Mediterranean Diet For People With Diabetes
The traditional Mediterranean diet is regarded by the American Diabetes Association and many other reputable organizations to be one of the best ways for people with diabetes to:
- Achieve good blood sugar control;
- Meet recommended calorie restriction;
- Monitor carb intake;
- Exercise glycemic control;
- Reduce any risks of potential cardiovascular disease.
As well as helping with diabetes management, the Mediterranean diet is regarded by many experts as an ideal way to lose weight for overweight patients.
What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
First recognized in the 1960s, the Mediterranean diet is inspired by what the people of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea regularly eat. Namely, it’s the cuisines of Italy, Greece, Southern France, and Spain. In recent years, the Mediterranean diet has been extended to include the other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Cyprus, the Balkan countries, the North African countries (Morocco, Lebanon, etc.), and Portugal (though technically, it is an Atlantic country).
The term was coined to recognize that the Mediterranean diet reduces mortality rates and heart disease risk. It may also help obese people with weight loss.
The Mediterranean diet is recommended as a healthy diet by the American Diabetes Association (and the American Heart Association) and is also one of the three healthy diets along with the DASH and vegetarian diet recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The foods that make up the Mediterranean diet are:
- High consumption – olive oil, legumes (lentils and beans), unrefined cereals (whole grains), fruits and vegetables (particularly leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic), nuts and seeds
- Moderate to high consumption – fresh fish, seafood, poultry, eggs
- Moderate consumption – dairy products (butter, cheese, yogurt)
- Low consumption – red meat, processed meat, refined carbohydrates, sweets (candy/chocolate)
Other than the Islamic countries of North Africa, which follow a Mediterranean diet, moderate wine consumption is a feature. Processed foods are minimal.
The health benefits of a diet based on the Mediterranean diet food pyramid are:
- low carbohydrate
- low fat
- lean protein
- healthy fats (monounsaturated fat rather than saturated fat)
- nutrient-dense foods
- low sodium
Where To Start With A Mediterranean Diet?
A Mediterranean-style diet could be perfect if you are interested in a combination of weight loss, blood sugar management, diabetes care, or even early diabetes prevention.
With the expertise of our own Mediterranean diet group, we have put together a meal plan that ranks among one of the best low carbohydrate diets, low glycemic index diets, and nutrition therapy recommendations you will find.
All the meal suggestions listed below have been calorie and carb counted to clarify the health benefits. And even better, each planned day includes at least five portions of your much-needed five fruit and vegetables a day!
Here is one of the best diabetes control meal plans you will find online, focusing on particular issues like high cardiovascular risk, diabetes complications, metabolic syndrome, and overall positive general health outcomes. Enjoy!
Breakfast – Greek yogurt with oat flakes, banana, and raspberries.
Lunch – Wraps with salmon, sweet peppers, and red onion.
Dinner – Steamed cod with boiled new potatoes and salad.
Snacks – Apple and peanut butter, oatcakes, orange.
- Choose wraps made from whole grains.
- Use fresh salmon and bake or grill rather than fry.
- Avoid heavy dressings on your salad. A dressing of olive oil and vinegar has a much better serving of healthy fats.
Breakfast – Muesli.
Lunch – Minestrone soup.
Dinner – Couscous topped with a lemon and chili chicken breast.
Snacks – Banana, almonds, carrot sticks, Greek yogurt.
- Use alternative milk to dairy milk (soy, nut, coconut, oat milk) on your muesli. All have fewer calories than cow’s milk, and some contain fiber.
- Use a minestrone soup recipe that doesn’t contain pasta, or add a small amount of brown rice or pasta made from whole grains.
- Only eat a small handful of almonds to get the healthy fats and avoid too many calories.
Breakfast – Whole wheat bread toast with peanut butter.
Lunch – Tuna salad with a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
Dinner – Chicken pittas (Greek style).
Snacks – Fruit salad with Greek Yogurt, cherry tomatoes and cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds, and orange.
- Do not use mayonnaise for your tuna salad.
- For the pittas, grill the chicken. Make a sauce from low-fat Greek yogurt, chopped cucumber, and chopped mint.
Breakfast – Muesli.
Lunch – Spanish tortilla omelet with a side salad.
Dinner – Hearty stew with roasted butternut squash.
Snacks – Honeydew melon, almonds, oatcakes.
- Make the stew with chicken or other lean meat.
- If you want to caramelize the roasted butternut squash, use honey rather than sugar.
Breakfast – Poached eggs on rye bread (or other whole grain bread).
Lunch – Curried coriander mackerel with broccoli and new potatoes.
Dinner – Cheesy courgette and aubergine baked with peas.
Snacks – Raspberries, oatcakes, almonds.
- Go easy on the cheese in the bake – use half-fat cheese if you can.
Breakfast – Porridge with berries.
Lunch – Grilled chicken breast with spinach and pine nuts.
Dinner – Crispy salmon salad.
Snacks – Peach, roasted chickpeas, Greek yogurt, almonds.
