August 19, 2021

Type 1 Diabetes Diet | Sample Menu, Easy Recipes, What to Avoid & More

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas are provided here to help you kickstart the Type 1 Diabetes Diet. This healthy meal planning will assist in managing diabetes and provide important nutrition to keep your body moving!

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Home / Living with Diabetes / Type 1 Diabetes Diet | Sample Menu, Easy Recipes, What to Avoid & More

Managing type 1 diabetes can be hard work. Still, one highly effective way of handling this condition doesn’t have to be all that difficult. Of course, we’re talking about following a type 1 diabetes diet. With a bit of pre-planning and self-discipline, you’ll be able to effectively manage diabetes by making some changes to what you eat each day.

Are you unsure what a type 1 diabetes diet should include, what foods you should avoid, or how to put together diabetes-friendly meals? Read on – we’ve got tons of advice on planning a type 1 diabetes diet that’s both good for you and good tasting.

Facts About Type 1 Diabetes

To get started, let’s review what type 1 diabetes is. People with this form of diabetes don’t produce enough insulin to meet their needs. Insulin plays a crucial role in the human body, as it transports glucose from the bloodstream to the cells that use it for energy. Without insulin, these cells don’t receive the power they need, and glucose builds up in a person’s bloodstream.

People with type 1 diabetes should take several steps to avoid diabetes complications. These include regular insulin injections, which replace the insulin that the pancreas would usually release. Along with that, there are other ways people with this disease can work towards stabilizing their blood sugar levels – such as paying close attention to what they eat and considering the use of an insulin pump.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is associated with many different symptoms. These include:

  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • More frequent urination, including unexpected bedwetting in children


    Excessive thirst can be a sign of type 1 diabetes.

  • Irritability and other mood changes
  • Blurry vision
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unexpected weight loss

Though many of the symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes are similar to those seen in type 2 diabetes, the way these symptoms appear can differ. Type 2 diabetes symptoms often develop gradually, and sometimes, no symptoms are apparent at all. In contrast, type 1 diabetes symptoms commonly develop over a shorter period – just a few weeks, in some cases. If you notice any signs of diabetes in you or a loved one, contact your doctor immediately.

We Can Explain Glycemic Loads and Indexes

Are you new to the world of eating with type 1 diabetes? If so, you may be confused by the terms “glycemic index” and “glycemic load.” These phrases aren’t exactly synonymous, but we’d be happy to explain their similarities and differences.

The terms “glycemic load” and “glycemic index” refer to the same basic concept: that is, how much of an impact a piece of food will have on a person’s blood sugar level. This impact is primarily measured based on a food’s fat, fiber, and protein content. Foods with a low glycemic load/index have a limited effect on blood sugar. The opposite is true for foods with a high glycemic load/index.

The main difference between these phrases is how they are used to measure blood sugar impact. A food’s glycemic index is a standard measurement based on predetermined amounts. In contrast, glycemic loads take average portion sizes into account.

This concept of glycemic index is tricky because most people don’t consume a single food at a time. When you consume a meal and mix carbs with proteins and fat, this will have an effect on how quickly these foods will affect your glucose levels.

Foods To Eat

Suppose you’ve already been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In that case, you probably already know about the vital role that food plays in determining your overall health. Many different elements go into planning a diabetes diet. Still, an excellent place to start is eating enough of some foods while avoiding others.


One of the building blocks of any diabetes diet – and any other diet that comes to mind – is protein. However, you’ll need to remember that some protein sources are far healthier than others. For people with diabetes, it’s best to focus on plant-based proteins like nuts, beans, lentils, and soy. A few times each week, you can supplement these foods with lean animal-based proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood.

Fresh Produce

Even if you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to eat your fruits and veggies! Fresh, non-starchy vegetables have a minimal impact on your blood glucose levels while providing high amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Vegetables in this category include green leafy vegetables, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more. (Wondering about their starchy counterparts? We’ll talk about those in a bit.)

Fresh fruits are also nutritious, though they do count as carbohydrates. Want a better idea of how to include fruits in your carb “budget” for the day? One small fresh fruit, half a cup of canned fruit, a quarter cup of dried fruit, and a cup of fresh berries or melon all contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates.

