The Best Lunches for Diabetics

If you've got diabetes, the ideal midday meal should contain protein to fill you up, and carbs (but not too many) to give you energy.

Delicious as they taste, carbs should be restricted to 45 to 60 grams at lunch, recommends Adee Rasabi, RD, CDN, CDE, senior dietitian in the Ambulatory Care Network Nutrition Wellness Center at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

"Think of it like this: protein weighs down the glucose in your blood and keeps it from spiking," Rasabi says. "You will want about a three-ounce serving of protein, which is about the size of a deck of cards."

You could choose grilled chicken, salmon, tuna or tofu, she says. As for the rest of the meal, the key is to fill half your plate with colors--in other words, half your plate should be vegetables.

That said, not just any vegetables will do. Avoid anything creamed or put into a bisque, Rasabi says. You want steamed vegetables here, if possible. So if you're going to a Chinese restaurant, ask for steamed veggies with sauce on the side. Most vegetables are "free" and you don't have to count them as carbs, but starchy vegetables, like corn and peas, count as one carb serving. Factor that in when you're calculating your lunch carbs, Rasabi advises.

While you can eat a tremendous variety of foods, some should be eaten less frequently, says Susan Kasik-Miller, RD, a nutritionist at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. "Some foods are less nutrient-dense, which is why you should eat them less often," she says. "That doesn't mean you can never have a piece of cake again. But it's common sense not to eat cake and cookies every day."

Here are some healthy lunch suggestions from Rasabi and Kasik-Miller.

● An exotic salad made with mixed greens, peppers, cucumbers, hearts of palm, artichokes, and your choice of protein, with balsamic vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice as a dressing.

● A cup of rice or pasta (this is about the size of a tennis ball), paired with 3 ounces of protein and vegetables.

● An open faced sandwich made with lean meat, lettuce and tomato, and mustard instead of mayonnaise.

● A wrap made with a low carb tortilla, three ounces of lean protein, and plenty of lettuce and tomatoes.

● A tomato-based soup with half a lean meat or peanut butter sandwich.

● To keep your lunch cold, freeze a yogurt overnight and pack it in with your lunch to keep the meal well-chilled. Bonus: eat it for dessert.

● For other desserts, consider single servings of canned fruit packed in light syrup, or sugar-free puddings. "Little things like this make the lunch more fun and it doesn't take a lot of time to pack," Kasik-Miller says.