Vegan Diabetes Meal Plan

Learn about diabetes and vegan diets through this guide and follow our free Vegan Diabetes Meal Plan example!

By Matt Olivares on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterized by increased glucose, or sugar, in the blood. This condition arises when the body either fails to produce sufficient insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar), known as Type 1 diabetes or is unable to effectively utilize the insulin it does have, referred to as Type 2 diabetes. Elevated blood sugar levels over an extended period can lead to serious health complications, including heart disease, nerve damage, and vision loss.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong chronic problem characterized by the pancreas being unable to produce the required amount of insulin or none at all. The immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, and this can lead to an overabundance of glucose in the body, which results in complications like stroke, kidney damage, retinopathy, nerve damage, heart disease, and death.

Meanwhile, type 2 diabetes is commonly found in middle-aged or older adults. This type is characterized by the pancreas producing less insulin for the body, and the body develops insulin resistance. The person with diabetes must get enough insulin to counteract the insulin resistance, or it will lead to glucose build-up. Those with this type of diabetes need to take insulin via shots or pumps, take medication like metformin, GLP-1 reception agonists, and SGLT2 inhibitors, lose weight healthily, and adjust their diets.

How can a vegan diet help people with diabetes?

Speaking of adjusting diets, one way to help manage diabetes is to adopt a vegan diet! Vegan diets can help diabetic patients because they’re typically rich in fiber and antioxidants and low in saturated fats. This diet is a plant based diet, and it does away entirely with animal foods and products and highly processed food.

A vegan diet comprises green leafy vegetables, whole grains including brown rice and whole wheat bread, chia seeds, cinnamon, and more. With proper meal planning, persons with diabetes can account for specific nutrient deficiencies and compensate for the total lack of animal protein consumption and animal protein sources by replacing them with vegan protein sources (e.g., soy protein from soy milk, quinoa, lentils).

This type of diet has the following health benefits:

  • It can result in a significant reduction of the risk of a person developing chronic diseases (like chronic kidney disease and heart disease)
  • Help regulate blood pressure and prevent a person from having high blood pressure
  • It can support weight loss and help maintain a healthy body weight
  • Provide healthy fat, lower insulin resistance, and improve insulin sensitivity, which, by extension, regulates blood sugar levels
  • Reduce the risk of inflammation and prevent any present inflammation from getting worse
  • It can create a healthy gut microbiome and improve metabolism
  • Lower the risk of developing diabetes for those who are said to be at risk

The 12 best vegan foods for persons with diabetes:

A vegan diet for persons with diabetes should have food from the following food categories and some specific examples below:

  • Leafy green vegetables for the fiber and other essential nutrients
  • Non-starchy vegetables for those who want to lower their carbohydrate intake a bit
  • Legumes for the complex carbohydrates and protein
  • Nuts for protein, healthy fats, and other essential minerals
  • Whole grains for complex carbohydrates
  • Animal food substitutes like tofu and tempeh for plant based protein
  • Chia seeds for fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Flaxseeds for fiber and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Avocados for healthy fats
  • Cinnamon for improving insulin sensitivity
  • Garlic for lowering blood sugar and protecting cardiovascular health
  • Low-sugar fruits like blackberries and blueberries

Plant based oil like olive oil can be used to cook delicious recipes, so make sure these are part of the grocery list. Plant based diets tend to have such oils.

By having a well-balanced and well-planned healthy diet full of low glycemic index foods, healthy snacks, low or no sugar fruit juices, and plant foods, a person following a vegan diet will get the food and nutrient components they need to ensure their body stays healthy.

What is the most common concern regarding plant based meals for persons with diabetes?

When a person adopts a vegan diet plan, they will cut out animal products, which means their diet will have certain nutrient deficiencies. This means they won’t get the same amount of nutrients, minerals, essential amino acids, and other essentials that they would when following a conventional diet. Examples include protein, healthy fatty acids, calcium, and iron.

Another thing they need to consider is diabetes management. The whole point of adopting this diet is to ensure they regulate their blood sugar patterns and lower the risk of getting complications that Type 2 Diabetes is known to lead to.

This means that diabetic patients or those at risk of becoming a diabetic need to have a well-planned diet that ensures that they are eating vegan food and getting the necessary amount of essential nutrients from their vegan recipes and plant based sources.

