10 Must-Have Foods and Drinks in a Diabetic Meal Plan

Diabetes Care|Jul.25, 2018


When you have diabetes, balanced diabetes nutrition becomes key to managing your blood sugar. It's hard to know, however, which foods you should avoid and which you should target. Here are 10 foods and drinks for a healthy diabetic meal plan that can help keep your numbers in check.

1. Beans

Dals (moong, masoor, arhar) or beans (rajma, channa, lobia or chori) are all low glycemic index foods (GI). This means that since their carbohydrates are gradually released, they're less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. In fact, one recent study published in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics found that eating 50 grams of beans daily for just five days lowered glycemic response by almost 23 percent compared with those who ate white rice.

Try it: Rajma beans or channa in your salad or mashed channa (hummus dip) can accompany lunch or dinner.

2. Apples

While you might think there's no room in a diabetic meal plan for fruit, think again: an apple a day has its benefits. Apples are low on the glycemic index, so they also manage your blood sugar levels. They're high in fiber and vitamin C, and to top it all off, apples are a portable, fat-free and easy snack option.

Try it: Toss an apple in your lunch bag or grab one between meals. If you have some time, add cinnamon and bake them for a warm treat.

3. Almonds

Diabetes nutrition is incomplete without magnesium-rich crunchy nuts. Magnesium helps your body use its own insulin more effectively. So, include more almonds into your diet — 28 grams (about 23 whole nuts) supplies nearly 20 percent of your daily dose of this blood sugar-balancing mineral. Such nuts are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, protein and fiber, which are all good for diabetes nutrition.

Try it: For healthy snacking on the go, pack 30 grams of almonds into single-serve containers.

4. Spinach

Palak has just 23 calories per cooked cup and is filled with blood sugar-friendly magnesium and fiber. It's a versatile choice too! Blend it, sauté it, make a raita or sprinkle a generous portion on your salad.

Try it: Toss a heaping handful of baby spinach into your next smoothie or use it in place of lettuce in a salad.

5. Chia Seeds

Losing or managing weight is one of the best things you can do to improve your blood sugar. Chia seeds can help with that. Aside from being packed with fiber, these gems contain protein and provide 18 percent of your recommended daily intake of calcium.

Try it: Combine a quarter-cup of chia seeds with one cup of 1 percent or non-fat milk and one-half cup of diced fruit. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy for breakfast the next morning.

6. Blueberries

Another fruit option, blueberries are a pretty compelling healthy-eating option. They contain compounds that help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve how your body uses insulin. One study showed that eating blueberries improved insulin sensitivity among the obese along with insulin resistance. Blueberries are also a great source of fiber and other nutrients (for example, vitamin C and antioxidants), as well as a fantastic way to get your fill.

Try it: Take a half-cup of fresh blueberries (or defrosted, frozen blueberries) and spoon over plain, unsweetened yogurt. Alternatively, add a cup of blueberries to your smoothie.

7. Oatmeal

Oatmeal isn't just good for your heart, as it works wonders for your blood sugar. Steel cut and rolled oats have a low GI, meaning their carbohydrates are less likely to boost blood glucose compared to carbs from rapidly digested foods, such as white bread, bran flakes or corn flakes. That being said, highly processed instant and quick oats tend to be higher on the glycemic index so they're not as great for your blood sugar.

Try it: Opt for steel or rolled oats cooked oatmeal with blueberries for a hearty, hot breakfast.

8. Turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin that keeps your pancreas healthy and prevents prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes. How well does it work? A 2017 study of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition related to diabetes, gave patients either a placebo or turmeric supplementation, 1000mg, thrice daily for 12 weeks. The turmeric group witnessed reduction in blood sugar levels, insulin production and insulin resistance. This indicates how the golden spice can help your body improve its sensitivity to insulin.

Try it: Curry powder is filled with turmeric. Sprinkle some into your next veggie stir-fry for a curcumin kick or talk to a healthcare professional about using a supplement.

9. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea has long been used for a variety of ailments. Existing research shows it has antioxidant properties, and a recent study has found that it may help you manage your blood sugar levels as well. When participants in the study drank a cup of chamomile tea after every meal for six weeks, they showed a reduction in blood sugar levels, insulin and insulin resistance.

Try it: Replace an after-dinner cocktail with a freshly brewed cup of chamomile tea. Try adding a slice of lemon for an extra dose of vitamin C.

10. Slow Release (Partial or Complete) Meal Replacement Formulas

These easy-to-make, protein-rich drinks help manage blood sugar and weight through a slow-release system, and they support heart and digestive health. Bonus for sensitive eaters: They are often lactose and gluten free.

Try it: Instead of trying to find a healthy meal while you're on the go, substitute with Ensure Diabetes Care.

Diabetes nutrition doesn't have to be complicated or flavour-less. With these tasty foods and drinks, better blood-sugar management is simple.


This content is meant for awareness and educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.