Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas for Diabetes

Preparing a diabetes-friendly lunch doesn’t have to be difficult. Try these easy, no-fuss lunch ideas that are perfect for people with diabetes.

Amy Solomon

You know that skipping lunch is out of the question. But with all the balls you’re juggling, it sure would help to put the meal on automatic pilot. To the rescue, easy-to-fix lunches that will keep your blood sugar in check all afternoon—whether you're on the go, at work or at home.

Go for the right greens

Skip the iceberg lettuce and pick darker greens. "A lot of people like arugula or spinach," says Tami Ross, president-elect of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). Remember to wash bagged greens thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness. Add color and variety with tomatoes, carrots or apple slices, and toss in grilled chicken or canned salmon. Top with a drizzle of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or olive oil.

Sip savory soups

A hearty cup of veggie-packed, broth-based soup can fill you up without filling you out. “I have patients who batch-cook soups on the weekend and portion them out, so they're ready to go,” says Ross. Not a chef? No worries. You can find many great varieties of canned soups at the grocery store. Read the labels, and choose those that say “low sodium”; too much salt in your diet can lead to hypertension, common in those with diabetes.

Prefer thicker soups? Go for bean, lentil or split pea, which has a creamy consistency without the calories.

Dip into hummus

Think hummus is only a snack? This protein-rich dip also makes a terrific portable lunch. The chickpeas (garbanzo beans) used to make hummus are high in fiber and low in fat, making it a great addition to a diabetes diet. For the best nutrition, skip pita chips and use raw vegetables for dipping. ”Try carrots, cauliflower or broccoli,” says Dawn Sherr, practice manager at the American Association of Diabetes Educators. 

Hummus also makes a great sandwich filling—up your fiber intake by using whole-wheat bread and adding chopped veggies for crunch.

Think processed when in a pinch

Keep some emergency lunch fixings on hand for those hectic days when you just can't take a break. An individual serving of tuna paired with a few whole-grain crackers is great in a pinch. So is peanut butter packaged in single servings. “We want to stick as close to Mother Nature as possible, but sometimes the prepackaged, processed things can fit in for convenience,” says Ross. It also doesn’t hurt to keep a few diabetes-friendly meal-replacement bars or shakes in your purse or desk drawer.

Down a healthy thirst-quencher

Water is the ideal beverage to go with your healthy diabetes lunch. Don't like the taste of plain water? Add a slice of lemon, lime or orange to punch up the flavor without adding extra calories. Or try iced tea, either unsweetened or with a packet of sugar substitute. Soda isn't the best choice—one recent study suggests that drinking diet soda every day can up the risk of stroke by nearly 50%, bad news for those with diabetes, who are at higher risk of heart disease.

May 2013