The Best Lunches for Diabetes

Quinoa salad
Natasa Mandic/Stocksy United

Meal planning can be tough. What will you eat today? What's for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks? Lunch is often a meal that people struggle with because they are rushed, eating at their desk or just too confused by all the options. Preparing meals in advance and in bulk can help tremendously, and leftovers can be a lifesaver. If you have diabetes, though, it's important to monitor your carbohydrate intake.

Ask your dietitian or certified diabetes educator to determine how many carbohydrates you should eat for lunch. In general, most people with diabetes should keep their carbohydrate intake to about 45g for lunch. (This is specific to individuals based on calorie needs, activity level, blood glucose control and medication regimen). Carbohydrate choices should be rich in fiber. Lunch meals should also contain protein and heart-healthy fat to sustain energy, keep you full, and prevent your blood sugars from rising too rapidly. Here are some great lunch options for people with diabetes.

Grilled Chicken Vegetable Wrap 

Fill a whole grain wrap (preferably one with at least 3g of fiber and about 20g of carbohydrates) with chopped or sliced grilled chicken breast and leftover roasted vegetables. I like to use roasted eggplant, zucchini, and onions. Spread 1/3 avocado for added fiber, flavor, and healthy fat. Pair with 1 1/4 cup of sliced strawberries. Tip: To find a whole grain wrap, look at the ingredient list. The first ingredient on the label should say whole or the product should contain the whole grain stamp.

Quinoa Bowl

Quinoa is an ancient grain that is naturally gluten-free, rich in fiber and protein. Per serving, it contains fewer carbohydrates than other starches. One cup of quinoa contains 170 calories, 2.5g fat, 30g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 7g protein. Top 1 cup of cooked quinoa with chopped tomatoes, carrots, 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, and diced leftover protein from last night's dinner. 

Tip: You can substitute any other non-starchy vegetables for tomatoes and carrots. 

Tuna Spinach Salad

Tuna is rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids, which has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease. Omit traditional mayonnaise and mix tuna with two tablespoons hummus. You will save on saturated fat and calories, and load up on flavor. Mix together spinach salad, cucumber, carrots, and any other non-starchy vegetables you have in the refrigerator. Add 1/2 cup beans (if canned you should rinse in water first) for good quality carbohydrate, protein, and fiber. Use vinegar and one teaspoon of olive oil for dressing. I like to add fresh garlic and hot pepper to my dressing for added flavor.

Open-Faced Roasted Turkey Sandwich With Sweet Potato 'Fries'

Roasted turkey tenderloins are a great alternative to chicken. Turkey tenderloins are part of the turkey breast – they are low in calories and fat, and you can find them at the local grocery store. I like to make a big batch and use the leftovers for lunch sandwiches. You can place one turkey tenderloin on one slice of whole grain bread, top with sauteed spinach and a handful of leftover sweet potato fries for added fiber, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Tip: To save on fat and calories roast sweet potatoes in the oven with garlic and olive oil. Keep the skin on for added fiber. 

Roasted Pepper and Onion Chicken Burger 

Save on saturated fat and calories by swapping ground beef for lean ground chicken. Add chopped veggies like peppers and onions for added texture, flavor, and fiber. You can grill the burgers or bake them in the oven. Place a burger on a whole grain bun or avoid the bun altogether to save on carbohydrates and place your burger on top of green salad with 1/2 cup black beans and 1/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese. 

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Article Sources
  • American Heart Association. Fish and Omega 3 Fatty Acids.