It’s best for such patients and those at risk of becoming diabetic to consult a dietitian and nutritionist so they can do the following and receive good health benefits through well-thought-out meal planning:

  • Plot their grocery lists,
  • Plot their meals and ensure they eat carbs (a healthy amount!),
  • Ensure they get the necessary amounts of dietary fiber, 
  • Ensure they are getting the essential amino acids they need,
  • Ensure they still get protein even with plant based meals, 
  • Ensure they are losing weight, prevent weight gain, and maintain a healthy body weight that won’t exacerbate the effects of diabetes,
  • And ensure that blood sugar levels are regulated.

It's best to consult a professional to accommodate a specific person's needs. Do they need to follow a low-fat vegan diet? Are kidney beans healthy for them? What plant based sources should they prioritize? These are just some of the questions that professionals can answer so they can help a person with diabetes or one who is at risk of developing diabetes to live a healthy life.

How to use our Vegan Diabetes Meal Plan

Vegan diet plans usually take the form of a chart or schedule. They showcase the specific foods that a person has to eat for each major meal of the day. Some templates include sections for snacks and suggestions on what exercises a person should do each day.

Our vegan diet plan template for persons with diabetes comes in the form of a schedule, and it’s easy to use! It contains several segments to account for all the days of the week. Before the schedule, a segment indicates and details a person’s health goals. Diabetes management or reducing the risk of having diabetes should be at the forefront since the plan is meant for those reasons, but people are free to indicate other health goals, too!

Each segment is structured as such:

  • Breakfast
  • Mid-morning Snack
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon Snack
  • Dinner
  • Exercise for the Day

The person using our template should indicate the specific foods and drinks they will consume for each meal. Nutritionists and dietitians can use this template to customize meal plans for their clients. Whatever is indicated should help manage diabetes, lower the risk of having it, and serve any other health goals indicated.

At the very end is a Notes box. Users of the template can write down anything that they want or what they believe their clients should take note of.

What foods should one avoid while following a vegan diet plan?

The whole point of this vegan diet plan is to counteract insulin resistance, increase insulin sensitivity, regulate blood glucose levels, and lose weight. Given this, one should avoid eating processed foods, refined sugar, sugary desserts, high-sugar fruits, high-glycaemic index carbohydrates, food high in saturated fat, and anything with high salt.

Also, because it is a vegan diet, you must avoid all animal-based products, whether beef, pork, fish, or poultry. Anything that has meat can’t be included. Even dairy products like milk and yogurt made of animals can’t be included.

What are additional tips for controlling diabetes?

Here are four tips that one should consider to help manage their diabetes, even while following a vegan diet plan:

  • Constantly monitor your blood glucose levels, especially after eating. This is so you know how much you must eat or if you need to stop eating. This is an excellent way to see how particular meals influence blood glucose levels.
  • Control the portions you eat. This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one. You don’t want to overeat one thing, like berries. They are low on sugar, but if you overeat, their sugar counts will compound, and you might go overboard.
  • Always hydrate! Drinking water is important to prevent dehydration and help regulate your blood glucose levels.
  • Get regular exercise! If you have diabetes, you must shed fat and maintain a healthy weight. Being obese can exacerbate the effects of diabetes. Exercising while following a vegan diet will help you reduce body weight and boost insulin sensitivity.
Can a vegan diet reverse type 2 diabetes?
Can a vegan diet reverse type 2 diabetes?

Commonly asked questions

Can a vegan diet reverse type 2 diabetes?

It has the potential to do so. A study entitled Remission of type 2 diabetes after treatment with a high-fiber, low-fat, plant-predominant diet intervention: a case series conducted by Panigrahi G, Goodwin SM, Staffier KL, and Karlsen M shows that a third of the people with diabetes they’ve examined have reversed their Type 2 Diabetes diagnoses by strictly following a low-fat, whole food and plant-predominant diet.

Is vegan mayo suitable for people with diabetes?

Yes. This is a better choice than regular mayo because it has a much lower amount of saturated fat. Saturated fat is a type of fat that needs to be avoided.

Are vegan diets healthier than meat?

Yes. Vegan diets are rich in antioxidants and can prevent and manage several health issues. However, for such a diet to be truly healthy, a person should still get the necessary nutrients and minerals. Well-planned vegan diets should do just that.

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