If breakfast is the most neglected meal of the day, lunch can often be the most hurried. Fast-food restaurants and food courts often prevail over more healthy options because we lead such hectic lives. But they don’t have to be your only option — and, in fact, they shouldn’t be your first choice if you have type 2 diabetes.
In general, try to pack your own lunch whenever possible — the health benefits can be enormous. Short on prep time? Put these quick and nutritious lunch ideas on your diabetes menu to fill you up and keep your blood sugar in check.
Salad should be a part of your lunch menu if you have diabetes. You can create a different salad every day of the week by varying your toppings. Try grilled chicken, shrimp, or fish, but avoid heaping on a lot of fattening ingredients, such as bacon bits and heavy cheeses.
Salads with lots of raw vegetables are best, including carrots, cucumbers, radishes, celery, and spinach. Sprinkle nuts or seeds on top, add a few dried cranberries, and garnish with some avocado chunks to give it zip. Always choose low-fat or fat-free salad dressings or, for a change, flavored vinegars.
As with salads, there are many ways to spice up a sandwich. Start with whole-grain bread or a whole-wheat tortilla. Add lean meat, such as turkey, ham, or grilled chicken; layer on your choice of veggies; add mustard, low-fat mayo, or hummus to the mix — and you have a filling and tasty lunch. Stay away from greasy chips, French fries, and other fattening sides. Instead choose fruit, a few pretzels, or carrot and celery sticks to complement your meal.
3. Hearty Soups
Soup can be a good option for lunch, with many healthy choices to consider. Chicken noodle, chicken and rice, and tomato (made without cream) are all good soup choices. Others include butternut squash, gazpacho and other chunky vegetable varieties, miso, and pasta and bean soups. Avoid cream-based soups and chowders. Remember, soup freezes well. You can make a large batch and freeze it in individual containers; with a microwave you have a nearly instant lunch.
As long as you choose whole-grain pasta, you can eat all types of noodles, such as penne, angel hair, or spaghetti. Top it with a healthy tomato sauce, then add chicken, shrimp, or turkey meatballs and a variety of vegetables. Add a crisp salad and you have a healthy and filling lunch.
Pizza can be a good choice — in moderation. Choose a thin-crust variety, ask for light cheese, and include vegetables as the topping instead of fatty meats like pepperoni.
6. Tuna, Chicken, and Shrimp Salads
When you make these protein-based mixes, you can control the mayonnaise and the good-health factor. Choose low-fat mayonnaise, and not too much of it. Add fiber and bulk with chopped celery, diced bell pepper, and chopped onions to taste. Serve on whole-grain bread or scoop onto a bed of lettuce.
7. Veggie Stir-Fry
For a more exotic lunch, go for a bowl of vegetable stir-fry and brown rice. Avoid the fast-food version, which can be high in fat and sodium, and make it yourself by sautéing the vegetables with a healthy cooking spray and soy sauce. Prepare it the night before for dinner, making enough to bring leftovers for lunch.
More Healthy Lunch Tips for Type 2 Diabetes
To better control type 2 diabetes, keep these tips in mind:
Choose low-fat or fat-free salad dressings and watch how much you use.
Pick whole-grain bread over white bread.
Practice portion control.
Follow the diabetes food pyramid: Eat more grains, beans, and starchy vegetables and less fats, sweets, and alcohol. In between and equally divided are protein choices, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and milk and dairy products.
Choose lean protein sources, such as turkey, ham, chicken, lean roast beef, and fish.
Avoid fried foods.
Stay away from fatty chips and mayonnaise-based salads, like potato salad. Complement your meal with sliced carrots and celery or fruit salad.
If you are craving a sweet after lunch and fresh fruit just won’t do, reach for sugar-free, fat-free frozen yogurt. Be careful of sorbets and sherbets that are loaded with sugar.
Avoid sugary beverages; drink water and tea instead.
Consult with a certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian to get more lunch ideas. How much and what types of food you should eat varies, depending on your specific needs — a dietitian can help create a meal plan that is right for you.