Switching to a vegan diet as a diabetic may seem like a daunting task, but it can be a very manageable option. The first order of business is choosing healthy, vegan alternatives from each food group that are also lower on the glycemic index (GI), a scale that measures the impact certain foods will have on your blood sugar.[1] You can make a safe and healthy switch to a vegan lifestyle as long as you choose healthy, nutrient-rich replacements from your original diet.

Method 1 of 2:
Crafting Your Daily Diet

  1. 1
    Aim to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily. Set your sights on green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, and dark yellow veggies like bell peppers. Reach for whole fruits, which tend to have a lot of fiber from their skin. If you like drinking vegetable or fruit juice, choose a beverage that doesn’t have a lot of extra sugar or syrup. [2] Focus on fruits and veggies that have a lower GI, so your blood sugar won’t spike as quickly.[3]
    • For instance, apples and oranges have a much lower glycemic index than watermelons. Similarly, boiled carrots and taro have a lower glycemic index than mashed potatoes and boiled pumpkin.
    • A serving of fresh fruit is around the size of your clenched fist, while ½ cup (10-31 g) is the typical serving size of leafy vegetables.[4]
    • Ideally, choose fruits and veggies that don’t have a lot of extra fat, sweeteners, salt, or sauce added.[5]
  2. 2
    Eat 6 or more servings of whole grains each day. Opt for bread and other grain products with a “vegan” label, which are made with whole grains but no animal products, like eggs or dairy milk. Supplement your diet with staples like brown rice and whole-grain pasta, along with certain cereals.[6] Keep in mind that grain products are higher on the GI, and may have a larger impact on your blood sugar levels.[7]
    • For instance, whole wheat bread ranks with a 74 out of 100 on the GI scale, while whole-wheat spaghetti only ranks a 48.
    • For reference, 1 slice of bread or ½ cup (70 g) of whole=wheat pasta equal 1 serving.[8]
  3. 3
    Get 0.8 grams of nut-, bean-, and soy-based protein per 1 kg (2.2 lb) of body weight. Choose meals and snacks with a lot of plant-based protein, as protein can be a bit difficult to come by when you cut meat out of your diet.[9] You can get a lot of protein from nuts, like peanuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts, or you may prefer lentils and other beans. Instead of dairy products, look for foods and drinks with soy as a replacement ingredient, like soy milk or yogurt.[10]
    • Use this calculator to figure out how much protein you need, based on your height and weight: https://www.calculator.net/protein-calculator.html.
    • Peanut and almond butter are other great sources of protein that are easy to slip into a snack or meal.
    • For instance, you can have soy yogurt for breakfast and a bean-based chili for lunch.
  4. 4
    Enjoy 2-3 servings of plant-based milk and yogurt each day. Switch out dairy milk and other dairy products for a plant-based alternative, like soy or almond milk.[11] Thankfully, soy milk ranks very low on the GI scale and is easy to incorporate into your diet while managing diabetes.[12]
    • Even if it’s not dairy, try to enjoy 2-3 glasses of calcium-rich soy milk or yogurt each day. For reference, 1  c (240 mL) of soy milk equals a serving.[13]

    Meal Planning Ideas

    Breakfast: A bowl of porridge with a piece of fruit[14]

    Lunch: Cooked quinoa and grilled veggies[15]

    Dinner: Sweet potatoes with peanuts and lentils[16]

    Snack: Trail mix with vegan ingredients[17]

    Dessert: Fruit salad[18]

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Method 2 of 2:
Prioritizing Important Nutrients

