If you have type 2 diabetes, meal planning may feel overwhelming. Counting carbs, measuring portions, and choosing foods that match your flavor preferences can be a lot of work. Thankfully, there is a simpler way. Having a simple visual plate method can make meal planning with type 2 diabetes a snap. And thanks to the nutrition power of fresh avocado, building a well-balanced meal that helps keep blood sugar levels steady is even easier.
Let’s take a look at how this meal planning method works and why fresh avocado adds the perfect balance to your blood-sugar-friendly plate.
This post has been created in partnership with Fresh Avocados – Love One Today®. The research shared in this post was supported by the Avocado Nutrition Center. As always, all opinions are my own.
The Essentials of a Blood-Sugar-Friendly Plate
When it comes to building a balanced plate, there are three essential components: carbohydrates, protein, and good fats. By incorporating this trio of nutrients, you can add variety and create meal satisfaction while helping to keep blood glucose levels within a target range.
Carbohydrates: This nutrient is the body’s main source of energy as well as the nutrient that has the greatest impact on blood sugar. Although carbohydrates are a component of balanced nutrition, it is important to understand that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Choosing slow-digested carbohydrates rich in fiber promotes more sustained energy. In addition, fiber resists digestion, helping it to slow down how quickly food is broken down and converted into glucose, or sugar, allowing it to enter the blood stream at a slower rate.
Some slow-digested carbohydrates to consider adding to your plate include:
- Whole fruits & vegetables such as pears, avocado, greens, broccoli, berries, and more
- Fresh avocado is a unique fruit option because one serving (one-third of a medium avocado) is sugar-free and contains 4 grams of carbohydrate 3 of which are fiber.
- Beans & lentils
- Whole grains such as breads, quinoa, barley, and oats
Protein: In the body, protein’s main role is to support growth and repair of the body’s cells. When it comes to meal planning, protein is a slow-digested nutrient that promotes fullness with little impact on blood sugar. When you pair carbohydrate along with protein, this can not only help you to feel full longer, but it can also reduce post-meal glucose levels, compared to meals that are composed mostly of carbohydrates such as pasta dishes.
Here are some easy ways to add more protein to your plate:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Milk & yogurt (also a source of carbohydrate)
- Lean animal proteins such as turkey breast & chicken
- Nuts & seeds
- Beans & lentils (also a source of carbohydrate)
Good fats: Dietary fat provides a good source of energy while taking time to be digested, allowing you to feel satisfied for hours after eating. But not all fats are the same. Choosing foods with unsaturated fats, such as avocado (6 grams of unsaturated fat per serving), can offer benefits to blood sugar levels as well as overall health. For instance, one randomized, controlled study found the addition of a half or whole avocado to a breakfast meal, in place of some carbohydrates, lowered blood glucose and insulin levels when compared to the same breakfast without avocado in adults with overweight and obesity. Conclusions cannot be generalized to all populations, study length, or for different amounts of avocado.
Some easy ways to add more good fats to your plate include serving up:
- Fresh avocado
- Nuts, seeds, & nut or seed butter (also a source of protein)
- Hummus (also a source of carbohydrate)
- Oils, dressings, & dips made like guacamole and pesto which are made with good fats
Avocado & Blood Sugar
Adding fresh avocado to your diabetes-friendly meal can go a long way in supporting your blood sugar goals. For one, avocado is a great way to add flavor and variety since it is so versatile. This fresh fruit can be added into everything from smoothies, to soups, and even sandwiches and baked goods.
There is also a growing body of evidence connecting eating avocados and blood sugar management. For instance, in a study of over 6,000 adult men and women in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, researchers found that regular avocado intake among those with prediabetes is linked to a reduced risk of developing diabetes. The researchers analyzed avocado consumption by looking at two 24-hour dietary recalls for study participants. The results cannot be generalized to all people and do not demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship, but they provide support for enjoying avocados as part of a blood-sugar-friendly eating plan.
And as a sugar-free fruit option, 75% of the fat in fresh avocado is unsaturated fat – the good fat – that can be protective to the heart. Unsaturated fats can help reduce (bad) LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which can help lower the risk of heart diseases and stroke. And since having a diagnosis of diabetes increases your risk for heart disease, adding a food that may support healthy cholesterol levels is important.
Avocado may also play a role in satiety and weight management. One study of 26 healthy adults with overweight found that adding one-half of an avocado to a meal improved post-meal satisfaction while reducing the desire to eat following a meal. Although results cannot be generalized to the general population, these findings provide promising clues for future weight management research. Improving post-meal satisfaction and reducing the desire to eat may go a long way to improve portion control and ultimately manage body weight.
Visualizing Your Plate for Diabetes Management
A simple, visual plate method is an easy way to build a healthy meal while making sure you are getting balanced nutrition. This visual meal planning approach can be a great tool for individuals living with type 2 diabetes. To implement this approach for blood sugar management, visualize your plate divided into three sections.
- Non-starchy vegetables & fruits. These are relatively low in calories and contain fiber. Their fiber content helps with slowing digestion which we now know is important. Non-starchy vegetables, vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and green beans contain fewer carbohydrates than fruit. Fresh avocado is an exception among fruits because it is naturally sugar free.
- Lean protein. This includes foods such as chicken breast, fish, beans, and tofu.
- Grains. This would include foods such as quinoa, whole grain breads, and oats. If you’re eating starchy vegetables, like potatoes, count them in this category.
- Check for good fats. Make sure you have good fats on the plate. From the non-starchy vegetables and fruits section, this could be from fresh avocado or olives. Or from the lean protein category, this could be nuts, seeds, nut/seed butter, hummus, eggs, or seafood like salmon. You can also add things like oil-based dressings, dips, and sauces.
This visual method allows for balanced nutrition, steady blood sugar, and portion control, all of which can benefit type 2 diabetes management.
Visualizing these three parts is helpful in building a meal but of course, you can mix your foods together, like in the below example.
Step-by-step guide to building a diabetes-friendly meal
Now that you have the basics of visualizing your plate for diabetes management, let’s look at how easy it can be to create a balanced plate.
Step #1: Add your favorite non-starchy veggies and fruits
Step #2: Add your favorite lean protein
Step #3: Add your favorite grain
Step #4: Check for good fats
Are you ready to give it a try? Build your blood-sugar-balanced plate using this method and fresh avocado & then share it with me over on Instagram @ErinPalinskiWade
Need additional recipe inspiration while building your balanced plate? Give some of my favorite blood-sugar-friendly avocado recipes a try: