One of the biggest challenges for those who are living with diabetes is coming up with feasible meal plans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In some instances, individuals and their families will need to change their eating habits from the ground up while others are unsure of how to keep their food savory and appetizing. As the rate of diabetes continues to grow throughout the world, however, there are more options than ever when it comes to creating delicious meals that don’t skimp on flavor.

What typically makes this situation difficult is understanding exactly what makes a recipe okay for a diabetic. While regulating one’s blood sugar is typically the first step in this process, maintaining diet that is healthy in all aspects will reduce many of the symptoms and side effects of diabetes as well. In the morning, this often begins with the individual’s very first cup of coffee, tea, or other sweetened drink. Generic forms of sugar will have the biggest impact on one’s blood sugar, and that is why avoiding highly processed and sweetened foods is the first suggestion.

For those who do not want to completely remove sweet foods and drinks from their diets, there are a number of artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes that are used in a wide variety of meals, recipes, and even sold on their own. Currently, some of the most popular sugar substitutes include saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, and stevia. While many of these sweeteners are considered to be “free foods” with less than 20 calories, patients should speak with their doctors in order to understand the basic facts about nutrition and sweets and which is best for their own situation.

When planning lunches and dinners, most dieticians suggest a “balanced diet,” but this does not mean that diabetics need to steer clear of gourmet foods throughout the day. Instead, they simply need to take a fresh look at some of the base foods they use in their meals as well as the methods that they use to cook and flavor their food. This begins with whole breads and grains that the body will slowly break down once they are consumed into long-lasting energy and a balanced blood-sugar level. From there, one should keep the rest of their focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins with little consumption of dairy products, fats, and oils.

When meals do seem bland, the best method to change the tastes is to take a look at the initial products. There are now countless options for those who feel themselves getting bored with generic wheat breads, apples, potatoes, or other common staples. Anyone looking for new recipes should search in new markets or international food sections to find distinct flavors for grains and produce that will liven up their weekly meals. From quinoa and barley to grapefruits and kiwis, a little extra planning before one’s meal can make all the difference when regulating blood sugar and one’s overall health.