A lot of work goes into the perfect meal plan. You have to consider various factors, like how many meals you should eat in a day, consider meal sequencing, or how meal frequency impacts insulin sensitivity.
If you have health conditions like type 2 diabetes, finding out what a healthy meal is for your specific needs is even more critical. So, you may spend even more time working on the perfect diabetes meal plan.
Here’s where meal prepping can help, reducing the amount of time you spend on your meals daily without sacrificing healthy eating plans.
An Increasingly Popular Way to Plan Meals
Meal prepping is becoming increasingly popular, and it's easy to see why. Preparing your meals before you begin your week can help with portion control and make eating healthy less overwhelming. And it can free up so much of your time! Not only is your grocery shopping done before your week begins, but you don’t have to stop and think about what you want to eat during a busy day. You may also save money as a meal prepper because you can buy food in bulk, making it easier to stick to a budget without feeling deprived of good food choices.
Many people also find meal prepping helpful for regulating blood sugar levels. They will be able to figure out what their blood sugar will be like throughout the week based on their meal plan. So, if you find it hard to stay on top of healthy eating during the week because of your schedule, meal prepping might be the solution for you.
Read on to learn more about meal prepping, its impact on blood sugar levels, and some examples of foods to include in your meal prep plans.
Why Monitoring Your Blood Sugar Matters
You may be wondering what blood sugar is and why it's so essential to track and monitor. Blood sugar, or glucose, is derived from carbohydrates that your body breaks down to use as energy. When your body breaks down carbohydrates, it turns them into sugar—most blood sugar or glucose comes from the foods you eat. Your bloodstream will carry that glucose to your body's tissues and cells to fuel you throughout the day.
Maintaining blood sugar levels will help you maintain a healthy weight and energy level. Some people also experience hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia—very low (hypoglycemia) or very high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar levels. These conditions can be tricky to keep track of and maintain and can lead to long-term health conditions like kidney disease, heart disease, and vision loss.
For people who have diabetes, maintaining target blood sugar levels can be even more important. Those with diabetes benefit from knowing what foods and activities work well with their target blood sugar goals. Remember, other factors like sleep, stress, and illness will also affect your blood sugar levels. So maintaining a healthy diet is especially important, which is something that meal prepping can help you do.
How to Set Your Target Blood Sugar Levels
According to the American Diabetes Association, normal blood sugar levels (though these are typically more for those who have diabetes) are:
- Between 80 to 130 mg/DL before eating
- Less than 180 mg/DL 2 or more hours after eating
The Nutrisense Nutrition Team typically recommends daily average glucose of <105 mg/dL for a healthy individual without diabetes, with fasting values between 70 to 90 mg/dL. It’s also best to avoid repeated spikes of >140 mg/dL.
But even with these recommendations, remember that ‘normal’ can look different for everyone and depend on various factors. Here’s a helpful guide to average blood sugar levels for every age.
When to Test Your Blood Sugar Levels
While your doctor will recommend testing your blood sugar levels if they suspect that you may have hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, or diabetes, it's helpful to monitor blood sugar levels to help with weight loss and fitness goals. It's also a useful way to manage other chronic conditions.
You can test your levels with a blood glucose meter (the finger prick), urine tests, or take constant readings throughout the day using a CGM.
How Meal Prepping Can Help Blood Sugar Levels
Meal prepping is a great way to keep blood sugar levels under control. As we mentioned earlier, meal prepping is when you prepare a week’s (or more!) worth of meals, so you don't have to think about meal planning through your busy schedule.
Prepping your meals ahead of time will enable you to pre-plan portion sizes, balanced food groups in every meal, and ensure you pack in yummy nutrients every day without stopping and making those decisions on the fly.
If you’re new to understanding what effects different foods have on your blood glucose levels, work with a professional like a registered dietitian or nutritionist to develop a plan that will suit your needs. Working with a dietitian is also a great way to have some extra encouragement and support to stick to your goals.
Six Easy Steps to Meal Prepping
It may be overwhelming to plan and make an entire week’s worth of meals in a short period. But once you break down the steps, nutritional balance, and ingredients you need, you’ll find that it isn’t that hard!
Here are six steps to help you get started:
1) Understand Your Blood Sugar Levels and Health Goal
If you’re using meal prepping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, you will first want to monitor them over time. It will help you discover what foods your body reacts well to.
We suggest utilizing a tool like the CGM to monitor your blood glucose levels throughout the day. It will help you determine what foods to include and exclude from your meal preparations.
