• Ariel Warren, RDN, CDCES

Plant-Based Eating with Type 1 Diabetes *Recipe Included*

This open-face chickpea salad sandwich is my go-to meal lately. This recipe is SO easy, SO filling, and VERY Diabetic-Friendly. This chickpea spread is packed with fiber and protein that greatly decrease any postprandial spikes.

As always, I love to give a shoutout my favorite ingredients with any recipe. This time, the chickpeas, avocado, and onions are the most tasty tri-combo...ever.

  1. Chickpeas

  2. Avocado

  3. Red Onion


Lately, I have been on a plant-based diet. Why? Well, I am 14 weeks pregnant, and apparently cheese and meat makes me super nauseous. As a Dietitian and a Diabetes Educator through the years, I have seen 3 different types of Diabetic Vegan Eaters.

1. Diabetic Vegans that Eat Junk. Sure, they are feeling good because they are not eating animals, BUT they are filling their nutritional needs with...well...junk with little protein or fiber. If you are diabetic, this type of Vegan eating is NOT going to be in your favor. This will cause frustrating blood sugar numbers and roller coasters of highs and lows.

2. Diabetic Vegans that eat decently, but High Carb. AKA a lot of fruit, bread, pasta. Yikes, this is going to cause many blood sugar roller coasters. Eating high carb with little protein is also going to increase anxiety and have you constantly worrying about if you did or did not give enough insulin for that last meal??

3. Diabetic Vegans that Balance their Meals. Balance includes having a healthy source of protein, with each meal/snack. Including fiber, and heart-healthy fat can further decrease postprandial benefits. Whenever there is a carb, it is couple with some sort of protein. Only when the Diabetic is low, do they eat straight fruit or higher carb foods.

If you are a Diabetic, it is extremely important to be the third type of Vegan. Eating with balance of carbs, fat, and protein can drastically improve your blood sugars and very possibly decrease your insulin resistance. Protein, dietary fiber, and healthy fat can also decrease postprandial spikes in order to give you more level blood sugar (AKA that beautiful flat line on your CGM).

My advice, base EACH meal/snack on a protein.

No matter what type of diet you are eating (plant-based, keto, standard American, really old Easter candy, etc), fiber, fat, but especially PROTEIN helps decrease the sudden postprandial spike after you eat carbs.

PROTEIN = your friend, especially when you are diabetic. However, as a Dietitian, I do have a much stronger affinity towards plant-based protein because strong research suggests that unlike animal-based protein, plant-based protein maybe beneficial to decrease inflammation and certain cancers (we'll get into this another day).

Back to protein, how to make it the center of your meal.

EXAMPLE: Let's say I am feeling a sandwich, Vegan sandwiches are EASY to make, but I'm going to make sure I have some sort of protein-rich ingredient.

The protein-rich ingredient can be a bean or lentil spread or patty. I can add cooked tofu or tempeh, or make a spread out of edamame. I can toast a chickpea hash, or add a little Nutrition Yeast & Cashew cheese. The options are really endless. Whatever I do, there needs to be a protein. Along with any plant-based protein, fiber will already also be included.

Fiber + Protein = Happy Blood Sugar & Easier Weight Loss/Maintenance. WIN-WIN.


As a Diabetes Educator and a Dietitian, I recommend to eat about 15-20 grams of plant-based protein per meal and about 5-10 grams for snacks. IMPORTANT: Protein needs depend on your body composition, your fitness plan, if you have had a recent surgery, and your weight loss/fitness goals.

Personal Benefits Since Going Plant-Based??

Okay, as diabetics, do you feel that you are walking experiment? I do. So when I first decided on really sticking to more plant-based/Vegan, I ate a chickpea salad for lunch, but included cheese. That day, slowly and frustratingly, even with full-fledge correction blousing with my pump, the blood sugar would not come down. Not until 3 hours later, after 3 corrections, 100 squats, and running up and down 6 flights of stairs (I was working at the clinic, so I had to be creative) did my blood sugar FINALLY come down to about 115 mg/dL. It was frustrating to say the lest.

Next day, I ate the EXACT same chickpea salad, but without cheese. The results? I actually had to have a small apple because the same amount of insulin I took the day before was too much for the SAME salad, the only difference was that I added cheese the day before. For about 3 hours after my chickpea lunch, my highest spike was 110 mg/dL.

Ever since this experience, I have been eating Plant-Based. As I have been eating plant-based, I have had . . .

1. Decrease my basal (background insulin)

From about 14.5u = 11.75u

2. High blood sugar when corrected comes down about 1/5X faster.

3. Increased my carb:insulin average ratio (get ready for this...)

My Old Carb Ratio 1:15

Plant-Based Carb Ratio 1:21

4. However, no noticeable change with my correction factor, just the time to get a high down.

To be honest, I'm still in disbelief about my carb-ratio difference. Every diabetic is different, but there has been an amazing difference in insulin sensitivity thus far eating plant-based, and it is exciting.


Plant-based means that to eat a majority of plant foods, majority meaning mostly, but not always, therefore it allows room for moderation to have occasional animal products.

