Diabetes meal plans include favorite foods

The plate method makes it easy to plan and eat healthy.

A Diabetes Plate graphic showing half a plate of nonstarchy vegetables, a quart of protein foods, a quarter of carb foods, and water/zero-calorie drinks.
Photo: CDC.

“What can I eat?” is one of the common questions asked during Michigan State University Extension diabetes workshops. What to eat, when to eat and how much to eat can get confusing even if you don’t have diabetes. If you have diabetes and you need help planning meals, your best action is to talk to a registered dietician or a certified diabetes educator.

If you are looking for tools to help you stick to your meal plan, the Diabetes Plate Method is an easy-to-use tool. All you need to use this method is a nine-inch plate and an understanding of the diabetes food groups. The Diabetes Plate Method uses food groups that are slightly different than the common food groups. For example, grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, green peas and winter squash are in the “carbohydrate” food group in the Diabetes Plate Method.

To start using the Diabetes Plate Method, divide your nine-inch plate in half. Then divide one of the halves into half. When you’re done, your plate should have three sections. Then use the sections to add food to your plate in the following portions:

  • Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables include most vegetables except potatoes, green peas, corn, and winter squash. Choose fresh, frozen or canned.
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein. Lean proteins include animal and plant-based protein sources. When eating plant-based proteins, you need to count the carbohydrate in protein foods such as dried beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods. Foods high in carbohydrates include:
    • Starchy vegetables such as corn, green peas, potatoes and winter squash.
    • Grains such as bread, rice and pasta.
    • Fruits.
    • Beans and legumes.
    • Dairy products.

Your healthcare provider will help you determine how many carbohydrates you should eat per meal. A general guideline is 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal for women and 60-75 grams per meal for men. Label reading and portion control are also important when using the Diabetes Plate Method. Michigan State University Extension also offers a workshop called Dining with Diabetes, which covers the Diabetes Plate Method in more detail. The workshop is offered throughout the year in-person and as an online program. You can search for upcoming workshops on the Dining with Diabetes website.  

Would you still like more information on how to manage your diabetes? Michigan State University Extension offers diabetes workshops throughout Michigan. Find your county on the dropdown event list

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