Has your doctor been bugging you to make a change in your diet to help keep your diabetes in check?
Well here’s the good news: you don’t have to sacrifice the happiness you find in food in order to stay healthy!
There are plenty of great diabetes-friendly recipes for you to try out to both satisfy yourself at mealtime and satisfy the doctor after your lab test results come back.
Let’s not waste any more time – here are some great recipes and lunch ideas that will rock your world, diabetic or not.
1. Good Lunch Ideas Start by Keeping These Ingredients on Hand
Keeping your lunch ideas diabetes-friendly starts with the ingredients you choose to work with.
Feel free to stock up on fruits and veggies to shovel into your mouth.
Veggies fresh or frozen will serve you well – baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, broccoli, bell peppers, and celery in particular.
You’ll also want whole fruit like apples, bananas, oranges, clementines, pears, nectarines, grapes, and peaches. Canned fruit is A-OK as long as it’s canned in juice, not syrup.
Canned tuna is your best friend. Reduced-sodium beans, lean meats (like turkey, ham, chicken, fish, and lean roast beef), eggs, and unsalted nuts are also solid protein sources for your diabetes-friendly lunch ideas.
For dairy, you’ll want to look for skim milk, 1% milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Go for light or non-fat Greek yogurt – plain is best, but just watch your carbs on the flavored ones. Better yet, try some cottage cheese (at 1 or 2% low-fat).
Don’t forget the flavor – hot sauce, hummus, light salad dressings, mustard, salsa, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon, and lime juice won’t let you down.
Also, remember a few other tips:
2. Don’t Underestimate the Humble Salad
There are so many different ways you can go with a salad, that it’s no wonder why they’d be a solid option for diabetic patients’ lunch ideas.
You can munch on a different salad every day by varying your choice of toppings – watch out for fattening ingredients like bacon bits or heavy cheeses though, it can’t really be called a healthy salad if it’s 50% cheese.
Salads packed with raw veggies are your best bet. Fill your bowl with carrots, cucumbers, radishes, celery, and dark leafy greens like spinach.
If you need your salad to be hearty, add protein – grilled chicken, shrimp, and fish are best.
Need a little extra? Sprinkle nuts or seeds on top (I’m a personal fan of sunflower seeds), maybe add a few dried cranberries or some avocado chunks for fun.
Stay away from mayonnaise-based salads (like potato salad) – they’re not the best for your body. Try to keep your dressings as vinegar and olive oil, or at least make sure you’ve got the low-fat or fat-free versions of other dressings.
Limit your dressing serving to one tablespoon for a side salad and two tablespoons for a meal-sized plate if you can.
3. You Can’t Go Wrong with a Sandwich
Sandwiches, in the same way as salads, offer many possible variations for your mealtimes.
You could have a different sandwich for lunch every day of the week with wildly different ingredients – it wouldn’t feel monotonous at all.
Again, you want to go for lean meats (turkey, ham, grilled chicken). Pack that protein into whole-grain bread or a whole-wheat tortilla. Then layer in your desired veggies, finishing with mustard, low-fat mayo, or hummus.
Instead of the typical side or chips or French fries, go for fruit, veggies, or pretzels to complement your meal.
And hey, if sandwich doesn’t sound healthy enough to you, mix it up and go with a wrap instead.
4. Mix Up a Super Soup
Again, you can go pretty much anywhere with soup.
Are you feeling a bowl of chicken noodle soup? Tomato soup (minus the cream), maybe? How about butternut squash soup, gazpacho, miso, pasta and beans, or other types of chunky vegetable soups?
It’s all up to you.
Just stay away from cream-based soups and chowders, and you’re golden.
5. Whole-Grain Pasta is Your New Best Friend
Sure, you’re trying to avoid the consumption of high-blood-sugar-altering carbs, but whole-grain pasta won’t betray you.
Whole-grain foods are great for diabetic patients (compared to the more common, refined carbs and sugars typical in our diets) because they’re good sources of fiber. Fiber helps slow the absorption of glucose into the blood which helps with the maintenance of your blood sugar levels.
In any case, you can rock any pasta dish you want – penne, angel hair, spaghetti, as long as it’s healthy and whole-grain.
6. How About a Few Recipes to Finish Off?
Need a little more help to start working on your diabetic-friendly lunch ideas?
We’ve got some recipes you might find your mouth drooling for:
1. Pizza Lettuce Wraps
Craving pizza? Spin your meal in that direction while still staying healthy with these ingredients:
- 1 1/4 cups of cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 3/4 a cup of shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
- 1 ounce of thinly sliced, cooked turkey pepperoni, chopped (¼ cup)
- 1/4 cup of snipped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon of snipped fresh oregano
- 8 large Bibb lettuce leaves
There’s only one step for prep here, so there’s no reason to complain that making your lunch ideas come true takes too long.
Combine the tomatoes, cheese, pepperoni, basil, and oregano in a medium-sized bowl. Divide the mixture among the lettuce leaves, roll them up (or don’t roll them up) and enjoy!
2. Healthy Chicken Nuggets
Did someone say healthy chicken nuggets? Get ready:
- 2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
- 1/2 a cup of almond flour
- 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper
Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while preparing a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together the almond flour, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
If there’s any remaining fat on your chicken breasts cut it off and get rid of it. Slice the rest into 1-inch thick pieces.
Spray the chicken slices with extra virgin olive oil.
Put each chicken chunk into the bowl with the flour in it from Step 2 and generously coat the chicken with it. Put all the pieces on the baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the broiler on and leave the chicken under it for 3 to 4 minutes to make the outside crispy.
Serve right after with mustard, hot sauce, or whatever you like to eat your chicken nuggets with.
3. Mozzarella, Tomato, and Chickpea Salad
Of course, we were going to include a salad recipe. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 1/2 ounces of fresh mozzarella balls (drained)
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup of canned chickpeas (no salt added)
- 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 12 ounces of baby spinach
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the mozzarella balls, tomatoes, and chickpeas in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil. Stir it all up, taste it, and add your salt and pepper until your taste buds are satisfied with it.
Wash the spinach and lay it in the bottom of a serving bowl. Arrange a ½ cup of the mixture from Step 1 on top of the spinach (4 times for 4 servings) and serve at room temperature.
Don’t Let Diabetes Keep You From Having a Stellar Lunch Break
There are plenty of great lunch ideas floating around that will still work for you even if you have diabetes.
Try some of these recipes, go hunting on Google for more, or use the recipes as a base to make your own.
Just remember to cook, eat, and enjoy!