  1. 1
    Snack on foods and dips that are fortified with vitamin B12. Look for soy yogurt, dairy-free milk, cereals, and dips that have extra B12 added in. You can only find B12 naturally in animal meat, so you’ll need to pick out foods that have vitamin B12 added in.[19]
    • The ideal amount of vitamin B12 to eat each day is 6 micrograms, which equals 100% of the “Daily Value” label on your food and drinks. Try to enjoy different snacks and beverages that add up to 100% overall.[20]
    • A single 8  fl oz (240 mL) glass of soy milk gives you 50% of the recommended B12 that you need in 1 day, while a serving of fortified breakfast cereal gives you 100%.
    • Vitamin B12 helps keep your blood healthy. If you don’t get enough, you may feel tired and sluggish.
  2. 2
    Enrich your diet with at least 1000 mg of calcium each day. Switch out dairy milk and yogurt for a plant-based alternative, like soy or almond milk. You can also get a lot of calcium from fresh produce, like oranges and kale, or from different types of peas and beans, like chickpeas and kidney beans. Check different food labels, like a loaf of whole wheat bread, to see if your foods are fortified with extra calcium.[21]
    • If you’re somewhere between ages 19 and 50, try to eat or drink at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day. You can get over 200 mg of calcium from a glass of soy milk.[22]
    • Beans and soy milk are generally low on the GI, and are a good addition to a diabetic diet.[23]
  3. 3
    Get your share of omega-3 fatty acids with walnuts and flaxseed. Snack on a handful of fatty seeds and nuts throughout the day, which can boost your Omega-3 fatty acid levels. You can also get a lot of omega-3 fatty acids from soy milk and tofu, which are pretty big staples in the vegan diet.[24]
    • You can sprinkle walnuts or flaxseed over a bowl of soy yogurt or cereal as a quick boost.
    • Try to eat around up to 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids each day.[25] For reference, a serving of walnuts has around 2.5 grams.[26]
  4. 4
    Consume at least 8 to 18 mg of iron on a daily basis. Choose foods like dark, leafy greens, dried fruit, and beans, which are a great plant-based source of iron. You may also find that some grains, like cereals and bread, have extra iron added in. To absorb as much iron as possible, get some of your iron from fruits and veggies that have a lot of vitamin C, which makes it easier for your body to take in the iron.[27]
    • For instance, a kale salad is a great source of iron.
    • If you’re an adult male, try to eat or drink 8 mg of iron each day. If you’re an adult female, supplement your diet with 18 mg of iron.[28]
  5. 5
    Choose drinks fortified with vitamin D. Look for beverages and foods that have vitamin D added in. You can get a lot of this vitamin from drinks like soy milk or orange juice, or you can boost your levels by going out in the sun for 10 minutes.[29]
    • If you’re a teen or adult try to eat or drink about 600 IU of vitamin D each day.
    • Soy milk doesn’t rank very high on the GI, and won’t likely cause your blood sugar to spike.[30]
  6. 6
    Eat at least 21 g of dietary fiber each day. Pick out foods like chickpeas, lentils, black beans, tofu, peanuts, and walnuts, which are all high in fiber. You can also switch it up by adding whole grains to your diet, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, vegan diets are naturally high in fiber, so you don’t need to worry about missing your daily requirement.[31]
    • Eating a lot of fiber can help prevent your blood sugar from going haywire.
    • Most kinds of nuts and seeds are a good source of fiber, as are soy products and legumes.
    • Beans have a very low GI, and are easy to incorporate into your diet.

    Did You Know? When certain people with type-2 diabetes switched to a vegan diet, they had an easier time managing their symptoms overall.[32]

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      1. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/veganism-and-diabetes
      2. https://diabetes.ufl.edu/outreach/resources/nutrition/type-1-diabetes/
      3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods
      4. https://veganhealth.org/soy-part-2/#serv
      5. https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/lifestyle/shopping/vegan-meal-plan
      6. https://veganhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/meal-plans/1800_day_1-by_meal.pdf
      7. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/loaded-sweet-potatoes
      8. https://veganhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/meal-plans/1800_day_1-by_meal.pdf
      9. https://veganhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/meal-plans/1800_day_1-by_meal.pdf
      10. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/veganism-and-diabetes
      11. https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/getting-enough-vitamin-b12
      12. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/veganism-and-diabetes
      13. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/calcium-content-of-foods
      14. https://veganhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/meal-plans/1800_day_1-by_meal.pdf
      15. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/veganism-and-diabetes
      16. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/essential-fatty-acids
      17. https://walnuts.org/nutrition/nutrition-info/alpha-linolenic-acid/
      18. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/veganism-and-diabetes
      19. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
      20. https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-vegan-diet
      21. https://veganhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/meal-plans/1800_day_1-by_meal.pdf
      22. https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/can-eating-more-plant-based-foods-help-manage-diabetes
      23. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/8/1777
      24. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/veganism-and-diabetes
      25. https://familydoctor.org/vegetarian-diet-how-to-get-the-nutrients-you-need/
      26. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/veganism-and-diabetes

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