American Diabetes Alert Day

Tips for Meal Prepping If You Have Diabetes

Controlling your blood sugar (glucose) levels can be challenging when you have a packed schedule or limited meal options. The following tips can help you meal prep to manage your diabetes. If you have questions or if you need help, work with your health care provider or diet and nutrition specialist (dietitian).


Planning Ahead

Plan ahead if you know you have a busy upcoming schedule:

• Try to eat your meals and snacks at about the same time each day. If you know your meal is going to be later than normal, make sure you have a small snack. Being very hungry can cause you to make unhealthy food choices.
• If you are ordering take-out, make a list of the restaurants near you that offer healthy choices. If possible, review the menu online and plan what you will order ahead of time.

o Research your restaurant of choice online. Many chain and fast-food restaurants list nutritional information online. Use this information to choose the healthiest options and to calculate how many carbohydrates will be in your meal.

• Use a carbohydrate-counting book or mobile app to look up the carbohydrate content and serving size of the foods you want to eat.

Free Foods

A “free food” is any food or drink that has less than 5 grams of carbohydrates and less than 20 calories per serving. These foods are high in fiber and nutrients and low in calories, carbohydrates, and fats. Free foods include:

• Non-starchy vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, celery, lettuce, or green beans.
• Non-sugar drinks, such as water, unsweetened coffee, or unsweetened tea.
• Low-calorie salad dressings.
• Sugar-free gelatin.

Starting meals with a salad full of vegetables is a healthy choice that includes a lot of free foods. Avoid high-calorie salad toppings like bacon, cheese, and high-fat dressings. Try to eat your salad dressing on the side so that you dip your fork in the dressing and then in the salad. This allows you to control how much dressing you eat and still get the flavor with every bite.

Choices to Control Carbohydrates

• Avoid bread or chips as a complement to your meal.
• Choose light yogurt or Greek yogurt instead of non-fat sweetened yogurt.
• Opt for fresh fruit. Avoid canned fruit because it is usually packed in sugar or syrup.
• When ordering out, ask for substitutes. For example, if your meal comes with french fries, ask for a side salad or steamed veggies instead. If a meal comes with fried chicken, ask for grilled chicken instead.

Beverages

• Choose drinks that are low in calories and sugar, such as:

• Water.
• Unsweetened tea or coffee.
• Lowfat milk.

• Avoid the following drinks:

• Alcoholic beverages.
• Regular (not diet) sodas.

Other Tips

• If you take insulin, wait to take your insulin until you are ready to eat your meal. This will ensure that your insulin and your food are timed correctly.
• Become familiar with serving sizes and learn to recognize how many servings are in a portion. Restaurant portions are typically two to three times larger than what you really need.
• When you prepare your meal, leave the amount you should have on your plate and put the rest away, or leave it in the to-go box, so that you are not tempted to eat too much.
• Consider splitting an entree with someone and ordering a side salad.
• Avoid buffets. They are typically too tempting and result in overeating.


Where to Find More Information

• American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org
• American Association of Diabetes Educators: www.diabeteseducator.org

Summary

• Plan ahead when you anticipate a busy schedule or order take-out.
• Try to eat your meals and snacks at about the same time each day. If you know your meal is going to be later than normal, make sure you have a small snack. Being very hungry can cause you to make unhealthy food choices.
• Ask for substitutes. For example, if your meal comes with french fries, ask for a side salad or steamed veggies instead. If a meal comes with fried chicken, ask for grilled chicken instead.
• Divide your meal before you start eating.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.


Document Released: 12/18/2006 Document Revised: 03/28/2018 Document Reviewed: 03/28/2018
Elsevier Interactive Patient Education © 2020 Elsevier Inc.

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