2) Make a List of Foods You Enjoy
Food should be fun, even when pre-planned. Make sure that you include foods and ingredients that you love in your meal prepping list to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Looking forward to each meal can also help motivate you to stick to your plan.
3) Accumulate Recipes for Your Body’s Needs
Once you’ve discovered the foods that work well with your body’s response, you’ll be able to search for recipes that fit those needs and the list of enjoyable foods you’ve made. Consider doing this regularly to have a bank of recipes to pull from when you need one instead of scrambling to find one just before you prep your meals.
If you’re working with a credentialed dietitian or nutritionist, ask them for help with recipes and meal ideas. If you’re embarking on a solo mission to meal prep, consider using a tool like Mealime. It enables you to create recipes and a shopping list from the ingredients and meals you enter into their app.
4) Create a Shopping List
And stick to it! Once you have your meals and ingredients planned, make a list so that you don’t give in to temptation and old habits when you’re at the grocery store.
5) Schedule a Meal Prep Day Every Week
Again, stick to it. If you want to rest on Sundays, consider prepping on a Saturday. Or, find time throughout the week if you have a flexible work schedule.
Whatever day works for you, make this day habitual and enjoy the process of creating yummy fuel to nurture your body through the following week.
6) Consider Storage Options
Some meals stay fresh in the refrigerator throughout the week, and others are better in the freezer. You can also prepare meals in deconstructed fashion (like salad jars and dressing on the side), so all you have to do is combine and eat when you’re ready.
Considering your storage options in advance will help make meal prepping that much easier when you get down to it!
Don’t Forget These Foods
When you’re planning your healthy meals for the week, you have to remember to include all your basic food groups and ensure each meal has the right amount of nutrients for your needs. The best way to do this is to work with a registered dietitian. In the meantime, don’t forget to add these to your grocery list:
Protein is a vital part of a healthy diet plan. Protein also takes longer to digest, slowing down glucose absorption into the bloodstream. So, getting sufficient protein may help with blood sugar stabilization, whether you’re planning a diabetes diet or a different kind of meal plan. Here are some examples to include:
- Animal proteins, including fatty fish (sardines, anchovies), poultry like chicken, eggs, and grass-fed beef.
- Plant protein like tofu, lima beans, lentils, peas, nuts, and seeds
There’s no one-size-fits-all to the number of carbs you need in your diet—if you tolerate some carbs or if they're right for your specific dietary needs, the perfect number will depend on individual factors like food tolerance and carb counting goals.
Watch out for refined carbs (like white rice and white bread), increasing food's glycemic index and leading to a more significant glucose response. Some good examples to include in your meal plan are:
- Whole grains like oats and quinoa.
- Legumes like lentils and beans.
- Whole fruits like apples, blueberries, and bananas.
- Veggies like sweet potatoes and beets.
Consider adding healthy fats to your diet. They’re a great addition to any healthy meal prep plan—and they're diabetes-friendly too. The American Diabetes Association recommends adding adequate monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to your diet.
Remember, saturated and trans fats can be unhealthy. Speak with a registered dietitian to see what fats you should and should not be eating, depending on your health goals and individual needs. A few examples of healthy fats to add to your diet include:
- Oily fish, like sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews.
- Nut butter like peanut butter.
- Healthy oils like olive oil.
Don’t leave fiber out of your meal plan! Fiber is an integral part of your diet and a helpful way to regulate blood sugar levels. Fiber slows down the digestive process, giving your body more time to extract nutrients as you digest your food and helps blood sugar spikes after eating. Remember to consider both soluble and insoluble fiber for your diet. Here are some ideas to add fiber to your meal plan:
- High-fiber non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, artichokes, kale and carrots.
- Whole grains like brown rice and oats.
- Fruit like apples and berries.
- Lentils and beans, like black beans.
- Starches like squash and sweet potato.
There are several other foods you should be adding to your meal plan. Your choices will depend on your health goals, health conditions like prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and your responses to foods. To create an ideal meal plan for your needs, work with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian.
Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense
Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.
With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.
Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.
Find the right Nutrisense programhealth potential.to help you discover and reach your
Amanda is a Nutrition Manager and Registered Dietitian at Nutrisense, with a Masters in Dietetics from Stephen F. Austin State University. Originally from south GA, she got her undergrad degree from Texas Tech University. Before joining Nutrisense, she worked at a hospital in Fort Worth, TX, for 4 years as a dietitian, counseling those living with HIV.