This is the fourth, and final, meal plan in the Healthy With Diabetes Challenge. But that doesn’t mean the healthy eating stops here. I hope you will continue meal planning after the challenge is over and you can always look for inspiration in my meal plan archive.
The meal plans are meant to make life simpler for you. If something doesn’t work for you, change it. If you don’t have time to cook chicken every 3-4 days, buy a rotisserie chicken or have your local market cook the chicken for you. If you don’t have time to chop veggies or throw a garden salad together, buy a mixed greens salad (just toss the dressing, those are usually calorie bombs).
If you are on a budget, shop for what’s in season, and buy in bulk when you find good discounts. You don’t have to eat expensive food to be healthy!
How to find your calorie need
If you already know how many calories you need to reach your goal, you can skip the next section and go straight to the meal plan.
We all have different calorie needs. Your daily calorie need depends on your size, fitness level, daily activity, gender, etc. When you are creating a healthy diabetes meal plan, your first step should therefore always be to calculate your “calorie equilibrium”, or how many calories you need each day to maintain your current weight. You can learn exactly how to find you calorie equilibrium with 5 easy steps in this post: “How to Find Your Daily Calorie Need“.
Once you know your calorie equilibrium, you can adjust your daily calories up or down to meet your goals. If your goal is to lose weight, I recommend that you eat up to 500 calories less than your equilibrium each day (but no less than 1,200 per day). This should lead to a steady and healthy weight loss.
If you want to gain muscle, start out by adding in 300-500 calories more than your equilibrium each day and see what happens. If you find that you are also putting on a little too much fat, decrease your calories slightly.
The Healthy With Diabetes meal plan
Now that you know how to calculate your daily calorie need, you are ready to create a healthy diabetes meal plan. Well, I say create, but you can really just use the plan in this post as it is. I have already calculated all the macronutrients (calories, carbs, protein, and fat), so you just need to choose the calorie level that is right for you.
The example below is for a 1,600 calorie/day plan, but you can download the meal plan as a PDF with many different calorie levels. The download also includes a version with grams instead of ounces for my international friends.
This meal plan has a calorie split of 30% carbs, 40% protein, and 30% fat, which is what I generally recommend for weight loss (you can read “How to Lose Weight When You Live with Diabetes” for more details).
If your goal is to build muscle, I recommend that you increase the carbs to 35-40% of your daily calories and decrease the fat to 20-25%. If this sounds a little complicated, you can simply add 20 g carbs to meal 4 or meal 5 (20 g carbs equals: 1 oz. oats, 3 oz. rice (cooked), 3.2 oz. sweet potato or quinoa (cooked) or 2.5 rice cakes).
I know that healthy nutrition (and especially how many carbs to eat) is a topic that causes a great deal of discussion in the diabetes community. I make no claim that my approach is the best or only way to do it, but it’s what works for me and the clients I work with. If you are doing something different that works for you, then definitely keep doing it!
This is a 1,600-calorie example. You can see other calorie levels in the image at the end of this post or download them here.
Meal 1 – Cinnamon swirl protein cake
- 0.9 oz. oats
- 1.3 oz. vanilla protein powder (I used Met-Rx Vanilla)
- 2.1 oz. liquid egg whites
- ½ cup water
- 2.5 tsp. Stevia
- 0.5 tsp. cinnamon
Instructions: See how to make this recipe here: Cinnamon swirl protein cake
Nutrients: 266 calories, 41 g protein, 21 g carbs, 3 g fat
Meal 2 – Marinated chicken & cheese sandwich
- 2.7 oz. chicken breast (marinated or plain)
- 1.3 oz. low-fat mozzarella
- ½ Ezekiel muffin (or other low-carb bread)
- 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp. soy sauce
- ½ tsp. paprika
- salt & pepper
- cooking spray
Instructions: Mix balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, paprika, salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag or container. Let the chicken marinate for an hour or more. Fire up the grill or coat a pan with cooking spray and cook chicken until fully cooked (will depend on the thickness of the chicken).
Toast the Ezekiel muffin and serve with sliced chicken and cheese.
Nutrients: 263 calories, 31 g protein, 16 g carbs, 8 g fat
Meal 3 – Beef fajitas and sweet potato
- 4 oz. beef stir-fry strips
- 0.9 oz. yellow onion
- 3 oz. red and yellow bell pepper
- ¼ medium red onion
- ½ red bell pepper
- ½ yellow bell pepper
- 2.7 oz. avocado
- 2.7 oz. sweet potato
- 1/8 tsp. cumin
- 1/8 tsp. chili powder
- Splash of oil
- Salt & pepper
- Juice of half a ¼ lime
- Freshly chopped coriander (also called cilantro)
Instructions: See how to make the fajitas here: Beef fajitas
Boil the sweet potato 10-12 minutes or bake for 45 minutes at 425 degrees. Serve with the beef fajitas.
Pro tip #1: Although you can cook a single serving, why not cook up a whole batch of fajitas and you’ll have lunch for several days
Pro tip #2: If you skip the sweet potatoes, this meal only has 14 g of carbs
Nutrients: 352 calories, 27 g protein, 30 g carbs, 14 g fat
Meal 4 – Edamame
- 3 oz. edamame beans (shelled)
- salt (optional)
Instructions: Serve cold or warm, salted or unsalted.
Nutrients: 213 calories, 21 g protein, 14 g carbs, 8 g fat
Meal 5 – Shrimp skewers over lentil salad
- 4 oz. shrimp, deveined and shell removed – tail on
- 7 oz. Greek plain yogurt
- ¼ tsp. chili paste
- ¼ tbsp. lime juice
- 3 oz. cooked lentils
- 3 oz. tomato
- 1 oz. green onions
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
- 1 ¼ tsp. olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Instructions: See how to make the shrimp and dressing here: Grilled shrimp skewers.
For the lentil salad, place your cold lentils in a bowl and add lemon juice. Wash and chop tomato and green onions, and mix with lentils. Add olive oil, chopped parsley, salt and pepper and mix it all together.
Serve the shrimp on the bed of lentils.
Pro tip: Before cooking your lentils, rinse them thoroughly in cold water. Always cook the lentils on low heat to avoid them becoming mushy and NEVER salt the lentils before they are fully cooked.
Nutrients: 314 calories, 36 g protein, 26 g carbs, 8 g fat
Meal 6 – Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
- 4 oz. low-fat Greek yogurt (plain)
- 7 oz. strawberries
- 7 oz. almonds
- Stevia (optional)
Instructions: Mix a little Stevia into the yogurt and sprinkle chopped almonds and strawberry slices on top.
Nutrients: 196 calories, 19 g protein, 8 g carbs, 10 g fat
Daily totals: 1,605 calories, 177 g protein, 116 g carbs, and 50 g fat.
Changing up the plan
I like to eat the same foods for several days in a row with only minor changes and then change the plan every week or so. I would suggest that you follow this plan for a week and then start on the next plan (which I will post in a week from now). You can also go back and follow my one of my other meal plans for another week.