May 6, 2021

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23 Top-Notch Lunch Ideas for People with Diabetes

Figuring out what to eat for lunch every day can be challenging, especially for people with diabetes.

Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious, healthy, and easy-to-prepare options that can help round out your diet and keep blood sugar levels steady.

Here are 23 healthy and delicious lunch ideas for people with diabetes.

1. Burrito bowl

Burrito bowls are delicious and easy to tailor to your taste buds by adding your favorite ingredients.

To keep the carb content low, try using mixed greens as your base instead of rice, and top with beans, salsa, and grilled veggies.

You can also throw in some chicken, ground beef, or tofu to boost the protein content, which may support better blood sugar control (1).

2. Turkey veggie wrap

Wraps are convenient, customizable, and portable, making them a great choice for lunch.

Turkey veggie wraps, in particular, are high in protein and feature a variety of fiber-rich vegetables, which can slow the absorption of carbohydrates to stabilize blood sugar levels (1, 2).

Be sure to opt for whole wheat or low carb wraps and fill up on nutrient-dense ingredients, such as hummus, tomatoes, lettuce, and bell peppers.

3. Tuna salad

Tuna salad is a healthy, high protein meal typically made with ingredients like tuna, celery, onions, and mayonnaise (3).

You can make it at home and boost the protein content by trading mayonnaise for Greek yogurt. Or, add more fiber with veggies like carrots, radishes, or tomatoes.

Pair your tuna salad with some whole wheat crackers for a simple lunch to enjoy at home, work, or school.

4. Stuffed bell peppers

Stuffed bell peppers are often filled with meat or beans, mixed veggies, and whole grains like brown rice, couscous, or quinoa.

By choosing high protein and fiber-rich ingredients for your filling, you can easily make it a healthy, diabetes-friendly meal.

Lean sources of protein like ground beef or ground turkey are great choices, along with nutritious veggies like tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and onions.

5. Chicken fajita bowl

A chicken fajita bowl can be a healthy, flavorful lunch for people with diabetes.

They’re easy to prepare in advance and typically feature several foods high in protein and fiber that help keep your blood sugar levels in check, including chicken, brown rice, and veggies.

Be sure to pack on the vegetables to maximize the potential health benefits and top it off with a bit of salsa, avocado, or cilantro.

6. Buddha bowl

Buddha bowls are popular meals consisting of small portions of several different foods, typically plant-based proteins, veggies, and whole grains.

Not only can you mix and match the ingredients to add more protein and fiber to your diet, but you can also make it ahead for a simple and convenient meal to enjoy during the workweek.

Edamame, sliced avocado, quinoa, broccoli, red cabbage, cucumber, sweet potato, tofu, and carrots can all be great additions to your Buddha bowl.

7. Brown rice

Brown rice is considered a whole grain, meaning that it contains all three parts of the wheat kernel.

Some studies show that eating more whole grains could be linked to improved blood sugar control (4).

Brown rice is also rich in fiber, which can slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream to prevent spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels (2, 5).

Try pairing brown rice with stir-fried veggies and a lean protein source for a healthy and delicious lunch.

8. Quinoa

In addition to its high fiber content, quinoa is one of only a few available plant-based complete proteins. That means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs to obtain from food sources (6, 7).

It also has a low glycemic index, which is a measure of how much certain foods affect your blood sugar levels (8).

Quinoa salad can be a simple and nutritious lunch option for people with diabetes. It’s easy to customize using whichever ingredients you have on hand, such as chickpeas, feta, cucumber, tomato, beans, avocado, onion, or bell pepper.

9. Whole grain tortillas

Not only are whole grain tortillas versatile and delicious, but they can also be a great addition to your lunch if you have diabetes.

In fact, one large whole grain tortilla contains nearly 7 grams of fiber to help keep blood sugar levels steady (9).

For an easy lunch, add your favorite spread, like hummus or tzatziki, to a whole grain tortilla with some fresh veggies and your choice of protein.

10. Whole grain pasta

Whole grain pasta can be a healthy alternative to refined flour pasta, especially if you have diabetes.

Compared with regular pasta, whole grain pasta contains more than twice as much fiber per cooked cup (140 grams) (10, 11).

In one small study, whole grain pasta was also more effective at reducing hunger and promoting feelings of fullness than refined pasta (12).

For the best results, load up on the veggies and include a good source of protein with your pasta, such as chicken, salmon, ground beef, or legumes.

11. Chicken

Chicken is jam-packed with protein, providing nearly 24 grams per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving (13).

One review of 13 studies reported that following a high protein diet could reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes, which could potentially improve blood sugar control (14).

Chicken is also easy to add to a variety of recipes and can be grilled, baked, roasted, or stir-fried.

