Many times members will ask us for an approved food list for a diabetic-friendly meal plan. We can’t do that for you, because you are a unique individual, with your own level of diabetic health, possibly complicated by other health/medical issues. You have a specific dietary lifestyle, which may be dietary vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, or Adventist non-vegetarian or pescatarian. You have your diabetes dietary protocol, which may be LCHF (low-carb high-healthy-fat, moderate protein), WFPB (high-carb low- or no-fat whole-food dietary vegan), ADA-compliant (following American Diabetes Association recommendations), or something else in between, or a combination of the above.
For many of us, abstemiousness includes eliminating foods with most chemical additives, high fructose corn syrup, GMO ingredients, most artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame, as it’s a trigger for migraines for me and many others), and MSG (also a trigger for migraines). For the lactose-intolerant, dairy products would be eliminated. For those with celiac disease, gluten would be eliminated. For some diabetics with arthritis, nightshades would be avoided. Some people have other specific food allergies, such as to tree nuts or blueberries, or have made choices to abstain from specific foods, such as soy.
Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics™ recommends eating whole foods in as close to their natural state as possible. You can eat whole-foods plant-based, whole-foods animal*-based, or whole-foods plant- and animal*-based. You can eat whole foods no matter what your dietary lifestyle and diabetes dietary protocol. (Animal*-based refers specifically to “clean” animals, per Leviticus and Deuteronomy.)
This is a good place to remind you to completely avoid trans fats, such as margarine, shortening, and vegetable/seed oils manufactured with high heat and chemicals (canola, corn, cottonseed, grapeseed, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils). Also, continue to eliminate most processed foods, especially highly refined carbohydrates, such as any foods made with white flour and/or white sugar.
Avoid juice drinks and juices, both fruit and vegetable, and dried fruit, as they are concentrated sugars. Juices lack the fiber content of whole foods. Even smoothies, made by liquefying fruits and vegetables, are not really healthy choices for diabetics because the fiber has been broken down. And skip protein shakes and protein powders; they are processed foods!
We recommend you start with the list of “safe” foods that you created from eating to your meter and/or with a basic food list (see our chapter “What Can I Eat?” for examples).
Develop Your Customized Food List
You can start with a specific food list or create your own food list from a general description of a food category or food group.
- Keep a detailed food journal in an app like MyFitnessPal or Carb Manager. Configure settings for your specific goals, such as 30 grams of carbohydrates per day (LCHF) OR 30 grams of fat per day (WFPB), depending on your diabetes dietary protocol. (Remember, trying to eat low carb and low-fat is like a broken see-saw!) CAUTION: Do NOT eat high carbs and high fat!
- Use the “Eat to Your Meter” technique to test any food(s), recipe(s), or meal(s) that you want to know how they affect your blood glucose.
- Create or modify a food list, based on the foods you have determined will not elevate your blood sugar.
What you need in your kitchen
- Sets of accurate measuring spoons and measuring cups, in ounces, grams, milliliters, or all of the above
- Reliable kitchen scale, measuring in grams and ounces. May be manual or digital.
Create a Collection of Diabetic-friendly Recipes
You probably already have a recipe collection, on cards, in binders, or digital copies. Now is the time to take a fresh look at your recipes and discard any that are not diabetic-friendly (or at least put them in the back of the file!). It’s also time to add new recipes that are diabetic-friendly, using only ingredients from your customized “safe foods” list.
- Create or modify recipes using only the “safe” foods from the food list you have developed (above).
- You can also test such recipes using the “Eat to Your Meter” procedure.
- Keep your recipe collection within easy access.
Develop Your Custom Meal Plan and Menus
Frankly, I have never found a meal plan developed by someone else to be a perfect fit for me. This is a perfect application of what it means “to be a thinker and not mere reflector of other [people’s] thought” (Education, page 17).5 But sometimes you can start with someone else’s menu or meal plan and edit it to fit your needs.
- A menu is a list of foods and beverages for a single meal or event.
- A meal plan is a group of menus for all the eating times in a day or a week or other time period.
