How to Meal Prep Diabetes-Friendly Meals

Meal prep cookbooks are very helpful for many folks looking to save time and money. Many cookbooks and meal prep tutorials, however, do not address the needs of people with diabetes.

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The Diabetes Plate Method

The diabetes plate method is a simple concept where you don’t need to count calories or carbs on your plate. The method can be applied to any type of special diet or cultural cuisine. All you need to start is an eight-inch dinner plate – smaller if you require fewer calories. You can use a nine-inch plate if you’re very active and require a few more calories.

There are five steps in this method:

Step 1: Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables.

Starchy vegetables include corn and potatoes. You want to opt for non-starchy vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts and peppers. Whether raw or cooked, non-starchy vegetables should fill up half your plate.

Step 2: Fill one-quarter of your plate with lean protein.

This quarter of the plate can be filled with animal or plant-based proteins. If you opt for animal protein, choose lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Also, try incorporating fish and seafood at least twice a week. Eggs and cheese also count towards protein. Plant-based options like beans also count, but their carbohydrate count tends to be a little higher compared to nuts and tofu, so it’s certainly important to be mindful of that.

Step 3: Fill one-quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods.

These options include starches like whole grains, potatoes, corn, fruit or dairy foods like milk and yogurt.

Step 4: Choose water or another very low calorie or zero-calorie drink.

This includes water, seltzer and sparkling water. Coffee and tea are also options, but be careful with the add-ins like cream and sugar. Sugar substitute drinks can also be enjoyed but in small amounts.

This includes using a vinaigrette dressing with an olive oil base or eating a few slices of avocado.

Meal Prepping for People Diabetes

When it comes to meal prepping using the diabetes plate method, instead of placing food on a plate, you pack it in a box. Here are the basic steps to keep in mind when meal prepping:

Choose when to prep.

You can opt to meal prep once or twice during the week.

Decide which meals to prep.

You don’t have to cook dishes for every single meal during the week. Start slowly and find the amount of food that is right for you. You also want to search for recipes that are appropriate for people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association’s website is a good resource for recipes, as are my two diabetes cookbooks.

Go food shopping.

Once you know which recipes you will prep, go through your pantry staples, refrigerator and freezer and create a shopping list. This will prevent you from purchasing ingredients you already have.

Prep and cook.

Take a few hours to prep and cook your dishes. Start by cutting and chopping all your ingredients. Next start the dishes that take longer to put together and cook. While those dishes are cooking, whip up easier dishes like dressing and snacks.

Portion and pack.

This is an important last step. If you skip it, you can end up overeating, or undereating, at one meal.

Food Safety Tips to Remember

People with diabetes have a compromised immune system. And when you’re meal prepping, your dishes get served over several days. If not done properly, it could potentially lead to foodborne illness. Below are various food safety recommendations for meal prepping, especially if you are a person with diabetes.

At the grocery store:

  • Carefully select, pack and transport food from the market to your home to keep it safe to eat.
  • Start with the produce aisle, then non-perishables and finally fridge/frozen section.
  • Always read dates and labels.
  • Place any hot food away from cold food.
  • Place raw meats, fish and seafood in plastic bags before placing in your cart.
  • When packing food, separate raw foods from ready-to-eat ones.
  • Bring a cooler if you’re running errands for over 30 minutes after food shopping.
  • Keep food in the car and not in the trunk, especially on a hot day.
  • Once you get home, perishable food should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer immediately.

When prepping food:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Paper towels certainly increase waste in the kitchen but you also don’t want to use dirty kitchen towels. If you opt for kitchen cloth towels, then make sure to wash them regularly.
  • Rinse fruit and vegetables under cool, running water. If the fruit or vegetable has a tough exterior like a potato or melon, use a stiff bristled brush to wash it.
  • Avoid using the same cutting board when preparing raw food like raw chicken and ready-to-eat foods like produce. You may want to consider using two different cutting boards: one for raw food and one for ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not placed cooked food on a plate or bowl that previously held raw food without washing it first in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher.

Storing and heating leftovers:

  • Packed foods should be used within three to four days. If you plan on reheating your prepped meal for day 5 or 6, then store it in the freezer and defrost a day before you plan on reheating it so it can thaw.
  • Reheat the microwave-safe or oven-safe container in the microwave or oven, or transfer contents of the container into a pot/pan and reheat on the stove.

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