15 Delicious and Nutritious Lunch Ideas for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, it is important for you to manage your diet in order to maintain your blood sugar…(continue reading)

If you have diabetes, it is important for you to manage your diet in order to maintain your blood sugar levels and prevent complications.

Therefore, mealtimes can be a bit of a challenge to find foods that are both nutritious and satisfying, but also low in sugar and carbs. In this article, we will provide 15 different lunch ideas for you if you have diabetes.

We’ll cover everything from sandwiches and salads to soups and stews.

So whether you’re looking for something simple or something more complex, we will give you suggestions for lunch ideas that will be both delicious and help maintain your blood sugar levels.

Why is managing your diet important for diabetes?

There are a few reasons why managing your diet is important if you have diabetes.

For one, eating healthy foods helps to keep your blood sugar levels in check, which is important in maintaining your blood glucose levels in the normal range.

Additionally, a nutritious diet can help you to maintain a healthy weight, which is important for managing diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes where obesity is a risk factor.

Finally, eating healthy foods provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly, which is important for overall health.

When you have diabetes and eat something high in sugar or carbohydrates, your blood glucose levels rise.

The reason for the rise is due to your body processing the food and breaking it down into glucose, also called blood sugar.

If you have diabetes, you can’t process the glucose because your body does not make the insulin required to metabolize it or your cells have become insulin resistant.

If your blood sugar spikes happen too often, it can lead to long-term health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

That’s why it’s important to limit sugary and high-carb foods in your diet.

What foods do you avoid if you are diabetic?

There are a few types of foods that you need to avoid if you have diabetes. These include:

Sugary foods and drinks

Sugar is not healthy if you have diabetes because it can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and they provide empty calories, meaning it is not very nutritious.

When you eat sugar, your body breaks it down into glucose, which is then released into your bloodstream which can cause your blood sugar levels to rise quickly.

Avoid sugary foods and drinks, such as candy, cookies, cake, fruit juice, and soda to maintain a healthy lifestyle with diabetes and limit these dangerous spikes.

Starchy vegetables

Starchy vegetables are high in carbohydrates and can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. These vegetables include potatoes, peas, corn, and winter squash.

Try to limit starchy vegetables in your diet or choose non-starchy vegetables instead.

Fried foods

Fried foods are high in fat and calories, which can contribute to weight gain and can also cause a blood sugar spike. Fried foods include french fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts among others.

High-carb foods

Carbohydrates are healthy for people in general, but if you have diabetes, you need to be careful about how many carbs you eat.

That’s because carbs are broken down into glucose. High-carb foods include bread, pasta, rice, and cereal. Choosing low-carb alternatives is a great way to maintain a healthy diet and manage your blood sugar levels.

Processed foods

Processed foods are often high in sugar, salt, and fat, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

Processed foods include lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage.

Unhealthy fats

Unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as butter, cheese, and red meat.

Trans fats are found in processed foods, such as margarine, shortening, and some types of cooking oil.

15 different lunch options for diabetics

Now that you know what to avoid, here are 15 lunch ideas for a diabetes-friendly lunch:

Salad with grilled chicken or fish

Salads that have grilled proteins like chicken or fish, especially salmon or tuna which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, are a great lunch option for diabetics.

The protein will help you feel full and the vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, will provide high fiber content, vitamins, and minerals.

Just be sure to avoid adding too much salad dressing or cheese to your salad, as these can add extra calories and fat.

Roasted turkey or chicken sandwich on whole-wheat bread

Roasted turkey or chicken sandwiches are a healthier alternative to lunch meats.

Look for whole wheat bread, which is higher in fiber than white bread, and add some greens and tomato to your sandwich for extra nutrients.

Bowl of chili with beans and ground beef

Chili is a hearty lunch option that can be made ahead of time.

Be cognizant to choose lean ground beef and beans that are low in sugar. You can also add vegetables to your chili for extra fiber and nutrients.

