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Managing Diabetes: Multiple Mini-Meals or 3 Squares?

By

Chef Franklin Becker

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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plate of food and blood glucose monitor

If you have diabetes, planning your meals becomes important. What you eat—and when—affects your blood glucose. But there are no hard and fast rules about meal plans. What works for one person may not help another.  



What’s Your Style?

Some people prefer to eat three square meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Others like the mini-meal approach: five or six small meals, each providing about the same number of calories. And some people do best with three meals and a light snack or two in between. Your healthcare team can help you figure out a meal pattern that fits your needs and lifestyle.

Baked apples for dessert will satisfy your sweet tooth while keeping you healthy!

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 16, 2015

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Eating several mini-meals throughout the day seems to be a popular approach, and it’s my personal preference. Snacks and mini-meals can keep you from getting ravenous and overeating. But a recent study found eating two larger meals a day was more effective in controlling blood glucose than six smaller meals. Of course, with any approach, portion control is key!

Planning Healthy Meals

Whatever your meal pattern, choose healthful foods. Here are some tips.

  • Three squares a day: There’s an easy way to balance larger meals. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter with whole grains, and one-quarter with lean protein such as baked fish or grilled chicken. Vegetables and whole grains are even easier to eat when you punch up the flavor with seasonings.

  • Mini-meals: Eat the same sorts of foods you would eat at a full meal, but have smaller portions. You can divide “meal foods” in two to make mini-meals. For example, have half a sandwich and a small salad for one mini-meal. Have the other sandwich half with fruit for a second mini-meal.

  • Snacks: Steer clear of typical snack foods like chips, pretzels and cookies. But you already knew that, right? Choose healthier options, like bean dip with veggie sticks, fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, and nuts.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jan 29, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Eating Two Larger Meals a Day (Breakfast and Lunch) is More Effective than Six Smaller Meals in a Reduced-Energy Regimen for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomised Crossover Study. Kahleova, H., et al. Diabetologia. 2014;57(8):1552-60.
  2. Nutrition Therapy Recommendations for the Management of Adults with Diabetes. Evert, A. B., et al. Diabetes Care. 2014;37(suppl 1):S120-43.
  3. Create Your Plate, American Diabetes Association, December 16, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/create-your-plate)
  4. What is a Diabetes Meal Plan? American Diabetes Association, August 27, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/diabetes-meal-plans-and-a-healthy-diet....
  5. Snacks, American Diabetes Association, May 13, 2014 (http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/food-tips/snacks.html)
  6. Revamp Your Snacks, American Diabetes Association (http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2014-10/revamp-your-snacks.html#)

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