Carb-Conscious Meal Makeovers by American Diabetes Association

Getting a diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes does not mean that you have to remove all carbohydrate foods from your diet! Depending on your current eating habits, reducing your carb intake, or making some smart swaps, may help manage your blood glucose without cutting out your favorite foods.

Carb-Conscious Meal Makeovers

There are many ways to tweak your favorite meals to bring down the carb count so they fit in with your healthy eating plan.

With some slight adjustments, it’s possible to prepare a meal that usually has 90 grams of carb to a more moderate 60 grams of carb.

Make another smart swap or two and you can bring it down to a lower level still—about 30 grams.

Whatever your favorite meal, there are ways to adjust the carbs to fit your personal health goals and still feel satisfied.

A good rule of thumb is to follow the Diabetes Plate Method, and always load up half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables

Remember, these levels are just examples of different carb levels. Depending on your gender, activity level, desire to lose or maintain weight, and blood glucose management plan, you may need more or fewer carb grams per meal.

For an individualized plan, work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and/or certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES).

Looking for more meal planning inspiration? Check out this low-carb meal plan


HIGH (about 90 grams of carbohydrate)
A traditional spaghetti meal can be pretty high in carbs. Spaghetti noodles and a breadstick are the main sources of carbohydrate in this meal, but the tomato sauce also contributes carbs. 


MEDIUM (about 60 grams of carbohydrate)
Here we have replaced the regular spaghetti with whole wheat spaghetti to increase the fiber. We've lowered the carbs by getting rid of the breadstick and using a smaller portion of spaghetti. We've added more nonstarchy vegetables (zucchini) to add more nutrients and fiber. You can also look for a marinara sauce that has no added sugar (check the nutrition facts panel!) or make your own. 

LOW (about 30 grams of carbohydrate)
For a low carb spaghetti meal, we've replaced all of the spaghetti noodles with zucchini noodles. These can be made at home with a vegetable peeler or a special "spiralizer" tool. You could also check the produce aisle or the freezer aisle of your store for spiralized "zoodles." Spaghetti squash can also be used as a low-carb substitute for pasta.



HIGH (about 90 grams of carbohydrate)
A traditional burrito is high in carbs thanks to a large (10-inch) flour tortilla, beans, and rice. Other fillings like lean beef and cheese add protein and fat for a filling meal.

MEDIUM (about 60 grams of carbohydrate) 
For a lower carb burrito, we've left out the rice and used slightly less beans in the filling. With less filling, we can use a smaller tortilla (8-inches), and we've swapped in a whole-wheat tortilla for more fiber. You could add more lean meat to your burrito, or other nonstarchy veggies like peppers and onions, avocado, or diced tomatoes.

LOW (about 30 grams of carbohydrate)
Instead of wrapping your burrito fillings in a tortilla, you could serve them on top of shredded lettuce or cabbage for a low carb burrito bowl. Keep the beans for fiber and protein and add other nonstarchy vegetables like peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Top it of with a light ranch dressing for a creamy, flavorful salad. 



HIGH (about 90 grams of carbohydrate)
Sandwiches are great for a quick and easy lunch whether you're traveling to an office or working from home. This traditional lunch meal gets its carb from sandwich bread, chips, and an apple. The sandwich is filled with lean deli turkey, avocado, cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise.


MEDIUM (about 60 grams of carbohydrate)
With some simple changes, we can easily reduce the carbs in this lunch. For a lower carb sandwich, we've replaced the large Kaiser roll with a lower carb, whole-wheat sandwich thin, but the contents of the sandwich are the same. The chips are still there, but we've reduced the portion size.

LOW (about 30 grams of carbohydrate)
For an even lower carb lunch, you can ditch the bread entirely and wrap your sandwich in a large lettuce leaf. Here we have also replaced the potato chips with whole-wheat crackers, and reduced the apple portion to half of an apple instead of the whole apple. 


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