Diabetes Meal Planning Guide

The diabetes meal planning guide is a tool to help you plan your meals and snacks. It is important for people with diabetes to manage their blood glucose (sugar) levels. Choosing the right foods and the right amounts throughout your day will help control your blood glucose. Eating right can even help you improve your blood pressure and reach or maintain a healthy weight.


When you eat carbohydrates, they turn to sugar. This raises your blood glucose level. Counting carbohydrates can help you control this level so you feel better. When you plan your meals by counting carbohydrates, you can have more flexibility in what you eat and balance your medicine with your food intake.

Carbohydrate counting simply means adding up the total amount of carbohydrate grams in your meals and snacks. Try to eat about the same amount at each meal. Foods with carbohydrates are listed below. Each portion below is 1 carbohydrate serving or 15 grams of carbohydrates. Ask your dietician how many grams of carbohydrates you should eat at each meal or snack.

Grains and Starches

  • 1 slice bread.

  • ½ English muffin or hotdog/hamburger bun.

  • ¾ cup cold cereal (unsweetened).

  • ⅓ cup cooked pasta or rice.

  • ½ cup starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, peas, beans, winter squash).

  • 1 tortilla (6 inches).

  • ¼ bagel.

  • 1 waffle or pancake (size of a CD).

  • ½ cup cooked cereal.

  • 4 to 6 small crackers.

*Whole grain is recommended.


  • 1 cup fresh unsweetened berries, melon, papaya, pineapple.

  • 1 small fresh fruit.

  • ½ banana or mango.

  • ½ cup fruit juice (4 oz unsweetened).

  • ½ cup canned fruit in natural juice or water.

  • 2 tbs dried fruit.

  • 12 to 15 grapes or cherries.

Milk and Yogurt

  • 1 cup fat-free or 1% milk.

  • 1 cup soy milk.

  • 6 oz light yogurt with sugar-free sweetener.

  • 6 oz low-fat soy yogurt.

  • 6 oz plain yogurt.


  • 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked is counted as 0 carbohydrates or a "free" food.

  • If you eat 3 or more servings at 1 meal, count them as 1 carbohydrate serving.

Other Carbohydrates

  • ¾ oz chips or pretzels.

  • ½ cup ice cream or frozen yogurt.

  • ¼ cup sherbet or sorbet.

  • 2 inch square cake, no frosting.

  • 1 tbs honey, sugar, jam, jelly, or syrup.

  • 2 small cookies.

  • 3 squares of graham crackers.

  • 3 cups popcorn.

  • 6 crackers.

  • 1 cup broth-based soup.

  • Count 1 cup casserole or other mixed foods as 2 carbohydrate servings.

  • Foods with less than 20 calories in a serving may be counted as 0 carbohydrates or a "free" food.

You may want to purchase a book or computer software that lists the carbohydrate gram counts of different foods. In addition, the nutrition facts panel on the labels of the foods you eat are a good source of this information. The label will tell you how big the serving size is and the total number of carbohydrate grams you will be eating per serving. Divide this number by 15 to obtain the number of carbohydrate servings in a portion. Remember, 1 carbohydrate serving equals 15 grams of carbohydrate.


Measuring foods and serving sizes helps you make sure you are getting the right amount of food. The list below tells how big or small some common serving sizes are.

  • 1 oz.........4 stacked dice.

  • 3 oz.........Deck of cards.

  • 1 tsp........Tip of little finger.

  • 1 tbs........Thumb.

  • 2 tbs........Golf ball.

  • ½ cup.......Half of a fist.

  • 1 cup........A fist.


Below is a sample meal plan that includes foods from the grain and starches, dairy, vegetable, fruit, and meat groups. A dietician can individualize a meal plan to fit your calorie needs and tell you the number of servings needed from each food group. However, controlling the total amount of carbohydrates in your meal or snack is more important than making sure you include all of the food groups at every meal. You may interchange carbohydrate containing foods (dairy, starches, and fruits).

The meal plan below is an example of a 2000 calorie diet using carbohydrate counting. This meal plan has 17 carbohydrate servings.


  • 1 cup oatmeal (2 carb servings).

  • ¾ cup light yogurt (1 carb serving).

  • 1 cup blueberries (1 carb serving).

  • ¼ cup almonds.


  • 1 large apple (2 carb servings).

  • 1 low-fat string cheese stick.


  • Chicken breast salad.

  • 1 cup spinach.

  • ¼ cup chopped tomatoes.

  • 2 oz chicken breast, sliced.

  • 2 tbs low-fat Italian dressing.

  • 12 whole-wheat crackers (2 carb servings).

  • 12 to 15 grapes (1 carb serving).

  • 1 cup low-fat milk (1 carb serving).


  • 1 cup carrots.

  • ½ cup hummus (1 carb serving).


  • 3 oz broiled salmon.

  • 1 cup brown rice (3 carb servings).


  • 1 ½ cups steamed broccoli (1 carb serving) drizzled with 1 tsp olive oil and lemon juice.

  • 1 cup light pudding (2 carb servings).


Your dietician can use this worksheet to help you decide how many servings of foods and what types of foods are right for you.


Food Group and Servings / Carb Servings

Grain/Starches __________________________________

Dairy __________________________________________

Vegetable ______________________________________

Fruit ___________________________________________

Meat __________________________________________

Fat ____________________________________________


Food Group and Servings / Carb Servings

Grain/Starches ___________________________________

Dairy ___________________________________________

Fruit ____________________________________________

Meat ___________________________________________

Fat _____________________________________________


Food Group and Servings / Carb Servings

Grain/Starches ___________________________________

Dairy ___________________________________________

Fruit ____________________________________________

Meat ___________________________________________

Fat _____________________________________________


Food Group and Servings / Carb Servings

Grain/Starches ___________________________________

Dairy ___________________________________________

Vegetable _______________________________________

Fruit ____________________________________________

Meat ___________________________________________

Fat _____________________________________________


Starches _________________________

Vegetable ________________________

Fruit ____________________________

Dairy ____________________________

Meat ____________________________

Fat ______________________________