Meal Planning

It can be hard to start living a healthier lifestyle. Planning your meals ahead of time can help you put together balanced meals without stressing about making last-minute decisions on what to eat. Here are some guidelines to follow for meal planning.

  • Make sure your meals are balanced. This means including breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks.
  • Include fruits and vegetables. Your meals should have about eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Count your calories. Your calorie level will vary based on your age, gender, activity level and weight goals. Find out how many calories you need to eat per day.
  • Pay attention to carbohydrates. About 45% of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates.
  • Limit “bad fats”. People with diabetes have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Try not to eat a lot of foods with saturated fats.
  • Watch your cholesterol. People with diabetes should have 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol or less per day. Look for foods that can help lower your cholesterol.
  • Get more fiber. You can get fiber from plant-based foods like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans.
  • Decrease sodium. Watching sodium is important for blood pressure control. People with diabetes should have 2300 mg of sodium or less per day.

Starting with your plate

A good place to start is by learning how to fill your plate with foods that are healthier. Here’s how to make a healthy and balanced plate.


Looking for some ideas? Check out some healthy recipes. You may also get some healthy inspiration on American Diabetes Association’s website. Each month, they publish a one-day meal plan with suggestions for adjusting carbohydrates and calories. Check out this month’s plan and view older ones for some inspiration.

Start small

Planning meals can seem difficult when you’re starting out. Try setting small goals with the meal planning worksheet in the Diabetes Book.