- Decide on how many eating times (meals and snacks) you plan on per day.
- Using foods from the customized Food List and your diabetic-friendly Recipe Collection, plan out details for each meal.
- Create a Menu for one week, two weeks, or three weeks, whatever works for you.
- Take leftovers into consideration, as well as meals you take with you or eat at a restaurant or someone else’s home.
- As you add new foods and recipes, change your basic Meal Plan as well to reflect those foods and combinations which provide the best control of your blood glucose and insulin levels.
You could start here and adjust for you and your family:
- Food Lists – Refer to the food lists in our chapter, “What Can I Eat?” Start with the Food List that you feel best suits your dietary lifestyle and diabetes dietary protocol. Cross off any foods you are allergic/sensitive to, that you don’t like, or that you don’t want to learn how to cook.
- Meal Plans – This is so individual to every diabetic and to their family that there’s no way I could give you even a sample meal plan. The best I can do is give you a general format for:
- First Meal of the Day – Choose from:
- Beverage(s): water, coffee, tea – if you need a sweetener, use pure liquid stevia; if you need “creamer,” use full-fat heavy whipping cream (or unsweetened coconut cream) or unsweetened almond or coconut milk (with no additives)
- Eggs* (any style: fried, scrambled, omelet, poached, hard-cooked, etc.), cooked in grass-fed butter (or vegan butter made from coconut oil)
- Vegetable(s): incorporate with eggs or breakfast casserole (spinach, broccoli, green chilies, avocado, mushrooms, onion, tomato, etc.)
- Cheese* (full-fat: cheddar, Monterey jack, Colby, Queso, Asiago, mozzarella, feta, Swiss, provolone, etc.)
- Protein: turkey, beef, or chicken bacon*
- Hot Porridge made with hemp hearts, flaxseed meal, chia seeds, almond meal, unsweetened coconut, cauliflower rice, etc.
- Bread, mug muffins, tortillas, naan, etc. – homemade from a low-carb recipe using almond flour and/or coconut flour
- Chaffles – waffles made with a base of egg and cheeses
- Fruit (as tolerated): ¼ c. raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries (fresh or frozen, unsweetened)
- Yogurt*: unsweetened unflavored full-fat Greek yogurt (e.g., Fage Total 5%)
- Vegan/vegetarian options: tofu bacon, coconut bacon, scrambled tofu, coconut yogurt, etc.
- Midday Meal/Snack (optional)
- Beverage(s): water, sparkling water, infused water, hot or iced tea (if you need sweetener, use pure liquid stevia)
- Green salad (lettuce, arugula, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, olives, green onions)
- Salad dressing: homemade with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, and red wine vinegar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.)
- Protein: hard-cooked eggs, full-fat cheese, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts
- Fermented: sauerkraut, dill pickles
- Bread (see options under First Meal)
- When transitioning from 3 meals to 2 meals, incorporate these foods into the First Meal and/or the Last Meal
- Last Meal of the Day
- Beverage(s): same as Midday Meal/Snack
- Casserole, Skillet Meal, or One-dish Meal (use a suitable diabetic-friendly recipe)
- Protein: grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish*; cheese, full-fat
- Vegetable(s), raw (1-2 cups): green salad (see above)
- Vegetable(s), cooked (½ cup): non-starchy, green leafy, and cruciferous
- Yogurt and Fruit (see First Meal options)
- Bread (see options under First Meal)
- Vegetarian options: organic non-GMO tofu, tempeh, homemade seitan
- First Meal of the Day – Choose from:
And here we have come full circle! Your grocery shopping list should look like your customized “safe foods” list, with the addition of whatever cooking and baking products you might need (as long as they are diabetic-friendly).
Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics™ Recommends:
- Develop your own customized “safe foods” list based on the test results of “Eating to Your Meter.”
- Create your own collection of diabetic-friendly recipes, based on your “safe foods” list within your dietary lifestyle.
- Produce your own menus and meal plans for yourself (and your family) based on your “safe foods” list and your diabetic-friendly recipes.