It is important to be moderate. I'm human and I'm female, so occasionally, I still want a little brownie or a taste of cinnamon roll, which will most likely have dairy from butter, and eggs. I may even want some BBQ during the summer. Guess what, I may have to bolus more, but I will never completely cut any food out forever. As long as you are not allergic to a food or have strong negative reactions, you should never write a food off forever.

When you have extreme restrictions (i.e. "I VOW TO never ___________ AGAIN.") Your cravings for what you are cutting off forever, seem much more tempting. Learning moderation is an area I work on a deep level with patients to help them overcome the hurtful dieting mentality and help my patients develop lifestyle changes that actually stick and make them feel much more satisfaction and control with their lives.

Going plant-based also means to eat a lot of plants, not cookies, crackers, airheads, and cracker jack caramel popcorn, you know, junk. You can be vegan, and not be plant-based. As a Dietitian, I have seen this a lot. Which isn't an issue, just a chance for education.

DISCLAIMER: EVERY diabetic is different, every diabetic has different reactions, intolerances, likes, dislikes, etc. Dairy and meat may work extremely well for you, and plant-based may extremely well. It is about finding what works for YOU.

DIABETES CHALLENGE: See how dairy and/or meat products affect you. Have a regular day of foods that you usually eat, pay special attention to how much insulin you need to cover those carbs, how difficult it is to correct a high, and how much basal/long-acting insulin you need to keep a decent fasting blood sugar.

NEXT, eat the exact same foods, BUT take out the dairy parts to what you ate the day before. Do the best you can, I understand that dairy is sometimes the main ingredient in certain foods you usually eat. In that case, have a non-dairy food with a similar amount of carbs to the food you ate the day before.

It may take 2-3 days before you to really see a difference, but if you do start to see a difference in a single day, consider taking a full week off from dairy and/or meat to see how these positive effects are increased with time. Next, you can see if other foods affect you too. If you have Hashimoto's or any thyroid disorder, gluten could possibly be more difficult for you to keep good numbers while eating. It can be a process, but over time, you will find answers.

If you need help and/or just interested in changing up your eating, you can send me an email so we can work together.

CHICKPEAS nutrition

Black Beans Nutrition (1/2 cup): 130 calories. 21 total grams of carbohydrates. 5 grams of dietary fiber. 7 grams of protein.


Canned beans can be just has healthy as dry beans that have been cooked, just make sure to rinse them because sodium is added as a preservative or flavoring. If you are worried about BPA, go for the BPA/organic beans. I cook dry beans because they are so cheap, BUT sometimes, life gets busy, and I just grab beans from the can, and rinse them.

Open-Face Chickpea Salad Sandwich (Diabetic Friendly)

Servings: 4 servings

Prep Time: 5 min

Total Time: 5 min



  • 15 oz can cooked chickpeas (or garbanzo) rinsed and drained

  • 2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp your favorite balsamic & oil salad dressing*

  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary

  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme

White Balsamic Dressing*: I LOVE the White Balsamic from Sam's Club.


1. Rinse chickpeas and chop red onion.

2. With a high-power blender (I use a refurbished Blendtec), add all chickpea spread ingredients. Pulse until you reach your desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky).

3. Dip cut up veggies (i.e. carrots, cucumber chips, celery) into chickpea spread OR make an open-faced sandwich on seed bread (I like Dave's Killer Good Seed, Thin-Sliced Bread).

Nutrition facts:

Per Serving. Total Calories: 212. Total Fat: 6g (Saturated: 1g, Monounsaturated: 2g, Polyunsaturated: 2g, Trans: 0g). Cholesterol: 0mg*. Sodium: 31g. Potassium: 1024mg. Total Carbohydrates: 31g (Dietary Fiber: 9g, Sugars: 5g). Protein: 10g.

*Plants do not contain cholesterol.

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As always, if you are having trouble with your diabetes and/or weight loss, email me or visit my website so we can figure out a customized game plan based entirely on you. I'm 100% here for you and understand all your frustrations because I am a T1D and a Registered Dietitian.

When we talk, I will look in detail at what, when, and the amount you are eating, along with what you are doing for exercise (or not doing, we'll be honest with each other). Together we will analyze your blood sugar (use your Dexcom Clarity reports if you have a Dexcom) and together we will decipher why you are getting your frustrating highs and lows. After a single session, you will have answers and a much better clarity of why your blood sugars react they way they do to your food, exercise, and lifestyle.

After talking, we will stay in touch, and you will have direct access to me for any questions. I deeply care about each and everyone of my clients.

If you just have a general question, send me an email and I will get back to you ASAP.


Your friend & Dietitian,

Ariel Warren, RD, CD, T1D

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For more articles from me and other health professionals, check out HapiBody.com. On HapiBody, you can always ask ANY health question and be answered by a professional. HapiBody also has great healthy recipes for you and your whole family and effective at-home workouts for weight loss and full body toning.

Lastly, if you want to join a T1D FB Group who is supportive and full of great workouts and blood sugar challenges, join "Getting Fit with T1D". Right now we are having a 1 month HbA1c challenge.

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