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14 Diabetes-Friendly Lunch Recipes and Ideas

Diet and Nutrition

April 26, 2023

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Photography by Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

Photography by Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

by Corinna Cornejo

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Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, LD

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by Corinna Cornejo

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Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, LD

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Solve the predicament of figuring out what to eat for lunch with these strategies and ideas for blood sugar-friendly small bites, wraps, and more.

Lunch is often neglected and overlooked, yet our bodies and brains need the added energy and nutrition to get through the day.

Landing in the part of the day when most people are busy with work, school, or life in general, lunch easily gets neglected.

Do you really want to dedicate so much of your precious midday break to prepping food that will then have to be wolfed down so that you can get back to your desk on time? It’s too easy to simply run out and grab something quick or, worse yet, find yourself in front of the closest vending machine.

If you have type 2 diabetes, not taking the time for a nourishing lunch isn’t good for our overall well-being.

Here are 14 lunch ideas to take the stress out of planning a nutritious meal.

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Hot dishes

Meal prep is one of the easiest ways to make a quick lunch using leftovers. If I can have breakfast for dinner, why can’t I have dinner for lunch the following day? All I need to do is pack the meal in a container for easy transport and, if needed, heating.

Baked dishes, casseroles, quiches, and frittatas have all their ingredients baked together and are easy to package up for meal prep. They also can be heated up quickly in the microwave or, if you prefer, eaten cold.

For inspiration, here are a few recipes to try if you have diabetes:

1. Crustless quiche

Quiche can be made with almost any vegetable, protein, and cheeses, creating endlessly delicious possibilities. Skipping the crust keeps it low carb.

Recipe: Crustless Quiche

2. Brussels sprout casserole

Brussel sprouts might be an unexpected main ingredient. But they’re nutrient dense and high in fiber, making this dish blood sugar-friendly.

Recipe: Brussels Sprout Casserole

3. Hot chicken salad casserole

This creamy casserole with just a touch of crunch from cornflakes and almonds is the definition of a satisfying, comfort food.

Recipe: Hot Chicken Salad Casserole

4. Cauliflower “mac” and cheese

Speaking of classic comfort food, who doesn’t love mac and cheese? Making it low carb by subbing in cauliflower keeps all the creamy richness while potentially avoiding glucose spikes.

Recipe: Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese

5. Simple, perfect chili

This simple bean-based chili provides a filling bowl of flavor, fiber, and protein.

Recipe: Simple, Perfect Chili

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Small bites

Sometimes I want a lunch that offers a lot of different flavors and textures, not just a one-dish meal. In this case, I pair a prepared protein with several small bites to create a satisfying lunchbox.

The protein can be a piece of chicken, meat, or fish. Marinated tofu or edamame are easy vegetarian options. Legumes, like lentils, or whole grains, like quinoa, also provide a good base to start from.

Each small bite can offer a different highlight. A bite can be a salad on a skewer or a mix of sweet and salty. Depending on which small bites I choose, my lunch can be more like a bento or more like a bistro lunchbox. The sheer variety of choices keeps my lunchbox from becoming predictable and boring.

Here are a couple of my favorite small bites:

6. Caprese skewers

This salad on a skewer is satisfying in so many ways — how it looks, how it tastes, and how easy it is to eat.

Recipe: Caprese Skewers

7. Cucumber bites with hummus and tomato

A blood sugar-friendly twist on a cucumber sandwich, this recipe makes for a refreshing, plant-based bite.

Recipe: Cucumber Bites with Hummus and Tomato

8. Keto sushi

Without rice, this low carb take on sushi lets the remaining ingredients really shine. Relying more on vegetables, like carrots, cucumber, and peppers, also adds a satisfying crunch.

Recipe: Keto Sushi

9. Stuffed mini peppers

These versatile, bite-size treats are just the right amount of creamy with crunch. Depending on the ingredients you choose, the cream cheese filling can be savory, spicy, or sweet.

Recipe: Stuffed Mini Peppers

10. Fruit and cheese kebabs

Providing a nice balance of creamy and sweet, these fruit and cheese kebabs provide a pleasing end to any meal.

Recipe: Fruit and Cheese Kebabs

Sandwich alternatives

If you’re tired of sandwiches for lunch, wraps may be the option you’re looking for as an alternative to bread.

You’re probably familiar with lettuce wraps, where a lettuce leaf is folded over the filling making it easy to eat without utensils. But lettuce wraps aren’t the only way to wrap up a blood sugar-friendly sandwich alternative, especially if you’re tired of bread and flour wraps.

And while bread can often be high in carbs, you don’t have to give it up completely. Any of the below recipes can be made with whole wheat, whole grain, or sprouted grain bread, which tend to be lower in carbs.

Consider replacing sandwich bread with:

  • pickles sliced lengthwise used in place of bread
  • nori (seaweed) sheets folded or wrapped around the filling
  • grilled eggplant slices used as a bread substitution

Here are a few sandwich alternatives I’ve enjoyed:

11. Turkey & cheddar lettuce wraps

This is the classic combination for a lettuce wrap and a solid starting point for swapping in your favorite protein or cheese to suit your preferences.

Recipe: Turkey & Cheddar Lettuce Wraps

12. Pickle sub sandwich with turkey & cheddar

Pickles provide a briny crunch that’s unexpected in an alternative sandwich. Try it, you might be surprised.

Recipe: Pickle Sub Sandwich with Turkey & Cheddar

13. No rice nori rolls with marinated tofu and veggies

Is this a variation on a burrito or sushi? Doesn’t really matter to me. I think of it more as a handy salad that delivers a balance of vegetables, protein, and flavor.

Recipe: No Rice Nori Rolls with Marinated Tofu and Veggies

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My quick lunch of choice

My go-to ingredient for a satisfying blood-sugar friendly lunch is quick, easy, and versatile. It requires minimal prep. It’s economical. It’s good for the environment. And it has endless variations, so I never get bored.

What could possibly offer all this convenience and economy and at the same time support my diabetes management?

Is it a ready-to-eat meal? Something plant-based? A bento? A wrap? A bowl? A superfood?

Well, it could end up being any of these things.

My secret weapon for a satisfying lunch is… Drumroll, please. Leftovers!

14. Dinner leftovers

OK, before you say, “Oh, that’s so sad,” hear me out.

Leftovers provide a convenient, nutritionally sound place for me to start making lunchtime meals.

From the start, my dinner leftovers are prepared in advance and in line with my overall meal plan. So, I’m optimizing for my diabetes management and nutrition. Plus, starting with leftovers helps me reduce food waste, which is not just good for my budget — it’s good for the planet, too.

The takeaway

Putting together a blood sugar-friendly lunch can be filled with flavor and variety. Start with your favorite leftovers and go from there. Soon you’ll find your own quick and easy way to make your midday meal much more nourishing and satisfying.

Medically reviewed on April 26, 2023


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About the author

Corinna Cornejo

Corinna Cornejo is a patient-centered health and healthcare content writer, diabetes patient advocate, and Latina. Diagnosed in 2009, Corinna blogs about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while living with type 2 diabetes at Type 2 Musings.

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