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice on the spinach will brighten the flavor.
- Add your favorite flavoring to the chickpeas.
Breakfast – Greek yogurt, oat flakes, banana, raspberries.
Lunch – Red lentil soup
Dinner – Greek chicken with tomato, beans, olives, and asparagus.
Snacks – Almonds or pistachios, satsumas, roasted sunflower seeds.
- Add flavor to the soup with onion or red pepper.
- Lentil soup can also be turned into an Indian Dal with the right spices.
A Perfect Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan For People With Diabetes
You can see above a low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet plan that is ideal for anybody with diabetes or at high diabetes risk. The lack of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory markers in the foods and dishes that we have suggested means that your blood glucose will be helped to remain in a very healthy and safe position.
If you have prediabetes at the moment, switching to a diet that directly fights cardiovascular risk factors can help stop or completely reverse your chances of developing diabetes.
A diet like this can help people with diabetes achieve a much greater level of overall health that can help their bodies to better fight against chronic conditions. It goes without saying that the healthier you are in every aspect of your diabetes, the better you will be able to fight the battle and manage your type 2 diabetes.
Fresh Foods And A Lack Of Processed Items
You will notice that the seven-day meal plan we have put together for you doesn’t include many processed foods. Though it can be very easy and tempting to grab some junk food on the way home for dinner, meals like that are the number one contributor to conditions like obesity that almost always lead to type 2 diabetes.
The great thing about our meal plan is that the abundance of fresh produce, fresh fruits, and healthy snacks are balanced and nutritious and will definitely keep you full and satisfied all the way through the week.
You will also notice that many of the ingredients are repeated over the course of the week, and this is down to several key reasons.
Firstly, spreading out the same items in different ways over seven days means you don’t have to spend as much money on a wider list of ingredients when you go do your weekly shop.
Secondly, the variety of ways these repeated ingredients are utilized will open up your mind to a whole new range of cooking possibilities that you may have never thought you were capable of. The more confident you can get with cooking healthy foods, the more natural this ‘diet’ will become. Eventually, it will cease to be seen as a diet and simply be your new way of life instead!
Mediterranean Diet Basic Tips
Advice: As a person with diabetes, it’s important that all your dietary needs are addressed. If you are going to start a new meal plan, whether for weight loss, control of carbohydrate intake, better blood sugar management, or overall better diabetes management, talk to your physician, diabetes care team, or dietician. Mediterranean diets do not suit everyone.
Produce: The general advice is to get at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily. You can easily aim for seven to ten servings on the Mediterranean diet. Snacking is a good area for swapping out less healthy foods with Mediterranean foods and more fruits and vegetables.
Reduce sodium intake: A high salt intake is associated with heart disease. Use herbs and spices instead of salt if you need a flavor enhancer. Great choices include garlic, paprika, ginger, basil, rosemary, bay leaves, and cinnamon. Some of these also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can only be good for people with diabetes.
Butter is not better: Butter is not part of a Mediterranean diet – it is too high in saturated fat to be included in any low-fat diet. Replace butter with olive oil. Canola oil is also a better choice as this, like olive oil, is high in unsaturated fats.
Eat the right meat: Choose poultry and fish over red meats and grill, bake or poach rather than fry.
Low-fat dairy: high-fat dairy items are not missing from the Mediterranean diet, nor are they foods that people with diabetes have to avoid, but low-fat dairy products or dairy alternatives are better choices. Low-fat cheese, fat-free yogurt, and skimmed milk keep your fat intake low and look after your cardiovascular health.
Potential Risks of a Mediterranean-Style Diet to Avoid
Every diet has risks, especially when adopting it as an eating plan. These are the key pitfalls to avoid when you start a Mediterranean diet.
Cold Turkey: Unless advised otherwise by your diabetes care team (because you need to make some immediate changes), ease the dietary changes.
Portion Size: A balanced meal is still important even if you are eating healthy Mediterranean foods. Stick to the recommended portion sizes when building a plate.
Too many legumes: Legumes are plant foods, so you know they are suitable for you, and they are a good swap for potatoes and other starchy foods, but you can eat too many if you are following a low-carbohydrate diet. Watch your portion size to not overload on carbs.
Don’t ‘overcheat’: Everyone needs cheat days, even people with diabetes. Cheat days should be occasional, not a regular occurrence. Even on cheat days, you should choose your treats from Mediterranean foods.
Too much alcohol: Wine is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, but that’s not an excuse to overindulge. Moderation is key, as is making sure alcohol doesn’t interfere with medications.
We hope that by reading our day-by-day Mediterranean diet meal plan, we have shown you just how simple it can be to change the way you eat for the better completely. Not to mention just how delicious it can be too!
Swapping your unhealthy meals for healthy ones without sacrificing taste and satisfaction is the key to making any diet stick. We think that with this interesting and mouth-watering array of dishes, you will be well on your way to better diabetes control.
As long as your blood sugar levels are happy, you can be happy, and thanks to this Mediterranean diet, we think you will find yourself much happier than you have been in a long, long time.