12. Tuna

Often found in convenient cans, packets, and pouches, tuna can be a healthy lunch option, high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

In one study, consuming a high protein, low glycemic index diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids improved blood sugar control and decreased belly fat in 30 people with type 2 diabetes (15).

You can easily add tuna to pasta, salad dishes, wraps, sandwiches, and casseroles for a healthy weekday lunch.

13. Turkey

Turkey boasts a good amount of protein in each serving, with almost 25 grams in just 3 ounces (85 grams) (16).

It’s also low in fat and calories, making it a great option for those who are looking to lose weight.

Sliced turkey is perfect for wraps, pitas, and sandwiches. You can also try adding ground turkey to pasta dishes, taco salads, rice bowls, or homemade burger patties.

14. Tofu

With 14 grams of protein in each 1/4-block (81-gram) serving, tofu is an excellent plant-based protein source for people with type 2 diabetes (17).

In fact, soy protein may benefit both blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity (18, 19).

Additionally, because it easily absorbs the flavor of the foods you pair it with, tofu is an incredibly versatile ingredient. Try adding it to veggie bowls, curries, soups, salads, or sandwiches for an easy make-ahead lunch.

15. Eggs

Although eggs are a beloved breakfast staple, they can also be a great addition to your midday meal.

Though research has turned up conflicting results, several studies have found that regularly eating eggs could improve blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity for people with type 2 diabetes (20, 21).

Eggs are also versatile. For instance, hard-boiled eggs can bump up the protein content of salads and sandwiches, while scrambled eggs work well in wraps, veggie skillets, or rice dishes.

16. Spinach

Rich in fiber, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet (22).

It also contains beneficial compounds like thylakoids, which have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar control, and support feelings of fullness in human and animal studies (23, 24, 25).

Plus, there are plenty of creative ways to enjoy spinach for lunch that go beyond salads. For example, try adding it to curries, soups, pasta dishes, or wraps. You can also sauté spinach and sprinkle it with some salt, pepper, and garlic for a simple side dish.

17. Apples

Apples are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, making them a great dietary addition for people with diabetes (26, 27).

In fact, one small study found that eating an apple before a rice meal reduced the subsequent increase in blood sugar levels by 50%, compared with a control (28).

Apples can be enjoyed in place of dessert to help satisfy your sweet tooth. For example, try pairing them with a sprinkle of cinnamon or some nut butter. Alternatively, add sliced apples to chicken salads, grilled sandwiches, or even quesadillas for extra flavor.

18. Broccoli

Broccoli is highly nutritious, boasting nearly 3 grams of fiber in each cup (91 grams) (29).

It may also help stabilize blood sugar levels. For instance, one small study in 13 adults found that eating cooked broccoli alongside mashed potatoes reduced blood sugar and insulin levels more than eating mashed potatoes alone (30).

For a healthy lunch, try pairing roasted broccoli with brown rice, grilled chicken, and other veggies like zucchini, Brussels sprouts, or carrots.

19. Grapefruit

Grapefruit has a unique tart, tangy flavor, perfect for bringing a refreshing zing to your lunch.

It also has a low glycemic index and has been shown to support healthy blood sugar and insulin levels in some animal studies (31, 32).

Try making a tasty side salad for lunch by pairing fresh grapefruit with arugula, sliced avocado, cucumber, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Note that if you’re taking statins such as simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Altoprev), or atorvastatin (Lipitor), it’s advised to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice.

20. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a nutritious vegetable packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K (33).

It’s also low in carbs and can be easily added to recipes in place of high carb ingredients like rice, flour, or potatoes.

Additionally, cauliflower makes a great side dish and can be roasted, boiled, or steamed.

21. Yogurt

Yogurt can be a healthy addition to any meal during the day, including lunch.

Probiotic yogurt, in particular, is a type of yogurt that contains beneficial bacteria. It’s been linked to improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes (34, 35).

Opt for plain, unsweetened yogurt and top with nuts, seeds, and a bit of fresh fruit as a healthy dessert to help round out your meal.

22. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is loaded with anti-inflammatory antioxidants, which have been tied to a long list of potential health benefits (36).

Interestingly, research also suggests that certain compounds found in dark chocolate could help slow the progression of type 2 diabetes, prevent insulin resistance, and protect heart health (37).

Ideally, choose a variety of dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa and stick to no more than 1 ounce (28 grams) per day.

23. Cheese

With around 6 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams), cheese can boost the nutritional value of your lunch (38).

It’s also low in carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index, meaning that it has little to no effect on your blood sugar levels.

Be sure to select a type of cheese that is low in sodium, then add it to soups, salads, sandwiches, casseroles, or pasta.

There are many healthy lunch options that are good for people with diabetes.

These meals are rich in protein and fiber from nutrient-dense ingredients that help you meet your dietary needs.

If you’re feeling creative, you can mix and match some of the ingredients on this list to create your own custom meals.