Macronutrients Needed for a Diabetic Meal Plan
Every meal plan is made up of three main components: carbohydrate, protein, and fat — the macronutrients. All the foods we eat are made up of some combination of these three nutrients; some foods may have only one nutrient, while other foods may have all three.
The human body needs all three of these macronutrients to function properly, so you should try to eat a variety of foods to ensure that you get all these different nutrients.
Your healthcare provider or dietitian may help you plan a certain range of grams of carbohydrate, protein, and/or fat to eat each day as part of the meal planning process.
The following sections explain how each macronutrient affects your body and identify some foods choices that represent each nutrient.
Note: The American Diabetes Association doesn’t have recommendations regarding the amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat that people with type 2 diabetes should eat each day. Discuss your personal dietary needs with your healthcare provider or dietitian.
Carbohydrate: Converts into glucose
Carbohydrate is an important nutrient for people with diabetes because it’s the nutrient directly responsible for raising your blood glucose levels after eating. During digestion, your body breaks carbohydrate down into glucose, which then enters your bloodstream and causes your blood glucose levels to climb. Therefore, you’ll need to consider how you’re going to choose carbohydrate foods and manage your carbohydrate intake when building your meal plan. But remember, your body needs some carbohydrate; it fuels your body. So, don’t try to remove all carbohydrate from your diet.
Foods that contain carbohydrate include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, breads and crackers, milk and yogurt, and other starchy or sugary foods and drinks. When choosing carbohydrate foods, look for nutrient- and fiber-rich options, and try to limit or avoid processed and sugary sources of carbohydrate such as white breads, white pastas, sugary desserts, and regular sodas.
Protein: Builds strong bodies
Protein is essential for a healthy body. Among other functions, this nutrient helps your body build new tissues and muscles. Foods that are high in protein include poultry, seafood, red meats, dairy products, and even plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, peas, and soy products. When choosing protein, it’s best to stick to lean poultry, fish, and plant-based proteins for most of your meals. Limit your intake of red meats, and avoid high-fat and highly processed sources of protein, such as bacon and sausage, that are high in saturated fat and sodium and add to your risk of heart disease.
Fat: Healthy types are helpful
Most people think fat is harmful for your body. But, as with carbohydrate and protein, your body actually needs a certain amount of fat to stay healthy. However, the body only needs a small amount of fat to function properly. Many people have way too much fat in their diets. Moderation is important when it comes to fat because certain kinds of fat and eating too much fat can increase your risk for cardiovascular complications such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. And overindulging in fat can increase your weight.
Some fats are better than others. Saturated fats and trans fats can raise your blood cholesterol levels, so it’s a good idea to limit these fats in your meal plan. You’ll find these types of harmful fats in butter, stick margarines, cream, cheese, high-fat meats, full-fat dairy products, and certain oils like palm and coconut oils. But there are some healthy fats that can actually have positive effects on your heart health by reducing bad cholesterol levels and preventing clogging in the arteries. These healthy fats — monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids — can be found in avocados, nuts and seeds, many plant oils, and (for omega-3 fatty acids) fish such as albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, salmon, and sardines.
Healthy fats still need to be enjoyed in moderation, but you can help protect your heart from the effects of saturated and trans fats by replacing the sources of these unhealthy fats with sources of heathy fats. Work with your healthcare provider or dietitian to come up with a personalized strategy for including healthy fats in your meal plan.