Sample Diabetes 1200-Calorie Meal Plan

There is no one diet fits all for diabetes, and all meal plans should be individualized, but regardless of your meal plan, reducing calorie and carbohydrate content can help you to lose weight and reduce blood sugars. Depending on your height, weight, age, and activity level, a 1200 calorie meal plan may be right for you. If this was suggested to you by your doctor and you don't know where to begin, it's a good idea to have an understanding of what a days worth of food would look like. Having a rotating three-day meal plan, can help you to eliminate decision making, while keeping, calories, carbohydrate, and fat controlled.

What to Think About When Meal Planning

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the bodies' main source of energy and the nutrient that impacts blood sugar the most. People with diabetes need to monitor their carbohydrate intake because excess carbohydrates, particularly in the form of white, refined, processed, and sugary foods can elevate blood sugars, and triglycerides and result in weight gain. When thinking about carbohydrates, you'll want to think about portions as well as type.

Choose carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, such as, whole grains, starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, low-fat dairy, such as Greek yogurt, and low-glycemic index fruits, such as, berries. Most people benefit from eating around 30 to 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal, and 15 to 20 grams per snack, but this will depend on your blood sugar control, physical activity, and weight, to name a few. It's always a good idea to meet with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to determine how many carbohydrates are right for you. Keep in mind that every gram of carbohydrates contains about four calories. Therefore, if you are eating, 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal, and 30 grams per snack, you'll be ingesting 660 calories from carbohydrates per day. 

Protein: Protein is the macronutrient that contains no carbohydrates (unless breaded or drenched in sauce). Adequate protein intake is important for boosting immunity, wound healing, muscle recovery, and has satiating power. When eating a calorie controlled diet, it's important to choose lean protein (as these types will have less calories and fat). Stick to sources, such as white meat chicken, pork, turkey, lean beef (95% lean), egg whites, and low-fat dairy. If you are vegan or vegetarian, beans, and soy-based protein, such as edamame, and tofu are also sources of protein, but keep in mind they contain carbohydrate, too. Protein also contains four calories per gram. Some studies suggest that eating a higher fat, higher protein breakfast can reduce hemoglobin A1C in people with diabetes. 

Fat: Fat is another macronutrient that contains no carbohydrate. Fat plays an important role in the body and is necessary for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 and omega 6, are building blocks of hair, skin, and nails and are important in brain health and have anti-inflammatory properties. When choosing sources of fat, you'll want to choose unsaturated fats such as oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish like sardines, and salmon. Limit saturated fat and trans fat as often as possible, such as full fat cheese, fried foods, high fat meats like sausage and bacon, butter, cream, and sweets such as cookies and cakes. Portions of fat should also be monitored, even healthy fats, because fat calories can add up quickly. One gram of fat contains nine calories. 

1200 Calories Is Not Right for Everyone

First, we will begin with a word of warning: a 1200-calorie diabetes diet is not for every person with diabetes. For weight loss, this calorie level is low enough that it may cause a negative effect on the metabolism for many people. Also, this calorie level may not provide enough carbohydrates to complement medication regimens or prevent hypoglycemia.

However, 1200 calories will meet the energy needs of some people with diabetes. It's probably best if you are small in weight and stature, older than 65, and/or less active. If you've received a 1200-calorie diabetes diet prescription, your doctors will have taken all of these factors into account.

If your doctor prescribed you a diet other than 1200 calories, we have sample meal plans for you as well.

What a Daily Menu Looks Like

This meal plan should give you some ideas for your new diet. It provides around 1200 calories a day, with about 30 to 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal, and 15 to 30 grams per snack.

Day 1 Breakfast

  • An omelet made with 2 egg whites and one egg, and 1 slice (1 ounce) low-fat cheese
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast with 1 teaspoon nut butter
  • 1 small orange or 2 small kiwi
  • Coffee with 1 tablespoon half & half

Total carbohydrates per meal: ~ 30 grams


  • 2 cups chopped greens with 4 ounces (size of palm of your hand) grilled chicken and 1 tablespoon oil based dressing
  • One small 4 ounce apple
  • One 6-ounce low-fat yogurt
  • 8 to 12 ounces of water or a sugar-free beverage

Total carbohydrates per meal: ~ 40 grams of carbohydrate


  • 3 cups air popped popcorn

Total carbohydrate per snack: ~ 15 grams of carbohydrate


  • Turkey Broccoli Wrap:
    • 4 ounces lean white meat turkey ground, cooked in 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1 low carbohydrate whole grain wrap (about 20 grams of carbohydrate)
    • 1 cup steamed broccoli topped with 1 teaspoons olive oil (top with hot sauce)
  • 8 to 12 ounces of water or a sugar-free beverage
  • 1 cup of raspberries

Total carbohydrate per meal: ~ 45 grams of carbohydrate 

Day 2 Breakfast

  • 1 container of low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup coffee with 1 tablespoon half and half

Total carbohydrate per meal: ~ 25 grams of carbohydrate


  • Open Faced Turkey Sandwich:
    • 4 thin slices of roast turkey
    • 1 slice whole grain bread
    • lettuce, tomato, 1/4 avocado chopped, dollop of mustard
  • 15 baby carrots with 1 tablespoon hummus

Total carbohydrate per meal: ~ 35 grams of carbohydrate


  • 1 1/4 cup strawberries with 1 tablespoon nut butter

Total carbohydrate per snack: ~ 18 grams of carbohydrate


  • Grilled Shrimp Quinoa Bowl:
    • 4 ounces grilled shrimp
    • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa in water or low sodium chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup chopped peppers
    • 1/4 cup shredded low-fat cheese
    • 1 tablespoon salsa

Total carbohydrate per meal: ~ 40 grams of carbohydrate

Day 3 Breakfast 

Total carbohydrate per meal: ~ 17 grams of carbohydrate


Total carbohydrate per meal: ~ 40 grams of carbohydrate


  • 5 ounces baked fish with lemon, garlic powder, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small baked sweet potato topped with cinnamon and 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1.5 cups steamed spinach
  • 8 to 12 ounces water or seltzer 

Total carbohydrate per meal: ~ 30 grams of carbohydrate 

Create Your Own Meal Plan

This menu is only a three-day example of all the delicious foods you can fit into one day and maintain a 1200-calorie diet. If you need more variety, there are many nutritious foods you can enjoy, you simply need to learn how to calculate the nutritional value so you stay on track.

Using a recipe nutrition calculator can take all of the guesswork out of what you're eating. To use it, simply input the recipe you'd like to make and it will give you an easy to read the nutrition label. You can also use it for side dishes, snacks, and beverages.

If the results for your recipe show it has too many calories for your diet, you can make adjustments. You can edit each ingredient and the calculator will show you a number of popular options to choose from.

This can be very useful when making out your shopping list. You'll have a clearer idea of which options are lower in calories, fat, and sugar. Having a little knowledge before you hit the store can really help you make better decisions.

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Article Sources

  • Rabinovitz, H. R., Boaz, M., Ganz, T., Jakubowicz, D., Matas, Z., Madar, Z. and Wainstein, J. (2013), Big breakfast rich in protein and fat improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetics. Obesity. doi: 10.1002/oby.20654