Diet and Nutrition

Meal Plan for Diabetes: 1800 Calories

July 13, 2017   /
Anne Danahy, MS RD LDN

A healthy diet is important throughout your life, and even more so, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Balancing your diet throughout the day, and moderating the amount of carbohydrates you eat at each meal and snack will help to control your blood glucose levels and prevent any complications from diabetes. Following a meal plan can help ensure that you get the nutrients you need, while controlling overall calories and carbohydrates.


Meal planning tips

  • It is important to eat a consistent amount of healthy carbohydrates at each meal and snack. Your carbohydrates should come from foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables.
  • Milk and yogurt also include carbohydrate, along with protein and calcium. Try to include 2-3 servings of these throughout the day.
  • Choose lean proteins such as skinless chicken or turkey, lean beef, fish, eggs, and plant sources of protein, such as tofu or other soy products, at each meal.
  • Limit unhealthy saturated fats which are found in butter, cream, and high-fat meats such as bacon or sausage. Too much saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and put you at greater risk for heart disease.
  • Include healthy fats from foods such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and nut butters, which can help to reduce your cholesterol. These foods are high in calories, so use them in moderation.
  • It is best to avoid sweets, desserts, sweetened beverages, and fruit juices. These carbohydrate foods will raise your blood sugar very quickly. If you do want dessert of a sweet treat occasionally, try to stick to a small portion, and balance it out with a low carbohydrate meal.
  • Check your blood glucose first thing in the morning when you wake up, and then 1-2 hours after each meal to see if you need to adjust the amount or timing of carbohydrate foods.


Your meal plan uses an exchange system, which is based on the exchange lists for meal planning from The American Diabetes Association. Based on their portion size, the foods listed in each group contain approximately the same number of grams (g) of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calories, and one food can be exchanged for another within the food group, for more variety.


1 serving=1 exchange


Starch list

These foods are highest in carbohydrates. Cereals, grains, pasta, breads, crackers, snacks, starchy vegetables, and cooked beans, peas, and lentils are starches. One exchange of a starch typically contains 15 g of carbohydrates, 3 g of protein, 0-1 fat, and 80 calories. Whole grain products contain more fiber, and are the best choices.


In general, a serving of starch is:


Breads, cereals, and grains

  • ½ cup of cooked cereal, grain, or starchy vegetable
  • ½ cup of cooked pasta
  • 1/3 cup of cooked rice, couscous or other grain
  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ of a small bagel, hamburger or hot dog bun or English muffin
  • ½ of a 6-inch pita bread
  • 4” pancake
  • ½ cup cooked cereal
  • ¾ cup of cold cereal (read box)


Starchy vegetables and legumes

  • ½ cup cooked peas or beans (kidney, black, lentils, chickpeas)
  • ½ cup cooked corn or 6 inch on cob
  • ½ cup mashed potato/yam/sweet potato


Crackers and snacks

  • 3 squares of graham crackers
  • 6 saltine crackers or 8 thin wheat crackers
  • 3 cups of popcorn
  • ¾ ounces (oz) of pretzels: 10 mini/2 rods


Fruit list

One fruit exchange contains 15 g of carbohydrate and 60 calories. Fruits include fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits.


In general, 1 fruit exchange is:

  • 1 small piece of fresh fruit
  • ½ cup of fresh sliced or canned fruit (no sugar added)
  • ½ cup unsweetened fruit juice
  • ¼ cup of dried fruit


Milk list

One milk exchange contains 12 g of carbohydrate, 8 g of protein, 0-3 g of fat, and approximately 100 calories. Choose fat-free or 1% milk and fat free, sugar-free or low-sugar yogurt for health.


In general, 1 milk exchange is:

  • 1 cup milk (unflavored)
  • 6 oz of yogurt (plain, or low-calorie sweetener)


Protein list

One protein exchange equals 7 g of protein, 3+ g of fat, and 55-100 calories depending on the fat content. Choose lean meats or fish for the lowest fat and calorie content.

In general, 1 exchange = 1 oz lean meat, or meat substitute as follows:


Lean meat or substitute: skinless poultry, ground chicken or turkey breast, fish, shellfish, pork tenderloin, 1 egg white, ¼ cup ricotta or reduced fat cottage cheese


Medium fat meat or substitute: lean beef (sirloin, tenderloin), poultry with skin, pork shoulder, cutlet, veal, 1 egg, 4 oz tofu


High fat meat or substitute: 2 slices bacon; 1 hot dog; 1 oz sausage; 1 oz bologna, salami, pastrami, corned beef; 1 oz regular cheese


Vegetable list (non-starchy)

One vegetable exchange contains 5 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of protein, and 25 calories

In general, one exchange is:

  • ½ cup cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
  • 1 cup raw vegetables

Examples of non-starchy veggies:

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Salad greens (endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach)
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Tomato
  • Tomato sauce
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts
  • Zucchini


Fats list

There are 3 types of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. Mono- and poly- unsaturated fats in the foods we eat are linked with good health benefits. One fat exchange contains 5 g fat and 45 calories.


In general, one fat exchange is:

  • 1 teaspoon of regular margarine or vegetable oil or 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) light margarine/oil
  • 1 Tbsp of regular salad dressing or 2 Tbsp reduced fat salad dressing


Mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats

  • Avocado, medium 2 Tbsp
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, mixed 6 nuts
  • Nuts: walnuts, English 4 halves
  • Peanuts, 10 nuts
  • Pecans, 4 halves
  • Margarine 1 tsp
  • Mayo, regular 1 teaspoon
  • Mayo, reduced fat 1 Tbsp
  • Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower 1 Tbsp


Saturated fats

Bacon, 1 slice

Butter: stick 1 tsp, whipped 2 tsp, reduced fat 1 Tbsp

Cream cheese: regular 1 Tbsp, reduced fat 1 ½ Tbsp

Sour cream: regular 2 Tbsp, reduced fat 3 Tbsp


1800 Calorie Meal Plan (provides 225 g carbohydrate; 50% of total calories)




45 g carbohydrate

2 starch

1 milk

1 protein

1 fat

2 slices whole-wheat toast w/1 pat butter

8 oz plain or sugar-free yogurt

1 hard-boiled egg

Morning snack

30 g carbohydrate

1 starch

1 fruit

1 protein

5 whole-grain crackers with

1 oz cheese and 1 sliced apple



45 g carbohydrate

2 starch

2 oz lean protein

1 vegetable

1 fat


1 fruit



Chicken salad sandwich:

  • 2 oz cooked chicken breast mixed with 2 Tbsp mashed avocado
  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread
  • lettuce, tomato

15 grapes

Afternoon snack

30 g carbohydrate

1 fruit

1 milk

1 protein

1 medium apple

1 Tbsp peanut butter

8 oz 1% milk


Evening meal

45 g carbohydrate

1 starch

2 vegetable

3 oz lean protein

2 fats

1 milk


½ medium sweet potato

1 cup mixed greens salad with 1/3 sliced avocado and lemon juice herb dressing

½ cup green beans

3 oz grilled fish

8 oz 1% milk

Evening snack

30 g carbohydrate

1 starch

1 milk

1 vegetable


1 small pita bread

8 oz nonfat Greek yogurt dip

1 cup sliced raw vegetables


References and recommended reading


Making healthy food choices. American Diabetes Association website. Accessed April 13, 2016.


Ross TA, Geil PB. Daily diabetes meal planning guide. Lilly Diabetes website. Accessed April 13, 2016.