Some Starchy Foods and Grains

People with type 1 diabetes should be carb-conscious, but that doesn’t mean you should try to avoid carbohydrates entirely! They can enhance your diet if you’re smart about the types of carbs you’re eating. Try to consume whole-grain foods, such as brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain bread, and oatmeal.

Starchy vegetables can also be a healthy source of carbohydrates. To help you out with portion control, half-cup portions of corn, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and peas all have roughly 15 grams of carbs.

Foods To Avoid

On the flip side, there are many different foods you should try not to eat if you have type 1 diabetes. Some problematic food items include:

Processed Carbohydrates

When it comes to foods with a high glycemic load, processed/refined carbohydrates are among the worst offenders. Whenever possible, don’t eat white bread (without fiber), regular pasta (without fiber), snack foods, or baked goods.

Unhealthy Fats

Some fats, like those found in seeds, nuts, and avocados, are good for you – but we’re not talking about those here. No matter how tempting it is to binge-eat your fatty junk food of choice, it won’t be worth the impact it could have on your blood sugar.

Alcoholic Drinks (Sometimes)

In and of itself, moderate alcohol consumption (that is, one drink a day for women and two for men) doesn’t seem to have a particularly negative impact on diabetes. It can also help reduce your cardiovascular risk!

So why is this part of the “Foods to Avoid” category? In some cases, people who have type 1 diabetes can be affected by lower blood sugar levels (or “hypoglycemia”) resulting from drinking. If your blood glucose is already somewhat low, think before you drink – and consider eating something at the same time to lower your hypoglycemia risk.

Most Desserts

Peanut Butter Cookies

Avoid traditional desserts and use keto dessert recipes instead.

As we mentioned earlier, simple carbohydrates can wreak havoc on your blood glucose levels. More often than not, desserts are loaded with them, so it pays to stay strong…or at least eat minimal portions.

Fortunately, there are some additional ways to keep both your type 1 diabetes and your sweet tooth in check. Eating one ounce of dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) per day can give you health benefits without blood sugar problems. Otherwise, you can put your chef’s hat on and make your own diabetes-friendly sweet treats. Just look for US MED’s “Dessert Diaries,” shared periodically on our blog!

Sample Meal Plans for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Now, it’s time to put everything we’ve learned together. Here’s what an average day’s worth of meals might look like for someone with type 1 diabetes following these tips.


If you’re lucky enough to have time for a leisurely breakfast, why not take advantage of it? Our Cheesy Spinach Quiche is a great option. This quiche isn’t just delicious – it’s diabetes-friendly, thanks to its use of nutritious spinach and low-fat/fat-free cheeses.

Some days, however, you need a grab-and-go breakfast option. For these situations, the Keto Coffee Smoothie may be just what you need. You can prepare it beforehand and refrigerate it for up to a week!


Consider the Strawberry Spinach Salad With Buttermilk Dressing if you’re in the mood for a light lunch. Strawberries contain anthocyanins and polyphenols. Anthocyanins can help reduce insulin and cholesterol levels after a meal. At the same time, research has suggested that polyphenols can boost insulin sensitivity in overweight people without diabetes.

Another quick and healthy choice for lunch is our Pesto Chicken Salad Wrap. Lean chicken is a healthy protein option, and this recipe cuts down on carbs by wrapping it in cabbage or lettuce leaves.


Do you want a memorably spicy dinner packed with lean protein and nutritious veggies? Try our Thai Chicken And Zoodles With Peanut Sauce! No, that’s not a typo – our recipe contains zucchini noodles, which you can buy or make yourself.

Alternatively, you can add some seafood to your diet by making Grilled Chimichurri Shrimp. This recipe – which incorporates an Argentinian sauce commonly eaten with steak – is a quick and straightforward dinner choice.

Find Easy Recipes for Diabetes from US MED

Would you like more recipes like the ones linked above? If so, you’re in luck – all these dishes are included in US MED’s recipe collection. Use the search function to find recipes to add to your cookbook!

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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