - 1 piece or 1/2 cup)

  • apple
  • banana
  • grapes
  • oranges
  • peaches
  • pears
  • pineapples
  • strawberries, blueberries or raspberries
  • watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew melon
  • unsweetened fruit juice

Non-Fat or Low-Fat Milk - (For Lunch & Dinner - 1 cup)

  • fat-free or 1% milk
  • fat-free plain or low-fat fruited yogurt
  • fat-free or low-fat soy milk

Non-Starchy Vegetables

  • asparagus
  • green beans
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • cucumber
  • eggplant, summer squash or zucchini
  • salad greens
  • mushrooms
  • peppers
  • tomatoes

Lean Protein Foods

  • chicken or turkey with the skin removed
  • lean beef such as round, sirloin, flank steak, tenderloin or ground round
  • lean pork such as ham, Canadian bacon, tenderloin, or center loin chops
  • fresh or frozen cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, trout, tuna, or tuna canned in water, or salmon
  • fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese
  • low-fat deli meats like turkey
  • low-fat cheeses
  • egg substitute or egg whites
  • low-fat sausage or hotdogs
  • low-fat peanut butter

Sample Diabetic Meal Plan:


  • 2 slices of whole-wheat toast with fat-free butter spray
  • 1 fried egg, cooked in a non-stick skillet with fat-free cooking spray and fresh black pepper
  • 1 medium fresh peach
  • 1 cup of coffee with fat-free half & half and sugar substitute


  • 1 cup salad greens topped with 1 cup carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp fat-free Italian salad dressing
  • 1 sliced & grilled skinless chicken breast
  • 1 wheat roll
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 crisp fresh apple


  • 1 cup of green beans sautéed with fat-free olive oil flavored cooking spray and fresh black pepper
  • 2/3 cup cooked brown rice mixed cooked with chopped red bell pepper and low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 salmon fillet that is about the size of your palm baked with lemon juice, low-sodium chicken broth and fresh black pepper
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 1 cup of sliced strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp of light or fat-free whipped topping

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