Sample Diabetes 1,200-Calorie Meal Plan

No single diet is right for all people with diabetes. In fact, a plan designed just for you might be best. Whichever meal plan you choose, cutting calories and carbohydrates can help you keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.

Depending on your height, weight, age, and activity level, a 1,200-calorie meal plan may be a good fit. This article explains how to balance carbs, fat, and protein. It also shows you what a day's worth of food looks like on a 1,200-calorie diet.

sample 1200-calorie meal plan: diabetes
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

What to Think About When Meal Planning

Carbohydrates: Carbs are the body's main source of energy. They impact blood sugar more than other nutrients. Some people with diabetes need to track their carb intake. This is especially true if you take insulin at mealtimes.

There are three types of carbs:

  • Starches found in grains, potatoes, and beans or lentils
  • Sugars found in fruits, milk, and processed foods
  • Fiber found in leafy greens and other vegetables

Watch out for white, refined, processed, and sugary foods. These carbs can cause weight gain and sharp spikes in blood sugars. When thinking about carbs, consider portions as well as type.

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7 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Diabetes Diet

Choose carbs that are rich in fiber, such as:

  • Whole grains
  • Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes
  • Low-fat dairy such as Greek yogurt
  • Low-glycemic index fruits such as berries.

Most people do well with 30 to 45 grams of carbs per meal and 15 to 20 grams per snack. The amount you need will depend on your:

  • Blood sugar control
  • Physical activity
  • Weight
  • Other health factors

A registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help you decide how many carbs are right for you. Keep in mind that every gram of carbs has about four calories. If you eat 45 grams of carbs per meal and 30 grams per snack, that's 660 calories from carbs per day.

Protein: Protein is a macronutrient and another form of energy for the body. It boosts immunity, wound healing, and muscle recovery. It can also help you feel full longer. With a calorie-controlled diet, it's important to choose lean protein. It has fewer calories and less fat.

Lean protein sources include:

  • White meat chicken
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Lean beef (95% lean)
  • Egg whites
  • Low-fat dairy

For vegans and vegetarians, beans and soy-based protein such as edamame and tofu are also sources of protein. They also contain carbs.

Protein has four calories per gram. Some studies show that a higher-fat, higher-protein breakfast can reduce hemoglobin A1C in people with diabetes. 

Fat: Fat is another macronutrient. It helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, can reduce inflammation. They are the building blocks of hair, skin, and nails. These fatty acids also help support brain health.

When choosing fats, look for unsaturated fats such as:

  • Oils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Fish like sardines and salmon

Limit saturated fat and trans fat as often as possible, including:

  • Full fat cheese
  • Fried foods
  • High-fat meats like sausage and bacon
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Sweets such as cookies and cakes

Keep an eye on the fats you eat, even healthy ones. Fat calories can add up quickly. One gram of fat has nine calories. 

Recap

No matter how many daily calories your meal plan has, be sure you're getting enough lean protein and fiber-rich vegetables. For many people with diabetes, limiting carbs and saturated fats can make it easier to keep blood sugar in a healthy zone.

1,200 Calories Is Not Right for Everyone

A word of warning: A 1,200-calorie diet is not a good option for every person with diabetes. For example, this calorie level may be low enough to disrupt your metabolism. This number of calories may not give you enough carbs for your medication dosage. And it may not prevent hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

However, 1200 calories will meet the energy needs of some people with diabetes. It's probably best for those who are:

  • Small in weight and stature
  • Older than 65
  • Less active

If you have a prescription for a 1,200-calorie diet, your diabetes care team will have planned with these factors in mind. If you've been prescribed a different diet, there are many meal plans to choose from.

What a Daily Menu Looks Like

This meal plan provides around 1,200 calories a day, with 30 to 45 grams of carbs per meal and 15 to 30 grams per snack.

Day 1

Breakfast

  • An omelet made with 2 egg whites, 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 carbs per meal: 30 grams

Lunch

  • 2 cups chopped greens with 4 ounces (size of the 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 carbs per meal: 40 grams

Snack

  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn

Total carbs per snack:  15 grams

Dinner

Turkey broccoli wrap:

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

Total carbs per meal: 45 grams 

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 carbs per meal: 25 grams

Lunch

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 carbs per meal: 35 grams

Snack

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

Total carbs per snack: 18 grams

Dinner

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 carbs per meal: 40 grams

Day 3

Breakfast

  • Sweet potato strawberry toast

Total carbs per meal: 17 grams

Lunch

  • 5 chopped veggies and greens egg salad
  • Top on 1 whole grain brown rice cake
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 8 to 12 ounces water or seltzer

Total carbs per meal: 40 grams

Dinner

  • 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 carbs per meal: 30 grams 

Create Your Own Meal Plan

This menu is a three-day example of delicious foods you can fit into one day with a 1,200-calorie diet. If you need more variety, there are many nutritious foods you can enjoy. A simple online search will help you calculate their nutritional value.

You can use a recipe nutrition calculator to take the guesswork out of meal prep. Just input the recipe you'd like to make and read the nutrition label. You can also use it for side dishes, snacks, and drinks.

If the results for your recipe show it has too many calories, you can edit each ingredient. The calculator will show you healthier options.

The calculator is a useful tool when making out your shopping list. You'll have a clearer idea of which foods are lower in calories, fat, and sugar. Having a little knowledge before you hit the store can help you make better decisions.

Summary

A meal plan can help you make healthier food choices as you manage diabetes. A registered dietician or diabetes educator can help you figure out how many calories you should eat each day based on your own needs.

For some people, a 1,200 calorie per day diet is a good option. Balancing lean protein, carbs, and fats is important to keep your blood sugar safe and steady. Avoiding processed foods and sugar will also benefit you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should you eat a 1,200-calorie diet if you have diabetes?

    Check with your healthcare provider or dietitian. The right number of calories for you will depend on a number of factors, such as your age, activity level, and current weight.

  • How many carbohydrates should you eat in a 1,200-calorie diabetes diet?

    If you have diabetes, experts say you should get about half of your calories from carbs. That means if you're on a 1,200-calorie diet, about 600 calories would come from carbs. Since every gram of carbs is about four calories, you would be eating about 150 grams of carbs a day. Remember to talk with your healthcare provider or dietitian to find the right amount for you.

  • What is a good meal plan for diabetes?

    A good meal plan will help you get the right nutrients while keeping your blood sugar levels at the target range. It should focus on whole foods, like nonstarchy vegetables and lean protein, rather than processed foods.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Van Wyk HJ, Davis RE, Davies JS. A critical review of low-carbohydrate diets in people with Type 2 diabetes. Diabet Med. 2016;33(2):148-57. doi:10.1111/dme.12964

  3. Rabinovitz HR, Boaz M, Ganz T, et al. Big breakfast rich in protein and fat improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetics. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(5):E46-54. doi:10.1002/oby.20654

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