The 2020-2025 dietary guidelines for Americans points out that a Mediterranean eating pattern is a healthy way of eating. You can easily follow this eating pattern if you are a person with diabetes by using the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Plate Method. Below is an overview of a Mediterranean eating pattern, how to create a healthy Mediterranean plate using the Diabetes Plate Method and Mediterranean recipes you can try.
Mediterranean Diet Overview
The Mediterranean diet scored the top spot of US News & World Report 2022 Best Overall Diets. The diet falls within accepted ranges for the amount of macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein), along with most other nutrients. The Mediterranean diet is really an eating pattern, not necessarily a structured diet, so you can tailor it to your lifestyle or health needs, making it perfect for someone with diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, herbs and spices. Fish and seafood should be consumed several times a week, and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt should be eaten in moderation. The diet recommends red meat and sweets in small amounts, a small amount of wine and being physically active.
The diabetes plate method
You can get all the foods mentioned above on your plate if you are a person with diabetes. One of the easiest ways to build your plate is using the Diabetes Plate Method. Here are the five steps to this method listed below using foods promoted on the Mediterranean diet:
Step 1: Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
Opt for non-starchy vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, beets, cucumbers and tomatoes. Whether raw or cooked, non-starchy vegetables should fill up half your plate.
Step 2: Fill one-quarter of your plate with lean protein.
This quarter of the plate can be filled with animal or plant-based proteins. If you opt for animal protein, choose fish, seafood or breast of chicken or turkey. Lean cuts of beef, pork or lamb can also be in that portion of the plate. Eggs and cheese also count towards protein. You can also opt for plant-based proteins like beans or lentils in this part of the plate.
Step 3: Fill one-quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods.
These options include starches like whole grains, fruit or dairy foods like milk and yogurt. Whole grains include barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), farro, millet, oats, quinoa and sorghum.
Step 4: Choose water or another very low calorie or zero-calorie drink.
This includes water, seltzer and sparkling water. Coffee and tea are also options, but be careful with the add-ins like cream and sugar. Sugar substitute drinks can also be enjoyed, but in small amounts.
Step 5: Use healthy fats in small amounts.
This includes using olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil in dishes or vinaigrette dressings, or enjoying olives or avocados on your plate in small amounts.
Alcohol can be tricky when you have diabetes, as it can cause too low or too high blood sugar. Check with your healthcare professional or registered dietitian nutritionist if it’s OK for you to consume wine.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetable Bake
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes plus 10 minutes cooling time.
Prep time: 20 minutes.
Cook time: 50 minutes.
Serving size: 1¼ cups.
- Nonstick cooking spray.
- 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks.
- 1 (15-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed.
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved.
- 2 cups broccoli florets.
- 2 cups cauliflower florets.
- 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch strips.
- ¼ cup olive oil.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced.
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning.
- 1 teaspoon onion powder.
- ½ teaspoon salt.
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8 x 11½-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, toss together the chicken breasts, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and bell pepper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Add the olive oil mixture to the bowl with the chicken and vegetables and toss to combine.
- Pour the chicken and vegetables into the prepared casserole dish, spreading out the vegetables and chicken so they are evenly distributed in the dish. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake until the cheese is bubbling and a thermometer inserted into the center of the dish reads 165°F, 50 minutes.
- Remove the aluminum foil and continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the casserole dish from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
Exchanges: 2 non-starchy vegetables, 4 lean protein, 1 fat.Nutrition information per serving: Calories 270; Calories from fat 110; Total fat 12g; Saturated fat 3.2g; Trans fat 0g; Cholesterol 75mg; Sodium 400mg; Potassium 590mg; Total carbohydrates 10g; Dietary fiber 4g; Sugars 3g; Added sugars 0g; Protein 30g; Phosphorus 305mg.
Tabbouleh With Cucumber, Strawberries and Mint
Total time: 50 minutes plus 10 minutes cooling time.
Prep time: 20 minutes.
Cook time: 30 minutes.
Serving size: 1 cup.
- 2½ cups water.
- 2/3 cup bulgur.
- Juice of 2 lemons (1/4 cup).
- Zest of 1 lemon (1 tablespoon).
- ¼ cup walnuts, chopped (3/4 ounce).
- 2½ cups strawberries, diced.
- 1 hothouse cucumber, diced (about 2 cups).
- ½ cup chopped parsley leaves.
- ½ cup chopped mint leaves.
- ½ small red onion, finely chopped.
- ¼ teaspoon salt.
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper.
- In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
- Stir in the bulgur, cover the pot, and remove it from the heat.
- Allow the bulgur to sit until almost all the liquid is absorbed, 30 minutes.
- Uncover the pot and drain any excess liquid (if any). Fluff the bulgur with a fork and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and zest, walnuts, strawberries, cucumber, parsley, mint, and red onion to a large bowl. Toss together gently until combined.
- Add the bulgur, salt, and black pepper and toss until the bulgur is well incorporated.
Exchanges: 1 starch, ½ fruit, 1 non-starchy vegetable, ½ fat.
Nutrition information per serving: Calories 150; Calories from fat 30; Total fat 3.5g; Saturated fat 0.4g; Trans fat 0g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 130mg; Potassium 380mg; Total carbohydrates 28g; Dietary fiber 7g; Sugars 6g; Added sugars 0g; Protein 5g; Phosphorus 95mg.
Recipes copyright Toby Amidor, Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook, American Diabetes Association, 2020. Photo courtesy of Mittera.