Balanced Meals – Healthy Meal Ideas

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Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean complicated recipes or ingredients that you do not like. You can create meals at home that are easy, tasty and healthy with a few simple steps.

Our Diabetes SA resource – Balanced Meals can help you do just that.

Download: Balanced meals – healthy meal ideas

The balanced plate helps you guide your portions and with the meal builders there is always an alternative. Use your personal preferences and pick meals that are easy, and you know you are going to enjoy!

Check out the Diabetes SA Balance Meals guide and the accompanying tips from our Accredited Practising Dietitian.

For a balanced meal aim for ½ plate non-starchy veggies (broccoli, capsicum, leafy greens, green beans, snow peas, carrots), ¼ carbohydrates (whole breads or wraps, pasta, rice) and the remaining ¼ lean proteins (eggs, chicken, seafood, beef, turkey).

This can be a bit tricky to estimate for mixed meals but as a general rule, aim for a larger portion of veggies each time.

You can also try applying the ‘balance plate’ idea to your chopping board.

For example, fill your chopping board with at least ½ veggies, ¼ meat (for food safety put this on a separate plate, to avoid cross contamination) and ¼ carbohydrates. Just remember that that rice and pasta will expand up to 3 times once cooked.

To start, pick your main 3 ingredients (non-starchy veg, carbohydrate and protein).

As veggies should make up ½ of the plate, make them the star of the show! We always make the effort to flavour meats, fish and poultry but often don’t put the same effort into veggies, reverting to the same cooking methods like boiling or steaming which doesn’t add much flavour.

Put the same effort into flavouring veggies as you would the protein portion of the meal.

  • Pick your favourite flavours – lightly pan fry veggies in olive oil and garlic (add chilli if you want more punch!); add herbs like rosemary to roast veggies.
  • Dress up salads with dressings! Make your own with easy ingredients likes lemon/lime, oil or garlic/ginger, you can even add herbs like mint or coriander.
  • Aim for as much colour as you can – variety is key for vitamins and minerals. However, if you don’t have many options in your fridge use what you have on hand.

Now pick your carbohydrate. Aim for low GI and higher fibre foods like whole grain breads or wraps, sweet potato or whole grain pasta.

Lastly pick your protein portion. Go for lean cuts or trim fat before cooking. Try egg-based meals or a plant based protein like tofu.

Healthy meal ideas

Healthy eating for someone with diabetes is simply healthy eating for everyone. Get started with these tasty meal ideas that the whole family can enjoy.



  • Beef and pasta soup
  • Cold rolls
  • Avocado, chicken and cucumber sandwich
  • Mexican bean and rice salad



Not everyone needs snacks between meals. A good tip is to be guided by your natural appetite cues. If you choose to include snacks, some healthy options include mixed unsalted nuts, piece of fruit, hard-boiled egg, or wholegrain crackers.

Check out our recipes for more recipe ideas.

What does a balanced meal look like?

For a balanced meal, aim to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with high fibre carbohydrates. Small amounts of healthy fats can also be included.

Non-starchy vegetables

For lots of fibre, vitamins and minerals, fill a half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. How much? Minimum two handfuls.

High fibre carbohydrates

For energy, fibre and B vitamins, fill a quarter of your plate with high fibre carbohydrates. How much? Fist size serving portion.

Lean protein

For strong muscles and to keep you full, fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein. How much? Palm size serving portion.

Healthy fats

Choose unsaturated fats to lower cholesterol levels and to reduce risk of heart disease. How much? Thumb size serving portion for oils when cooking.

How to add more flavour to your food and drinks?

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland. Be creative and use flavours you enjoy.

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add more flavour and nutrients to your meal. Spice up your cooking!


Dress up your meals with a healthy homemade dressing to pack in extra flavour.

Flavoured water

Water is the preferred drink choice for everyone. Add some fruit or vegetable slices to flavour your water.

Looking for more advice on cooking for diabetes?

Consider a consult with one of our dietitians for more support on meal planning.


Download: Balanced meals – healthy meal ideas