Are Lean Cuisine's New Meals Really Diabetes-Friendly?

A Lean Cuisine Balance Bowl frozen meal on a green lined background.

Lean Cuisine/Verywell

Key Takeaways

  • Lean Cuisine now offers “diabetes-friendly” frozen meals that make it easy for people trying to manage their blood sugar levels to enjoy an easy, nutritionally balanced meal.
  • While Lean Cuisine’s Balance Bowls do include components of a diabetes-friendly diet, they are relatively low in calories, which may leave some people feeling hungry shortly after eating them.
  • Including plenty of non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, and carbohydrates at every meal can help people living with diabetes manage their blood sugars.

Over 37 million Americans are living with diabetes. It’s no surprise that more products that help people manage diabetes are showing up on grocery store shelves.

For example, Lean Cuisine recently announced the launch of a new line of “diabetes-friendly” frozen meals called Balance Bowls.

Here’s what experts say about Lean Cuisine’s new meals, as well as what really makes a product a healthy choice for people living with diabetes who need to manage their blood sugar.

What Makes a Diabetes-Friendly Meal?

A company can easily put a label on a product that claims it’s “diabetes-friendly,” but what does that really mean?

“A diabetes-friendly meal should contain adequate amounts of fiber and protein, with moderate amounts of carbohydrates,” Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD, a Texas-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Milk & Honey Nutrition, LLC, told Verywell. “This balance of different food groups helps promote slow and steady digestion, which in turn, promotes stable blood sugar levels.”

The Diabetes Plate Method

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the Diabetes Plate Method is a simple way to build a meal that supports healthy blood sugar levels.

When following these guidelines:

  • Half of your plate should be non-starchy vegetables (like carrots, mushrooms, and okra)
  • One-quarter of your plate should be lean protein (like lean beef, non-fried fish, and tofu)
  • The other quarter of your plate should be food that’s higher in carbohydrates (like grains, starchy vegetables, beans and legumes, fruit, yogurt, and milk)

In addition to including plenty of vegetables, starches, and proteins, Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook, said people living with diabetes should limit sodium and saturated fat.

“They should also make sure that shortfall nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, fiber, and potassium are part of their daily diet,” she told Verywell.

Harris-Pincus added that people living with diabetes can also benefit from including at least 8 grams of fiber per meal.

Are Lean Cuisine Balance Bowls Diabetes-Friendly?

Lean Cuisine's new bowls are available in four varieties: brown rice, black beans, and veggies; lemon garlic shrimp with veggies and brown rice; eggplant parmesan; and pasta primavera.

Each of the bowls contains zero added sugar and is 400 calories or less.

“Lean Cuisine’s meals meet the American Diabetes Association standards for diabetes-friendly and offer sufficient amounts of protein and fiber for the serving size.” Phipps said. “But the bowls may be smaller than most people need for a meal, potentially leaving the consumer still hungry or unsatisfied.”

To make the bowls more of a full meal, Harris-Pincus suggests adding more steamed vegetables to soak up the sauce or a side salad for more fiber.

Other Meal Ideas for Managing Diabetes

Having a convenient diabetes-friendly frozen meal handy is a quick way to get nourished on a busy day or when you’re not feeling like cooking.

The new Lean Cuisine Balance Bowls are a no-fuss meal that supports diabetes management goals, but they are not the only quick, easy, and affordable diabetes-friendly meal option.

“Tacos are actually a great quick and easy diabetes-friendly meal,” Phipps said. “Start with your favorite type of tortilla and pile them high with delicious veggies and your preferred lean protein source.”

Harris-Pincus suggests two meals she says are “easier than people think” to make:

  • A veggie-heavy stir fry with chicken, shrimp, or tofu with a modest portion of rice
  • Grilled salmon with roasted veggies and a 3- to 4-ounce sweet potato

 Some other fast, nutritious, and diabetes-friendly meals include:

  • A 3-ounce piece of lean beef, cooked asparagus, and a portion of cooked quinoa
  • Turkey meatballs, whole grain spaghetti, and tomato sauce with a side salad
  • Scrambled eggs and veggies on whole-grain toast
  • A green leafy salad topped with fresh berries, grilled tofu, diced avocado, and an olive oil-based dressing

Keep in mind that your diet is not the only factor that may affect your blood sugar. Physical activity, quality sleep, and managing stress are also key parts of a healthy lifestyle with diabetes.

What This Means For You

If you have diabetes, the new Lean Cuisine Balance Bowls can offer a quick meal that lines up with the recommendations from the American Diabetes Association.

If the low-calorie frozen meals are not enough to leave you feeling nourished and satisfied, you can add extra veggies or use them as inspiration for your own diabetes-friendly recipes.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Statistics about diabetes.

  2. American Diabetes Association. Eat good to feel good.