Wrap with grilled chicken, avocado, and greens

Wraps make a great lunch because they’re easy to customize.

Fill your wrap with grilled chicken, avocado, greens, and whatever other vegetables you like. A whole wheat wrap is preferable. Avoid adding too much sauce or dressing.

Black bean burger on a whole wheat bun

Black bean burgers are a great vegetarian option for lunch.

Look for burgers that are made with whole wheat buns and have little to no added sugar for the healthiest option. You can add avocado, tomato, and onion to your burger for extra flavor and nutrients.

Soup and a grilled cheese sandwich

Soup, depending on the type, can be packed with nutrients.

Just be sure to choose a soup that isn’t too high in sodium and doesn’t have fried dumplings or matzo balls in it. Pair your soup with a grilled cheese sandwich made with whole wheat bread and low-fat cheese.

Vegetable stir-fry over brown rice

Stir-fries offer you many options for choosing your favorite vegetables. Brown rice, which is higher in fiber than white rice, is preferable.

You can also add protein to your stir-fry, such as chicken, shrimp, or tofu.

Fruit and yogurt parfait

A fruit and yogurt parfait is a great light lunch option.

Choose plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit for a lunch that’s low in sugar. You can also add a handful of nuts or seeds to your parfait for extra protein and healthy fats.

Protein shake

If you’re on the go and need a quick meal, protein shakes can provide portability and be healthy at the same time.

Choose a shake that has little to no added sugar to keep your glucose levels in the proper range.

Adding a piece of fruit or vegetable to your shake for extra nutrients can also be beneficial and provide more flavor.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a classic lunch option that can also be healthy for diabetics.

Use whole wheat or whole grain bread and natural peanut butter to maximize its nutritional value.

You can also add bananas, strawberries, or other fruits to your sandwich for extra sweetness.

Cottage cheese and fruit

Cottage cheese is a great source of protein. Choose low-fat cottage cheese and add your own fresh fruit for a lunch that’s high in protein and low in sugar.

If you want more healthy fats, try adding nuts or seeds to your cottage cheese for extra healthy fats.

Quinoa bowl with vegetables and grilled chicken

Quinoa is high in fiber and protein which will help keep you full after lunch.

The bowls can also be customized to add plenty of vegetables and top with grilled chicken or other lean meats. Add avocado, nuts, or seeds for extra healthy fats.

Egg salad on whole wheat bread

Egg salad is a great lunch option for diabetics. Be sure to use whole wheat slices of bread and light mayonnaise instead of unhealthy alternatives.

Chopped vegetables, such as celery or onion, can be added for extra nutrients and flavor.

Tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat bread

Tuna is packed with protein and nutritious if you are looking for fish that is readily available in most supermarkets.

Whole wheat bread and light mayonnaise will also make it more diabetic-friendly while adding in some chopped vegetables, such as celery or onion, for extra nutritional benefits.

Avocado toast with egg

Avocado toast provides you with the heart-healthy fat your body needs to function. Whole wheat bread makes it an even healthier option and you can also add an egg for extra protein.

Other toppings, such as tomatoes or spinach, can be added for extra nutrients.

Please note that these meals can be healthy when you eat them in the correct portion size.

If you do not practice portion control, you may still gain weight and can have your blood glucose levels rise to an unhealthy range. Also, make sure to read any nutrition labels for trying new foods. 

Summary

If you have diabetes, it is important to eat a healthy diet to help manage your blood sugar levels.

There are some foods to avoid such as sugary foods and drinks, starchy vegetables, fried food, high-carb food, processed foods, and unhealthy fats to avoid these unhealthy spikes in glucose levels.

Despite these limitations, there are plenty of healthier food choices for you to eat on a diabetic diet and we listed 15 healthy options above for a tasty lunch.

If you have any more questions about diabetes or a diabetes diet, please talk to your doctor, health care provider, or dietician to determine a healthy meal plan that is best for you.

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Jacqueline Hensler and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera. 

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